“The Good Hunt”: GISH and the Social Impact of Fandom

An image taken by Suus' team for the scavenger hunt. Suus, a young person dressed as Jesus in a long white robe and a fake beard, is standing upright on a paddle board holding an oar, in a lake in rural Holland. Behind them is a canoe with three young people dressed as disciples in coloured robes, rowing behind the paddle board.
Image: Suus van den Berg

Fandom can be a scary place which can cause unreasonable pain and suffering. Sometimes, however, it produces incredible and wonderful things. This is the case with GISH, a yearly charity scavenger hunt organised by Misha Collins, best known for his role as the angel Castiel in the hit-series Supernatural. GISH is best summarised as a charity scavenger hunt with a high focus on acts of kindness, fundraising, creating art, and general uncategorisable chaos. The hunt, as it’s affectionately called by participants, utilises fandom to push their agenda of activism and acts of kindness as a force of change. Not only are the majority of participants fans of Supernatural, the tasks themselves often include references to pop culture staples as Supernatural, Doctor Who, Good Omens, Star Wars, or Star Trek. It is no surprise then that GISH has attracted some big names over the years; William Shatner is but one of many big names that have participated or joined in some other way.

In 2013 I came across GISH, then named GISHWHES, on Tumblr. I was not, and still am not, a big fan of Supernatural, but I do enjoy whacky challenges and acts of kindness. So, I signed up. We are now seven years later and GISH has become a yearly staple for me. Last year, I dressed up as Jesus and stood on a paddle board for the first time in my life, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ve painted with skittles, started pillow fights with strangers, formed a human rainbow, let an eight-year-old dictate a recipe for what turned out to be a very sugary chocolate cake, and that’s just to name a few things. GISH pushes me out of my comfort zone and I have grown as a person because of it.

However, GISH is, beyond anything, aimed at doing good deeds and over the years has become more activist in nature. It partners with the charity Random Acts which promotes Random Acts of Kindness, as well as with photographer Giles Duley to change the world for the better. Two years ago, GISH participants raised money for female survivors of the Rwandan genocide to start their own farms. They have campaigned for the release of Willie Simmons, protested the internment camps at the American-Mexican border, successfully campaigned for the protection of an endangered rainforest, and consistently stood in solidarity with LGBT-rights worldwide. The role of Misha Collin’s fans and the Supernatural fandom can not be underestimated in this weekly force of chaos and charity.

In a world where fandom is often conceived as a toxic and competitive space, it is refreshing to see how GISH unites and uses fandom as a positive force in the world. 

For more information, visit the GISH website.

by Suus van den Berg

Suus (they/them) is from the land of cheese and bicycles and is currently studying the MA student in Queer History at Goldsmiths University of London. They have a weak spot for queer representation in media and personal advertisements from the 1920s. Find them on twitter @suusvandenberg.

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