People for the Ethical Treatment of Jensen Ackles

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Fan reaction to PETJA from Fandom Secrets - hard to tell if they are a supporter of it or not!

People for the Ethical Treatment of Jensen Ackles (PETJA) was a fandom project that started as a members only Livejournal Community called spn_petja in 2008. It was, if not a direct spin-off then at least inspired by, Capslock SPN and like that group involved mercilessly mocking the show, cast and fandom, long-running absurdist jokes, deliberately bad manips and pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable or tasteful.

The professed aim of PETJA was to promote Jensen and protect him from mean treatment, while actually creating many memes about his supposed deficits. It was on one level a satire on fandom and our idolizing of celebrities, of fans who rend their clothes if someone so much looks sideways at their favs. This behavior was highlighted in the 2006 RESPECT Wank, in which fans who mocked Jared or Jensen were attacked and defriended for being disrespectful. In response fans made icons with pictures of Jared and Jensen with the words "talentless assholes".

Of course sometimes playful mocking is indistinguishable from fans just being mean. It's relevant to note that this was just before fandom, and certainly the cast of Supernatural, were on social media (expect for Jim Beaver who had a MySpace page) so any celebrity mocking took place in fans own journals or communities with no chance that the celebrities concerned would ever read them.

PETJA professed to be supportive of Jensen and wanting to help advance his career, which they felt was languishing on The CW. At same time, a lot of the jokes about Jensen on PETJA centered on his many (mainly fictional) flaws including the idea that he was "functionally illiterate". This stemmed from his use of the word "unpossible" in an interview, and people not understanding that this was a Simpson's reference -- or getting the reference and making fun of it anyway. Like many things in fandom it was kinda confusing and contradictory, and probably much funnier when it was a comment thread on CAPSLOCK.

It was all pretty much a fandom in-joke until the community mods created a website to support a real world action they called the "Jensenvention". This was to take place in the fall of 2008 in the UK (the mods were English) and at Cons in the US and involved posters and postcards to be distributed as part of the "Jensenvention". The website contained videos including one in the vein of a parody of a "Save the Children" type campaign. As often happens with satire, the further it is removed from its context, the less it is recognizable as satire.

Jensenvention FAQ

At the end of July 2008, the website owners reported that they received a cease and desist letter from Jensen Ackles's attorneys to remove the website and its contents. Soon after the website was taken down and the PETJA community of LiveJournal was deleted.

Fandom had a lot to say about this including:

  • doubt that an actual cease and desist order was received at all, and that the mods had just decided to pull the plug themselves.
  • criticism of Jensen for not having a sense of humor.
  • claims Jensen knew about PETJA and loved it.
  • criticism of the fans involved for mocking learning disabilities.
  • defense of Jensen.
  • criticism of the fans criticising PETJA for not having a sense of humour.
  • discussion of the definitions and legal standing of parody and satire.
  • moral and legal standing of blogs posting material about real people.
  • musings on what is funny.

and as always - dismay over the state of the Supernatural fandom.