Karin Beeler
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Hunting for the branded body in Supernatural
Tattoos, the Mark of Cain and fan culture
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The fantasy detective series Supernatural has generated interplay between production elements, ‘inter-texts’ (Hills) and fans. One key illustration of the show’s connection to other texts is evident in the way the series incorporates the trope of the tattoo. The tattoo is a strong thematic thread in the series that links the two brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester, to both radical and ritual elements. Diegetic tattoos have gone beyond the boundaries of the show’s storyline and have become a brand by entering the realm of fan space, as fans copy the tattoo designs. Supernatural also continually engages with other detective stories or texts associated with the tattooed body in a self-reflexive way. The ninth and tenth seasons of the series link the concept of the tattoo with criminal or morally questionable elements through the introduction of the mark of Cain. The consumer 'branding' of Supernatural’s Mark of Cain reveals how this ‘tattoo’ has travelled beyond the boundaries of this fantasy detective show and achieved cult status. The contexts of fashion and fandom make the diegetic tattoos or supernatural marks in the series available to fans of Supernatural in extratextual and tangible ways, thus extending the life of these televisual images.

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