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SPN women in white - the road so far

Women in white have been a part of the visual language of Supernatural since the Pilot, eight seasons ago.  The Pilot not only used imagery of a woman in white, a Woman in White was the target of the boys' first hunt after Dean collected Sam from Stanford.  Constance Welch, after discovering her husband's infidelity, murdered her children and killed herself.  As a ghost, she haunts a stretch of road trying to go home, killing men who stop to pick her up and are unfaithful.  The Pilot also has two other women in white who provide the show with a couple of its most memorable moments, the demon murders of Mary Winchester and Jessica Moore leaving them pinned to the ceiling, bleeding out and burning.  Many scenes over the seasons call back to these mirrored images.  

White can have many meanings depending on the culture interpreting it.  In the west, it can symbolize brides, virginity, purity, being on the side of good, faith, angels or cleanliness, among other things.  It's often used in hospitals because being disinfected with bleach leaves things white.  In eastern imagery, it usually represents death and mourning.  Ghosts are traditionally white the world over.  Like everything else on SPN, symbols can be used as expected or completely turned upside down.  White can be used for mothers, sacrifice, innocence, ghosts, rarely angels and mockingly by demons.  Near the anniversary of the deaths of Mary and Jess and the launch into and return to hunting by the rest of the Winchesters, here's a look at women (and a few other creatures) in white on SPN.  



We'll begin with the Woman in White, Constance Welch.  She can't ever go home, and by this point in their lives, neither can Sam and Dean.



Often the women have come to a violent end, some sliced across the abdomen.  That adds red to the image.  Some of the later victims have red trim or accents that are similar.  Mary was the first death at the beginning of the Pilot.  She's appeared several times throughout the series and she's wearing a white nightgown in most of them.  Mary also usually appears with roses.

Before her death in the Pilot.



As a young woman in In the Beginning.



As Dean remembers her in the Dark Side of the Moon.



As Zachariah has her meet Sam and Dean in the Dark Side of the Moon.



As a protective ghost in Home.



As Sam hallucinates her in When the Levee Breaks.



In the Pilot, the YED had Jess killed the same way as Mary.  While she's not in white every time she's on screen (smurfs), mostly she is.  The first time we see her, she's in a white nurse costume with red trim and ends up burning and bleeding on the ceiling.





Sam sees her in a vision in Bloody Mary shortly after her death.



He sees what he thinks is her in Free To Be You and Me.



Six seasons later, the image of a woman in white on the ceiling is repeated in Exile on Main Street when Dean sees Lisa pinned to the ceiling in a dream caused by a djinn.



Lisa appears quite a few times but generally dressed in color.  She's in white as Dean double checks her gun knowledge when he leaves to go help Sam in Two and a Half Men and Lisa has to take over protecting herself, her son and their home.



In addition to Mary and Jess, there are several other victims in white.  Some with similar wounds and some without.  A lot of them are mothers, wives or faithful girlfriends.  The list is larger than I thought it would be.

The mother of another potential victim of the YED lives thanks to the Winchesters in Salvation.



The mother being stalked by a skinwalker in All Dogs Go to Heaven.



The wife of the cop murdered by ghouls after helping John Winchester on a case in Jump the Shark.  The shirt looks a lot like a shirt worn by young Mary.  A reminder of Mary probably makes sense in an episode where the boys find out that she was replaced in John's life to some degree and that Adam's mother isn't Mary.



Jimmy Novak's wife in the Rapture.



Michelle, the pregnant wife of Jack, the rougarou in Metamorphosis.



Karen Singer in Bobby's dream in Dream a Little Dream of Me.



One mother with a lot of white but not entirely, maybe due to her treatment of her son, is Max Miller's mom in Nightmare.  Maybe the maternal instinct is only on the surface.



The wife who made a demon deal to advance her husband's career in Season 7.



The mother in Home living in the Winchester's old house doesn't wear much white but there is a camera pause on a picture of her as a bride.



Kate, girlfriend of the werewolf in Bitten.



Bobby's neighbor and potential girlfriend in Weekend at Bobby's isn't wearing all white but in the end, it doesn't really matter.



Sometimes the women are sisters like the one being haunted by her brother in the Born Again Identity.



Or the young girl in Family Remains.



Sometimes victims are dressed in white because it is used as a symbol of innocence or virginity like the girls taken in Like a Virgin.



Emma, before she eats human flesh and joins the tribe of Amazons in Slice Girls.  Looks ceremonial, to say the least.



Jamie in Monster Movie is in the unfortunate position of being forced to wear white by the monster.  The black and white film emphasizes it.



Sometimes the traditional symbolism is used for ironic purposes like the prostitute in Free To Be You and Me who doesn't get touched by an angel after all.



The roommate from Hookman isn't wearing pure white but the bleeding looks so similar to the murders of Mary and Jess, she had to be included.




Gordon's victim in Blood Lust.



The bank employee in Nightshifter.



The apartment renter in No Exit.



White can be used to relate to something in the specific scene like the dancer in Out With the Old dancing the part of the white swan in Swan Lake.



The woman in white that shows up here and there in Dean's dream life in What Is and What Should Never Be is in all white to help her stand out amid the colors of the dreamscape.



A young woman at a Halloween party in It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester, wears a costume very similar to the one worn by Jess in the Pilot.



There is another white dress to call back the deaths of Mary and Jess in the same episode.  It's the anniversary of Sam being fed demon blood and losing his mother and Jess.  



White dresses or women in white show up in art on occasion also.  In Like a Virgin, Dr. Visyak has a statue and a stained glass window.  



There's a wedding dress as a room decoration in Playthings and a wedding topper on the exploding cake in Season 7.



Then there is the bleeding statue of the Virgin Mary in I Know What You Did Last Summer.  You could probably write a thesis paper on what all of that means.



Not everyone wearing white ends up a victim.  Some are innocent bystanders:  the jewelry store clerk in Nightshifter, the waitress in Season 7: Time for a Fiasco, the homeowners from Meet the New Boss and Madison's friend in Heart.



Sometimes the woman in white is actually the monster which makes their wearing of white in terms of western culture ironic to say the least.  That white is so closely associated with death makes it meaningful in a different way.  It's particularly apt for the Shojo in Party On, Garth.



It's also perfect for Tessa, the reaper.



Irony in spades here.



What's dead should stay dead.  White zombie?



Monsters masquerade as innocent women in white.  Who would expect a monster attack from a coed?



A bride?



A little girl?



Sometimes it fits a monster's need to dress the part like the Trickster in Tall Tales.



Some of the more interesting monsters in white are the ones who are fighting their nature, are trying to right an injustice, or are unaware of their alter ego.  In Jack the rougarou's case, he's trying hard to stay on the right side of good.



The girl in Bedtime Stories needed justice as well as to look like a fairy tale character.





One of the most interesting is Madison, the werewolf from Heart, who is unaware that she's been turned and is murdering people.  She's in white when we meet her.



She's still unaware at this point and so is Sam.



Sam and Dean have it figured out.  At this point, Madison's using white bedding to cover up her body which is betraying her.  The woman in the painting looks to be dressed at least partially in white.  She's looking the other way.



One of the more complicated women in white is Eve, mother of all monsters who starts off wearing the body of a virgin and looking pretty worse for wear and not quite so pure anymore.



The trucker who gives her a ride thinks that she's in need of help and tries to save her, body and soul.  She's got a method pretty similar to the first Woman in White.



At the end when she really starts to spread trouble by monsters she is creating, she gets attention through much the same way but now she's added bleeding like Mary and Jess to her appearance.  She later takes on Mary's complete appearance reinforcing the connection with mothers.



Although usually in black, demons occasionally wear white, especially when they're at a hospital.  Anna's orderly from I Know What You Did Last Summer.



Sam's in the Born-again Identity.



Meg in the same episode when she takes a job to stay with Cas.



Some are a reminder that they are demons now but they are possessing an innocent person like Sam's possessed prom date in Swan Song.



The demon in white that turns all kinds of traditional uses of white on its head is Lilith.  In No Rest For the Wicked, she possesses a little girl who should be the picture of innocence in her white dress but she wreaks destruction on her family and in the end, has a bloody midrift to show for it.  Just before she's killed by Sam in Lucifer Rising, she wears a long white dress that looks a lot like a nightgown, mocking all the virgin, pure imagery.  She ends up a sacrifice for a greater goal like Mary and Jess though.







Lilith's ultimate goal was to tempt Sam into killing her, freeing Lucifer and jump starting the apocalypse.  It's not too common to see the boys in white but it does happen occasionally like Sam interviewing a victim in Houses of the Holy.  Sam's looking for grace wherever he can find it at that point.



Also in After School Special.



White is for mourning and Sam's doing that in Mystery Spot, over and over and over.......



Then there's trying to ignore your mortality but carrying it with you anyway.



Mostly whenever we see Sam and Dean in white, they're close to death or at least severly injured.  Several of the characters have been in hospitals in white gowns but a lot of them have blue flowers or pants or a print of some sort.  The only times in all white I could find in the course of the show were Dean in In My Time of Dying wrapped in white sheets.



And Sam dying in the Born Again Identity.



That brings us to angels because it's Cas who put Sam in this position and Cas who takes it onto himself.  He takes on the white clothing as well.





Although typically associated with angels in popular culture, SPN angels rarely wear just white.  One noticable exception is the angel killed in On the Head of a Pin.  She doesn't look all that different from a woman pinned to a ceiling.



Then we get the most complicated angel, Lucifer, the morning star.  He appears as a woman in white to both of his potential vessels. Nick with the woman he thinks is his dead wife in Sympathy For the Devil.



To Sam as Jessica, one of the show's original women in white, and that mostly brings us full circle.



We come to Lucifer wearing Sam in The End along with a white suit.  Is Lucifer playing with the idea that he's the misunderstood good guy in all of this or mocking it?  It brings us back to Mary, the show's initial death, the mother who unknowingly sacrificed her son for the life of his father, the woman in white who died trying to keep Sam safe from this end.  It's there with the blood red rose.



All caps from homeofthenutty

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
ash48
Nov. 4th, 2012 01:48 pm (UTC)
Wow! This is awesome! It's so fabulous to see all these instances together. That's a lot of white.

I always wondered about the choice of white for Lucifer. Initially I thought it was a little cliched but it definitely has more significance seeing the way it's tied into so many deaths - especially Mary's.

Wonderful. Thanks for going to the effort of putting all these together.
xox
galwithglasses
Nov. 4th, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
It's a lot of white but it's spread out and used pretty deliberately, it seems. There was a lot more than I thought there would be. Lucifer in his white suit always just bugged me...so cheesy and Saturday Night Fever...there had to be some reason for it and I don't know if this is it but it seems plausible anyhow. I don't think it's because the devil missed disco but you never know. I'm sure Dean thinks it's demonic.

The bit that really surprised me was how hard it was to find all white in the hospital clothes. For the number of times people were there, there is hardly any.
de_nugis
Nov. 4th, 2012 08:43 pm (UTC)
That is truly impressive! I particularly like the examples of double natures/people or beings who are fighting their nature, because it plays into the symbolic ambivalence of white. (Come to think of it, that's a theme that has a touch of Americana to it, since probably two of the most famous meditations on the color white in English are the bravura passage on the horror of white in Moby Dick and Robert Frost's Design. I can't think of a British lit example that is so fixated on it. Appropriate for a show that roots itself in Americana? /reaching).

That must have been a ton of work to put together.
galwithglasses
Nov. 5th, 2012 01:28 am (UTC)
Not having a very thorough backround in American lit (or any really), I hadn't read either of those references until you mentioned them here. The Frost poem has an awful lot packed into so small a number of lines. I didn't really think about the horror of white until I read the Melville piece mentioning the white shark and white squall. Thanks for showing the way to more thinky thoughts. I love all the connections that can be made.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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