Supernatural drama

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In supernatural fiction, crystal gazing engenders visionary experiences for a supernatural insight. (The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse)

Supernatural dramas are drama settings of supernatural fiction. This genre deals with ghosts and other supernatural topics, but without the tone and fear elements associated with the horror genre.[1] The storylines of supernatural dramas have always been centered on magic or unexplained phenomena that cannot be rationalized by science but, rather by pagan or supernatural explanations.

Supernatural dramas may use creatures of folklore that are displayed as neutral or evil rather than creatures of fantasy which are perceived as good natured (such as fairies, leprechauns, or elves). The beings usually seen in supernatural dramas, or rather just the genre of supernatural itself, are apparitions, spirits, witches, warlocks, superhumans, demons, gods, angels and, miracles (although they are not like miracles of fantasy or divine intervention of god/s) and other similar ideas or depictions of extraordinary phenomena.

They may be combined with other genres, including comedy, action, science fiction, fantasy and/or horror. However, until recently, supernatural works were usually presented in a comical, whimsical, or a romantic fashion, and were not designed to frighten the audience. There are also many hybrids that have combinations of fantasy, action, horror, romance and comedy.[2]

In the 20th century, supernatural fiction became associated with psychological fiction. The result is that the supernatural is only one possible explanation for what has been described. A classic example of this would be The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which offers both a supernatural and a psychological interpretation of the events described. The ambiguity is considered to add to the effect.[3] A similar example is Charlotte Perkins Gilman's story The Yellow Wallpaper.

In recent years, the term has become increasingly popular in marketing to refer to films and television series, usually in a generally real-world setting, that wish to avoid being branded as fantasy or horror. For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural both incorporate heavy elements of horror, but are marketed as supernatural drama; similarly, Charmed contains almost all of the hallmarks of fantasy, but is often referred to as a supernatural drama. A common misconception is also that the Walking Dead is supernatural. It reality, it is just considered science fiction.

Common themes within the genre[edit]

In supernatural dramas, there are sometimes the existence of evil forces, and usually there are systems in place to combat the evil forces. Popular examples include the Buffy universe with the existence and creation of the slayers, in the television series Charmed, with the three most powerful witches of all time would be born to destroy evil within the universe, and in the television series Supernatural where ordinary people with no supernatural powers known as hunters, have knowledge of the supernatural to counter evil supernatural forces. Other story archetypes include the existence of communities that have good supernatural creatures that co-exist with humans, but without human knowledge of their existence and either their very existence helps to keep balance in the world and the very universe itself or by using the abilities they are born with.

Other themes that could exist are ideas such as karma, reincarnation, sin, etc.

Since their inception ghosts have been the only entity of mythological lore to be able to belong entirely to this genre.[citation needed] If the material involves ghosts then it is a major indication that the genre is most likely supernatural in nature.[according to whom?]


Another common theme is the incorporation of romantic fantasies and the use of non-human creatures to be the one true love of the lead and/or supporting characters. This is a common theme in True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and The Twilight Saga. Overall it has been making creatures such as Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, etc., to be viewed as "sexy" and has taken the genre in a less serious direction and given a more romantic view from what it was originally, and has been more recently aimed at a female audience.[according to whom?]


The setting of a supernatural work will, most of the time, be set in the world we live in, unlike fantasy which sometimes takes place in made up worlds or dimensions, or science fiction which can take place in the future, on other planets, in space, etc. Even when the setting is in a certain time period, for example, the past, the setting will stay historically true to the time period portrayed.[citation needed]

Good vs. Evil[edit]

Most materials in this genre have a battle and or a situation where the core group of characters have to fight against a common foe or foes, usually with a mythological being on the side of evil.[citation needed]

Supernatural and related genres[edit]

Supernatural and fantasy[edit]

Supernatural is not to be confused with fantasy, which, while portraying the use of magic, is written with a lighter tone and communicates good morals rather than using the darker elements of horror.[according to whom?] Another indicator that sets supernatural and fantasy apart is that, unlike supernatural, fantasy is a lot more structured. For instance, when it comes to the use of the mythological creatures that are much more positive in their nature like unicorns, elves, nymphs or angels, the supernatural genre will often switch around their background/mythology to create a more neutral atmosphere.[clarification needed]

Wizards and practitioners of magic possibly belong more to fantasy than they do supernatural although they do exist in both genres but in the supernatural genre their mythologies/backgrounds are often reworked to fit the genre more appropriately. The Practitioners of magic that belong more to supernatural are usually witches, warlocks, necromancers, priests, priestesses, and others that can possibly fit are less defined practitioners such as summoners, pagans, occultist, monks, or shamans. This is an example of how the two genres often go hand and hand with and border each other.[citation needed]

Dark fantasy is also a genre even harder to discern from the supernatural genre, but the genre is just as structured as fantasy itself usually keeping to as much original mythology as possible, depending on the target audience. Another indicator is the mixture of elements of the fantasy and horror, differing from supernatural in its lack of neutrality in the genre as well as the genre's elements.[citation needed] Examples of dark fantasy in mainstream media is Pan's Labyrinth.

Supernatural and horror[edit]

While supernatural dramas can incorporate horror elements, horror has stories that are consistently dark in purpose more than tone. Still, horror may have a supernatural entity just as long as there is a purpose more directed toward scaring the audience or creating a sense of dread or has a suspenseful build-up to events that attempt to convince the audience that they can be killed or murdered in such a fashion.[citation needed]

Horror also alludes to a suspenseful aura or feeling that something is wrong. In horror, death and fear are the key elements of the genre, and where death is always the goal and the very act of murdering the characters is depicted in frightening and often gruesome fashions.[citation needed] The horror genre's purpose is to provoke fear in audiences while supernatural may or may not as it is not the key to the stories being told.[according to whom?]

Supernatural crossovers[edit]

There are times when works have mixed the genres of supernatural and fantasy and are categorized as both genres at the same time as they use elements which are extremely common in both. Examples of this in recent mainstream American media is the supernatural and fantasy drama television shows Charmed, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess and Ghost Whisperer.

Science fiction and supernatural have crossovers despite being on the opposite ends of the speculative fiction genres, but it will usually be another genre known as science fantasy.[according to whom?] Examples of science fantasy are Fullmetal Alchemist, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Warehouse 13, and Light Years. At times it can also be that the two genres in one universe and not be science fantasy, but are in fact two separate forms of common phenomena as in the case of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Smallville, and Lost.[clarification needed] The example of Lost had elements early in the show which tended to border on the paranormal because it was much easier for people to understand the phenomena in such a manner than to see it from a supernatural source and the show used science fiction material more than supernatural material and the show's supernatural material was kept so ambiguous that it bordered on the paranormal.[according to whom?] It was not until the introduction of the Man in Black and Jacob that the show was revealed to be supernatural in nature as well as science fiction.[citation needed]

Supernatural genre and media history[edit]

The supernatural genre is relatively new, and has only recently become popular in the United States.[according to whom?] Its popularity has been heavily linked to the launch of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, its book series, and associated films. Since Buffy, the supernatural genre has gained more success due to the common depiction of two of the most notable creatures in supernatural mythology in many works of fiction, the vampire and to a lesser extent the werewolf, leading to be in such popular films as The Twilight Saga (film series) and television shows such as Being Human, The Originals, Teen Wolf, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries.[citation needed]

Supernatural films may have existed as early as the beginning of film in the 1870s.[citation needed] Most films in American media have mixed with the genres of fantasy, science fiction and horror, so instead of being acknowledged as supernatural, they are usually just labeled as fantasy, sci-fi and/or horror films.[citation needed] Fantasy and horror elements are much more emphasized in films.[citation needed]

Supernatural books and writings have been popular since almost the beginning of time.[citation needed] When it comes to its relation to the media there are hundreds of thousands of books and book series that are quite popular, such as The Twilight Saga, The Mortal Instruments, The Sookie Stackhouse Novels, Vampire Academy, and many others.[clarification needed] The books often feature the same elements of the films, though the films may have a more grand scale.[citation needed]


Television dramas[edit]

Television comedies[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Supernatural Drama Top rated Most Viewed - AllMovie". Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  2. ^ "Supernatural Films". Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  3. ^ Everett F. Bleiler, The Guide to Supernatural Fiction, Kent State University Press, 1983, pps. 277–278
  4. ^ "The Dead Zone (1983) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  5. ^ "Devil (2010) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  6. ^ "The Forgotten (2004) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". 2004-09-24. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  7. ^ Billy Bob Thornton. "The Gift (2000) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  8. ^ a b "Hereafter (2010) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  9. ^ "In Dreams (1999) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". 1999-01-15. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  10. ^ "The Invisible (2007) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  11. ^ "The Lovely Bones (2009) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  12. ^ "Next (2007) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". 2007-04-27. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  13. ^ "Premonition (2007) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast - AllMovie". 2007-03-16. Retrieved 2013-02-27.