Lost Girl is a popular Canadian television series in the science fiction and fantasy genera (Warner Brothers 2005). It shares many traits in common with a popular American television series, Supernatural (Prodigy Pictures 2010). The two shows are similar in terms of their main characters and dynamic, the overarching themes of self-discovery, the episode to episode plot structure, and the source material. The two shows differ in their tone, the gender roles that are portrayed, and the inclusion of romantic and/or sexual tones. Neither show imitates the other; instead, both of these dramas are inflections of genera established in the mid-’90s with shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Charmed (Rosenberg 2012).
Both of the shows have two main characters that have adventures together. In Supernatural, the two main characters are the Winchester Brothers (Warner Brothers 2005). These two characters diverge through time in terms of abilities and roles, however, at the start of they are portrayed as relative equals. In contrast, Lost Girl’s two main characters are women, and they are friends. Bo, the “lost girl” is a succubus, a supernatural being with magic powers. Her best friend, Kenzi, is just a regular human. Thus in Lost Girl, while there is a duo, there is a significant difference in the power dynamic between the two characters. Kenzi plays a supporting “sidekick” role to Bo (Prodigy Pictures 2010). In Supernatural, the brothers start as equals, however over time Sam develops superpowers, creating a power imbalance that is similar to Lost Girl (Warner Brothers 2005).
The general day to day format of the two shows is similar. Both groups have adventures in each episode that are confined to that episode. This differentiates them from serial dramas such as Game of Thrones or House of Cards where the show is building a single cohesive storyline. In both shows, the main characters are often helping normal people with their supernatural problems. They often have to create personas to hide their true purpose and identity from the people they are helping. This may involve disguises and humorous backstories. In the case of Supernatural, this involves the Winchester brothers hunting demons, ghouls, ghosts, and other beasties who are threatening regular people (Warner Brothers 2005). In Lost Girl, the main characters are investigating the activities of supernatural creatures similar to Bo called Fae that eats people (Prodigy Pictures 2010).
The two shows differ in some ways regarding their day to day format. The Winchester brothers are always traveling. This makes their actions similar to wandering cowboys, swooping in to save the day. It also reduces the number of re-occurring characters that they regularly interact with. With the exception of several friends and longtime villains, the supporting roles of each episode are always filled by new one time only characters. In contrast, Lost Girl has a format similar to a couple of private eyes. The girls are situated in one single place, and they over time develop a large host of friends and allies that are regulars on every episode of the show. This difference in the permanence of supporting characters creates the opportunity for additional divergences between the shows, which are discussed below (Prodigy Pictures 2010).
Another similarity between the two shows is a gradual increase in the power and abilities of the main characters foes as they face greater and greater challenges. In season one of Supernatural the idea of facing off with a demon is a big deal, yet in the later seasons, the demon adversaries are no problem at all. Instead, they are dealing with foes like Lucifer himself and god-like monsters from the Old Testament, the Leviathans (Warner Brothers 2005). Lost Girl also demonstrates a gradual ramping up of challenges. The main adversary in the first season, Bo’s mother, is nothing compared to the villains of the second and third seasons. In the second season, they face the Garuda, an ancient creature that eats Fae like Bo. In the third season they introduce Bo’s father, an even stronger villain than those who came before (Prodigy Pictures 2010). In both cases, the characters become stronger to match their foes. Bo develops more powerful supernatural abilities, in particular, the ability to steal chi from her adversaries without touching them (Prodigy Pictures 2010). This is considered a novel ability that no one has seen before. As mentioned above Sam also develops powers over time. Due to his ingestion of demon blood, he gains abilities like telekinesis and strength. Over time those abilities become stronger and stronger (Warner Brothers 2005).
The general ramping up of both villains and abilities is an adaption of a formula that was developed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, arguably the originator of this particular television genera. In that show the characters fight vampires, then demons, then uber demons, then a god, and finally evil itself. At which point that show, having nowhere left to go, ended. In the same vein, these shows keep the audiences entertained by throwing ever-escalating challenges at the main characters. Each season ends with a “big bad”, to borrow the term coined by Joss Whedon, who is worse than those that came before it (Ramachandran 2011). In the case of Supernatural, it appears that they are nearing the end of that story structure because they are running out of new levels of adversary in the Judeo-Christian framework in which the show operates. Lost Girls is a younger show and still has plenty of room for escalation in the storyline.
A final major similarity between the two shows is that both share a theme of the main characters discovering who they are and also what their past is. In both cases, there are mysteries involving their parents that drive the motivations of the main characters. In Supernatural, the Winchester brother’s mother was murdered by a demon that set her on fire when they were young boys. Then their father disappeared for long periods of time and they were left to raise themselves. Early in the series they are tracking their father and trying to determine what killed their mother and why. Eventually, all of these mysteries and questions are answered and the current format of the show is focused solely on dealing with day to day threats (Warner Brothers 2005).
Lost Girl has a very similar start. The character Bo doesn’t know what she is or why she kills those whom she kisses. She embarks on a journey to discover what type of creature she is, what her powers are, and where she came from. This develops into a quest to find who her parents are and to learn why she was abandoned as a young girl. Currently, that plotline is ongoing; however, it’s quite possible that once those major questions have been settled, should the show continue, it too will change into a format where the characters are focused on day to day issues (Prodigy Pictures 2010).
The Winchester brothers are all alone in the world. For a period in the show, they have their father to teach them and help them, but generally, they rely on each other and research to discover what they are dealing with (Warner Brothers 2005). In contrast, Lost Girl’s duo has a helpful mentor who seems to know literally everything about everything, Trick. Trick’s grandfatherly mentoring character, who ironically turns out to be Bo’s grandfather, is another adaptation from earlier shows (eg. Giles in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or The White Lighter in Charmed).
The difference in support system also changes a variety of other aspects of the shows. Lost Girl has a regular and reoccurring cast of supporting characters with powers and abilities of their own who help the female leads deal with issues and bad guys who emerge. This again makes the show more similar to the originators of the genera, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The supporting cast, referred to as “The Scooby’s” by Joss Whedon, help the main characters in a
variety of ways and have amusing side adventures going on (Rosenberg 2012). For Lost Girl, they have a siren, a werewolf love interest, a valkyrie, and Trick. In another similarity to Buffy, one of the supporting characters, Vex, began as a villain but later becomes a part of the gang of good guys. These supporting characters interact with one another, sometimes as love interests, and also for comedic relief. This changes the entire tone of Lost Girl. It can be kind of funny and light despite the serious issues the protagonists face (Prodigy Pictures 2010). Supernatural is always deadly serious, and the tone is much darker than Lost Girl.
Lost Girl also includes a major theme that is absent from Supernatural, love and sex. The show heavily features a love triangle between the character Bo and two of the supporting characters, the werewolf, Dyson, and the doctor character, Lauren. The relationship between Bo and these characters is a constant undercurrent of the show. Additionally as a succubus, the character Bo needs sex to survive. The writes thus add sex scenes that do little to drive the plot but contribute to spicing up the episodes (Prodigy Pictures 2010).
In comparison to the other shows in general, both shows are clearly an adaption of those that came before it, however, they both show some inflection. Supernatural eliminates the supporting cast of characters, love interests, and draws from strict Judeo-Christian source material, something fairly unique on television shows. That said this is a fairly well-established theme in movies such as The Prophecy or End of Days. Lost Girl shows innovation by including “the mystery of her past” theme, which is absent in earlier shows in the genera. The world created for the show is also unique. However, when we consider the fact that there is a strong female lead, a host of supporting characters with powers, a wise older mentor character, a light-hearted tone, and a love triangle drama including a strong older man, Lost Girl begins to look like an imitator of the successful show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Warner Brothers (2005). Supernatural. Burbank, California: Warner Bros. Television
Prodigy Pictures (2010). Lost Girl. Prodigy Pictures. Toronto, Ontario: Showcase Television
Ramachandran, N. (2011, April 7). The big bad universe: Good and evil according to Joss Whedon. PopMatters. Retrieved from http://www.popmatters.com/feature/139249-the-big-bad-universe-good-and-evil-according-to-joss-whedon/
Rosenberg, A. (2012, April 3). ‘Lost Girl’ isn’t ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ – And That’s Okay. Think Progress. Retrieved from http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/04/03/457055/lost- girl-isnt-buffy-the-vampire-slayerand-thats-okay/