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SPN Meta: Character Motivation, Devil's Trap - Bloodslave for Cookies
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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sat, May. 13th, 2006 03:06 am
SPN Meta: Character Motivation, Devil's Trap


Okay, I haven't posted a Supernatural meta yet cause, I don't know, I've tried to stay away from that end of things. Being an analytical type anyway, I can get a little carried away when I get on a tear, so I've done my best to redirect my efforts to the fiction side of the universe. Yeah, well  guess that's come to a screeching halt, at least for tonight.

So here's the deal. In escelating my singular "know what I think, know what I wanna say" ficlet of Slaying Dragons to a trilogy of ficlets, I found myself doing some pretty intense brain work on Sam and John, in particular, about what drives them to act the way they act. Not on the surface, but at a very core, essentail level. 

And in doing that kind of brain strain, I realized that not only do my thoughts on why Dean does what he does vary from what I've come to think of as the SPN fandom norm, but so does my take on what drives Sam and John.

Once I see something like that, I'm a gonner. 'Cause the more I recognize my thoughts as atypical of the norm when it comes to character analysis, the more I feel a need to share why I'm looking at it the way I do, and try and convince the norm that they're just simply wrong and should look at it my way.

Hey, I don't know why I do that, but I do. I think it has to do with every accepted stance needing a good devil's advocate to push and pull and poke and prod it enough to make sure it really stands up to scrutiny, and there ain't nothin I like better than playing devil's advocate, especially if the alternate view I'm fronting in that role happens to parallel my acutal thinking on the subject.

So here's my first meta on Supernatural. Given the length of my introduction, I'm going to assume y'all will realize it ain't gonna be a short, nor easy, read. If that doesn't scare you away, buckle up and grab your drawers, cause here we go ...

Cause I've just got to tell y'all:

It's all about the Sam, the Dean, the Dad, the Demon ...


I’ve noticed that, for the vast majority of the SPN fandom community, Dean is perceived to be all about the Sammy. Because I tend to disagree with this particular way of seeing things, I thought I’d wax eloquently on (many refer to it as babbling aimlessly) about why I feel the exact opposite is true, and how this affects who does what, and why.

So first, let me draw a motivational circle for y’all. This is the way I see it:

For Sam, it’s all about the Dean. (Don’t argue yet)
For Dean, it’s all about the Dad. (Not yet)
For Dad, it’s all about the Demon. (Well, duh)
For the Demon, it’s all about the Sam. (Again, duh)

And what I take this to mean is this:

The motivation for everything Sam does comes down to Dean. (Just let me make my case). The motivation for everything Dean does comes down to Dad. (Seriously, hear me out). The motivation for everything Dad does comes down to the Demon. (Obvious, anyone?). And the motivation for everything the Demon does comes down to Sam. (Ditto the Obviousness of it all).

While these motivations cover the gamut in terms of positive to negative, the importance of each is that it drives the behavior of the individuals involved based upon the needs of someone other than themselves, so no one acts in their own interests. They don’t do what is best for them, they do what is best (or worst) for the object of their motivational obsession. And it all becomes a circle jerk in that every character is the focus of another’s obsession, just as they are equally each obsessed with a character who is neither themselves nor he who obsesses upon them.

So what exactly does this mean, you might ask (I did, and I wrote it, but I asked it more like WTF? Rather than "you might ask"). The way I see it, each of these obsessions is not only the core of motivational drive for their respective character, but it is also their Achilles’ heel, or fatal flaw, if you will.

Now I don’t mean fatal flaw in a "makes them a bad person" kind of way. Rather, I mean it in a hamartia kind of way, as in a tragic flaw of character that dooms each to live their lives in tragedy rather than as the person they should rightfully be: happy, carefree (except for tax season), loving, being loved, gainfully employed in a non-bloodletting-related occupation … something along those lines. In this context, I’m also going to use the term "redemption" in a relatively nontraditional way, applying it to mean the capacity to redeem one’s self from the singular fatal flaw that dooms each to a tragic life rather than anything resembling a functional life one might assumably want to live. I’m just telling you that sose you know: I’m not using it in any sort of a "redeemed soul" kind of was.

So now that the ground rules are in place, let’s tackle John, the most obviously fucked up of our characters (we’re not counting the Demon right now … he’s not tragically flawed, he’s just fugly evil). John may love his sons, he may be a moral man, he could even be a relatively sane fellow depending upon your definition of the word sane; but the single motivator that overwhelmingly drives his every action far and above any other character aspect (including his love for his sons) is his singular obsession with killing the demon that toasted Mary.

Yes, Captain Obvious is in the house, but give me a minute, will you?

So this is John’s fatal flaw. It is the one thing that keeps him from being a good father, from finding love, from living a functional life, from doing any of the things that might make him happy. It is the one drive to which he will not only sacrifice himself, but to which he will equally sacrifice his sons, his happiness, all of his friends, his own moral code, pretty much anything he has to sacrifice. For John, it is all about the Demon. Whatever is required to pursue his obsession with the Demon comes first, everything else comes second.

And in this fatal flaw, John forms one extreme of the "potential for redemption" continuum. For whatever reasons (probably because Kripke wrote him this way) John is, from all appearances, virtually incapable of being redeemed or redeeming himself from this fatal flaw. His obsession with killing the Demon has already taken him places from whence he cannot return. He has sacrificed things in the name of that obsession – his sons’ childhoods; his sons’ futures; his law-abiding, societally acceptable persona; his career; his moral code; perhaps even his immortal soul, to name but a few of the more obvious – that would no doubt prove fatal to the man he once was, and might one day wanted to have again be, even if he were to redeem himself from this flaw now. Today. This second.

John redeeming himself from this fatal flaw at this late stage of the game would be a bit like deciding to stop smoking after you find you have lung cancer and less than a week to live. Will stopping (redeeming) help? Maybe a bit, but in the bigger picture, it’s already too late to do anything other than die in a week. The time to stop and try to return to a non-doomed state of being is long, long past. That ship has already sailed, baby, and it is half way to the Bahamas.

So at the risk of courting the ire of the John-loving amongst us, I posit that, at this point, John is virtually irredeemable from his fatal flaw, that flaw being the fact that he is all about the Demon. And when I say that, I mean to say this: If John were to destroy the demon tomorrow, he would have no more reason for living. Without the Demon to pursue, the man he is would become irrelevant and the man he should be no longer exists. If he succeeds in killing the Demon, I dare say he will not find happiness with his sons, will not live a functional life, will never find love … all because he will no longer have any purpose to drive him, and all the things that he needed to succeed at any life-after-Demon pursuit are things he has already sacrificed in the name of said pursuit.

John kills the demon and his fate is this: he dies, or he lives the living death with no purpose and only bitter regrets for sacrifices made. He no longer pursues other evils with the passion heretofore reserved for our Demon because, for John, it has never been about demons in general, or evil in general, or saving people; it has always been about killing that one Demon. Vengeance for Mary. Once he achieves that end, all other courses of endeavor become moot.

So I consider John’s failure to evade his own tragic doom a virtual certainty, primarily because he will never find any measure of redemption from a fatal flaw he has indulged far too long to ever toss aside. And equally, I find the fact that his fate is already written in stone by his own hand to be the best reason to assume John isn’t going to survive that crash whether he sticks with Gray’s Anatomy or not. And I only use the term "virtually" to 1) keep from getting lynched by Papa Winchester fans and 2) allow for what I consider about a 1% chance that John may still have some capacity to exist beyond his own purpose in finding some other purpose through his sons. I find this almost ridiculously improbable, but will concede the slimmest of possibilities that Kripke might write it in a way that would ring true, cause he’s a talented fella, and I buy most of what he’s selling.

So that’s John. Let’s move on to Dean.

Despite overwhelming fan concept to the contrary, I think Dean’s fatal flaw is John, not Sam. Every choice Dean makes is ultimately driven by his relationship with John, and his obsessive need not to fail in John’s eyes. Now I’m not saying he doesn’t love Sammy more than anyone else: To the contrary, I think he does. Nor am I saying that protecting Sam is not Dean’s most important agenda in everything he does: To the contrary, I think it is. What I am saying, however, is that Dean’s need to protect Sam does not rise from his love of Sam; but rather, from his fatal flaw, his obsessive relationship with John.

Before I expound further on that, let me pause for a moment to say this: Dean’s emotional psyche suspended itself at five years of age. It got caught, stuck, frozen in time; never developing beyond this point even though the rest of him, including the way he applies that psyche, kept aging at a normal rate.

The violent murder of his mother is the axis upon which Dean’s entire persona turns. It is in the emotional context defined by this devastatingly destructive and world-view destabilizing event that John becomes the begin-all and end-all to a child who loses, in a single instant, every other stability in his life. This critical trauma not only strips Dean of his mother, but also of his every expectation that the world can be expected to play by any of the rules by which the world is supposed to play; and it does so at an emotionally vulnerable time when 5-year-old Dean has only just solidified his understanding of these axioms of reality as inflexible … an understanding that means they now shatter rather than bending to accommodate a restructuring of that which he has only newly taken as immutable fact.

So in once singularly violent event, Dean loses every place in the universe he can stand with any measure of confidence it will remain constant save one: His father. John becomes the only defined variable in an existence where every other variable is not only unknown, but also in a constant state of flux. And thus, John becomes Dean’s only touch point to the concepts of reality, or sanity, or safety. It is at that moment, for Dean, that it all became about the Dad.

I believe this is why Dean goes where he goes (emotionally speaking) in Devil’s Trap when he is begging his father not to let the Demon kill him. I do not find those tears to be a designed manipulation to reach his father inside the demon and motivate John to action. Neither do I find those tears to be a manifestation of pain or fear or despair or any other fracture of Dean’s stoic intention to endure. Rather, I find those tears to be one thing: the visual evidence of the internal regression of a 28 year old man to the 5 year old he was when his world changed forever into a world where only one thing could ever be fully trusted: the begin-all, the end-all, the Daddy.

I believe Dean’s way of expressing himself at that particular moment – the word choices, the tears, the expression – are all evidence that underneath all his bravada and courage and demon-hunting prowess he is still, and always will be, a five-year-old who believes with every fiber of his being that his dad can do anything, up to and including, de-possessing himself of a Demon upon request. John is, quite literally, the only God Dean has ever known, ever accepted, ever believed in. And when everything else is stripped away, Dean falls to his emotional knees and begs mercy of his God: Please don’t let the demon kill me, Daddy.

And it works because Jensen totally sells it with every ounce of his considerable acting skill.

That being said, back to the notion that Dean’s need to protect Sam stems from John, not simply from his love for Sam. For Dean, to break faith with John, is to break faith with God. And the one thing that John has always demanded of Dean, the one thing that has always been most important to John when it comes to Dean, and the one thing that John has over and over and over and over commanded Dean to do above all else is simply this: Protect Sammy. Commandment Number One: Protect Sammy. To break faith with John is to break faith with God.

Just to be clear: I actually have no doubt that Dean loves Sammy more than John. Nor do I doubt that Dean would give up his life in a heartbeat for Sam out of nothing more than this intense brotherly love. However, his obsessive need to protect Sammy at all costs is driven not by that love, but rather by the fact that John’s First Commandment is to Protect Sammy.

If the driving motivation were love for Sam, if Sam died and Dean had done everything he could to save him and simply failed, Dean would grieve a horrible grief, but he would eventually be able to go on. I do not believe this is the case. If Sam died while in Dean’s charge, I believe the man Dean is would cease to exist. He might not kill himself, he might not curl into a ball and cease to interact with the world, but the Dean we all know and love would no longer exist. And that man would never return when the agony of losing Sam eventually faded, as all such agonies must. Dean would be gone. And he would be gone because he failed in John’s singular demand of him, not because he loves Sam so much that he can’t survive Sam’s death without imploding to irretrievable degree.

In this context, I find the fact that, for Dean, it is all about the John to be Dean’s fatal flaw. It is what keeps him from living his own life, from making choices that would make him happy, from doing anything for himself rather than doing everything because it is what he must do to keep the faith with his father.

Now don’t take this to mean that I’m saying Dean would never stand up to his father. Obviously, such is not the case, as he does stand up to John in Devil’s Trap for Sam. And I consider this to be proof positive that Dean is not beyond the capacity to redeem himself from his fatal flaw. And because his reason for going against John, even if only in a small degree, is Sam; I believe Sam to be the only thing capable of serving as a catalyst to that redemption. It is only through his relationship with Sam that Dean will ever redeem himself from the fatal flaw that dooms him to a tragic life. Only through Sam, will Dean ever act in his own interests, rather than at the behest of what he must do to keep the faith with Daddy.

So in terms of that "potential for redemption" continuum in which John is the "ice-cube-in-hell" guy, Dean becomes the mid-mark. He has thus far sacrificed his life, his happiness, perhaps his future, perhaps portions of his soul in the name of serving the demands of his fatal flaw; but he is not yet to the place where John exists. Therefore, I posit that Dean is redeemable, but there’s only 50/50 shot at whether or not he will find that redemption. If he can redeem himself, it will be through the catalyst of Sam; and through that relationship, he will become the man he is intended to be, capable of living for himself, capable of being happy, of finding love, of becoming a functional part of society, even if the role he chooses is to continue hunting evil, which Dean – unlike John – does for the purpose of saving people, not to avenge his mother’s death.

So if Dean can break free of it all being about the Daddy, he can still be a demon hunter without leading the tragic life to which he is doomed if he fails to redeem himself from that fatal flaw. If he cannot break free of it, he will continue on as he is, living for John, making choices to the agenda of whatever it takes to keep from failing John until he eventually becomes John, irredeemable and doomed to a life that will never be anything other than tragic, for it will have no meaning or purpose of it’s own that is relevant to Dean, rather than dictated by the need for approval from John.

Which brings us to Sam. For Sammy, it is all about the Dean. As Dean sees his father, so Sam sees Dean. While John is the only source of stability for young Dean, Dean is the only source of stability for young Sam. Dean is the protector, the one who can be trusted, the one who is there, the one who defines stability in the instability of a world gone evil in a way that the rest of the world can’t/won’t/doesn’t see.

Unlike Dean, however, Sam isn’t broken. When Mary goes all fire and brimstone, he isn’t old enough to have an awareness of the nature of the world. And without that awareness, he doesn’t suffer the irretrievable breakage of everything he has ever believed safe to a degree that the only thing that remains constant becomes the only thing by which he can ever measure the world (which is what John is for Dean).

Without that breakage, Sam doesn’t suffer the suspension of psyche development that makes Dean so resilient (like a child) yet so fragile (like a child), so selfish (like a child), so demanding (like a child), yet so generous (like a child) and genuinely compassionate (like a child), so emotionally unsophisticated (like a child) while being so emotionally vulnerable (like a child). Sam is not a man who must save the world because it is the right thing to do (like a child). Sam is not a man who believes his Daddy can do anything (like a child). Sam is not a man who believes that in the end, he must always win because good always triumphs over evil, even if it does takes a while (like a child).

Because Dean is broken as a five year old and the only glue available is John (himself, equally broken and equally without glue), and because Dean is raised by John, Dean becomes the man we see. And that emotional immaturity is reflected in his basal impulse control issues (want, need, now!), it is reflected in his complete capitulation to that which he accepts as valid authority (dad) and in his simplistically comprehensive rebellion against all things authoritarian that he considers invalid (not John), and it is reflected in his relatively simplistic, black-and-white view of the morality of the world (good, evil, us, them, family, not-family).

Sam, on the other hand, is never broken. He is raised by someone who cares for him with extraordinary compassion and provides him with an unshakeable and absolute sense of safety both because that individual (Dean) loves him beyond all else and because that individual (again, Dean) is charged to raise him this way by the man he (Dean) considers his God (John). So you’ve got busted up Dean and relatively functional Sam: both products of the men who raise them and the impact (or lack thereof) of an axial trauma that defines Dean, but never even exists for Sam.

And it is this dynamic that makes Sam all about the Dean: a man he loves like a father and a brother and a teacher and a hero all rolled up into one. But unlike Dean and John, Sam is actually a relatively functional individual. Prior to Devil’s Trap, while you can consider Dean a fatal flaw for Sam in some ways, in others, he is merely the most influential motivator. Because unlike what John did with Dean, Dean gave Sam the childhood he needs in order to want, require, demand his own life the same way all functional individuals eventually want, require, demand what they need to make themselves happy, rather than what makes their parents happy.

So while Sam’s loyalty to Dean no doubt dictates virtually all of Sam’s choices up until the point where he leaves for Standford, Sam’s loyalty to Dean does NOT supercede Sam’s loyalty to himself. Dean gives Sam the emotional capacity to choose what he wants, and the emotional strength to rebel against both John and Dean in order to pursue it.

Because of this, Sam does redeem himself right out of it all being about the Dean, and he begins to live his own life with Jess. And every indication is that, once he rights the wrongs done to Jess, he will once again redeem himself out of a dynamic that might otherwise become the fatal flaw in it all being about the Dean.

Which means, in terms of that "potential for redemption" continuum, Sam is the polar opposite of John. He is a virtual lock to be able to redeem himself and return to a normal life the ilk of which he was already pursing at Standford until the Demon dragged him back to a life he had left. Sam will not doom himself to a tragic life with his fatal flaw because Dean has given him the capacity to want things for himself, to seek normalcy, to resist the impulse to place the needs of someone else before his own needs to a degree that it derails what Sam needs for himself, what Sam wants for himself.

But unlike Dean or John, both of whom are in full indulgence of their fatal flaws from the moment we meet them, Sam takes a tumble from his heretofore relatively functional status, falling prey to the full destructive power of his fatal flaw by indulging it at the one time when he could least afford to do so.

And by doing so, he dooms not only himself, but them all.

So when does Sam fall victim to his fatal flaw? When does Sam let the fact that it is all about the Dean doom him to a life of tragedy?

When he doesn’t shoot John to kill the demon.

I know most fan’s consider this a moment of truth for Sam, a place where he shows that he has triumphed because he sets aside his thirst for vengeance to do what Dean so desperately needs him to do. He puts family before obsession.

But for Sam, it isn’t all about the Demon. It never has been. For Sam, it has always been all about the Dean.

So I agree that this moment is a moment of truth for Sam, but I don’t agree that his choice is a triumph, but rather a failure. When he chooses not to shoot the demon, Sam becomes a true Winchester. Following in his father and his brother’s footsteps, he falls victim to his own fatal flaw.

The proof?

If Dean is not Sam’s fatal flaw – if it is not all about the Dean for Sam – then Sam would have taken the shot. He would have put what he needs – vengeance for Jess, the freedom for it to be over so he can return to his life, the need to do what he understands is the one thing his father wants most in the world, even if it does cost him his life – before what Dean needs, which is simply to not have John die, no matter what it cost anybody else, including himself, including Sam, including every other innocent victim that demon will destroy and including the world itself, if the storm is indeed a’coming as it appears to be a’coming.

But Sam doesn’t do that. Instead, he falls victim to his own fatal flaw. In putting what Dean needs above what he needs, above what John needs, above what the world needs, Sam fails them all. And the price for indulging that fatal flaw rather than redeeming himself from it? The price is everything.

Because Sam gives in to his fatal flaw, the demon lives to crash the semi into the Impala. Whatever tragedy stems from that attack is all on Sam’s head, because he failed in falling victim to his fatal flaw, in letting it all be about the Dean.

And this is why I say the reality of who is driven by what is exactly the opposite of general fan perception.

If Dean’s motivation is to protect Sammy, he would have told Sam to shoot John, because they all know the greatest danger to Sam is that Demon. As long as the Demon lives, Sammy can never be truly protected. In choosing to let it live, Dean proves his ultimate motivation is not protecting Sammy, but rather serving the needs of his relationship with John, which requires that he not allow John to die, no matter the cost to let him live.

If Sam’s motivation is anything other than Dean, he would have shot John, because the only reason to not shoot John is because Dean so obviously needs that. Every other need of every other character is served by Sam shooting John. Only what Dean needs is served by not shooting him. For Sam, it is all about the Dean.

And if John’s motivation is either Sam or Dean, he wouldn’t have allowed either of them to be anywhere near a Demon John can’t control when that Demon’s entire motivation is to get to Sam. John would have either killed or fail to kill the Demon at this confrontation, but neither of the boys would have been there because John would have not allowed them to stay under the auspices of "we’re stronger as a family." But because it is all about the Demon for John, he lets his boys participate because their participation ups his chance of killing the demon. Neither Dean nor Sam convince John of anything other than that they are stronger than he thought and thus, less of a detriment to his mission than an asset. And because killing that Demon matters more than the lives of either of his sons, John agrees to let his sons help him with a mission he refused to allow them to help him with when he viewed them as liabilities to mission success rather than assets.

Because for John, it is all about the Demon.

Just as for Dean, it is all about the John.

And for Sam, it is all about the Dean.

And Captain Obvious would like to bring this whole thing full circle by reminding everyone that, for the Demon, it is all about the Sam. Which is exactly why we call him Captain Obvious.

-finis-

 




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190CommentReply


(no subject) - (Anonymous)
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sat, May. 13th, 2006 11:13 am (UTC)

Student of the Human Animal. And a verbose one, you'll probably notice. :D

Thanks! Glad you liked it. I'm gonna go with: Great minds think alike. That work for you? LOL Me and my brain are very tired now. It's 6:15 am here and I haven't hit the pillow yet, so I think I'm gonna snooze for about 12, barring a massive dog attack in about 15 minutes when they realize it's time to go out.


ReplyThread Parent
kittyfisher
kittyfisher
Kitty Fisher
Sat, May. 13th, 2006 11:09 am (UTC)

Stunning, just stunning.

Thank you


ReplyThread
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 12:04 am (UTC)

Thank you, and you're more than welcome. It was fun to finally nail down the abstracts of the thought process into an actual communication. I'm hoping it will generate some conversation on the subject. :D


ReplyThread Parent
phantomas
phantomas
phantomas
Sat, May. 13th, 2006 12:00 pm (UTC)

This is...scary. And terribly (in its tragic essence) so very true.
Wow. Something to keep, definitely. I'm rushing around doing stuff, and not that awake/bright yet, but thank you for taking the time to write it down so eloquently. *hugs you*

Of course, when you wrote 'circle jerk' my mind went into that very special hell we all know about, but don't mind me.

Because for John, it is all about the Demon.
Just as for Dean, it is all about the John.
And for Sam, it is all about the Dean.


yes, for all the reasons you said. I do have a frail grasp on hope that John wouldn't 'really' sacrifice his sons to his fatal flaw...but we do have some evidence of the contrary, if not by direct actions, as you say, by caving in to their request of tagging along.
thank you :)


ReplyThread
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 03:36 am (UTC)

Of course, when you wrote 'circle jerk' my mind went into that very special hell we all know about, but don't mind me.

LOL. I put that in there just for you. ;-)

I do have a frail grasp on hope that John wouldn't 'really' sacrifice his sons to his fatal flaw

I'm not willing to eliminate that possibility. I'm not sure I would believe it though, either. But it's all in the articulation: If they wrote it in a way I could believe, I would alter my thoughts on what drives John to accomodate this suprirsing turn of events.

And certainly, I'm with you in clinging to the fragile hope that he wouldn't really go so far. I'm just pretty sure that -- as portrayed thus far, at least -- he would.


ReplyThread Parent Expand


krisomniac
krisomniac
Preocupied with a rubber chewy bone
Sat, May. 13th, 2006 12:00 pm (UTC)

huh.

Really interesting, and I totally buy your analysis of Dean's character... at least on a superficial lever (because nothing is ever totally black and white).

Must think on the rest. But good food for thought here, yo.


ReplyThread
dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 03:49 am (UTC)

Thanks. Love to hear your thoughts when you have them organized for sharing. I'd totally agree that nothing ever is totally black and white, but I know a number of people who see things this way, just rounding dark greys up to black and light greys down to white because they won't deal with the reality of greys existing.

And while I'm not sure I would go so far as to say Dean is completely one of those people, I do think he is, relatively speaking, one of them ... meaning to say that compared to most folks, he sees issues much more one way or the other than the average bear would.

Two examples of this that strike me right off the top of my head are

1) In faith, when he suggests killing Rev. LaGrange to stop the trading of lives that is going on. Sammy's outrage at the notion -- we can't kill him, Dean! -- is one that reflects a much greater understanding of shades of grey ... even if LaGrange is behind it, that doesn't automatically make him so black that he deserves to die.

That Dean responds with a "you have any better ideas" is an indicator, IMO, that left to his own view of the world, LaGrange would be toast. But that Dean understands this shortcoming within himself, so he is willing to listen to Sam's take on how they handle shades of grey he really isn't prone to seeing for himself.

2)The way he deals with the innocent trapped inside Meg during the exorcism. If she had been "family," his view would have been different. But she was "not-family," so the black and white of her being a force for evil regardless of her culpability in those actions makes her someone who has to die to stop that evil, even if it is not fair to her.

Dean's capacity to see and act on this either-or world view as if it is such an obvious choic without really giving the shades of grey involved any serious consideration at all as mitigating circumstances (the way Sam and ... um ... Jim Beaver -- can't remember his character name right now -- do) is part of why I consider him to view the world far more black and white that most people, if not nearly all, would.

Beyond that, the fact that he seems to realize (and possibly regret) this later -- what I am willing to do to protect this family scares me -- is what I consider to be an indicator that hanging with nearly-function Sam is helping him break free of the emotional stagnation that has kept him in a five-year-old mindset for more than 20 years. I actually think Sam is giving Dean some serious skills to find his own redemption from the inevitability of leading the life of tragedy to which his father has otherwise doomed him; and it is scenes like this that make me feel like Dean is not only getting exposed to what he needs, but also absorbing it and putting it to application in the way he views the world.

Very good news indeed if Dean ever getting a life of his own is what you want for him as much as it is what I want for him. ;)


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thisissirius
thisissirius
{ ♫ siri ♫ }
Sat, May. 13th, 2006 12:50 pm (UTC)

This is so perfectly true.

I think you totally hit everything spot on. Devil's Trap was such an eye opener for me, and I love your description of why Sam didn't shoot the demon. When people were going on about it being Sam's act of redemption I couldn't put my finger on why that felt wrong to me. So thank you for giving me the best explanation possible ^^

*pimps*


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 03:55 am (UTC)

Thanks! And thanks for the pimping, too. I found a real jarring dissonance in the idea that Sam made the right choice and the last 30 seconds of the episode.

I'm going to post a meta soon that deals with whether or not Sam's choice is a victory or a failure, because I can see very valid points on both sides of that question. The reason I came to the conclusions I did in this meta, however, is based mostly on the existance of this dissonance.

Certainly, the message I felt Kripke was trying to put across with the ramifications that manifest from Sam's choice is that either 1) Sam made the wrong choice or 2) No matter what you do, the demon's going to win. Because I haven't found the second stance to be relevant to the way the series has thus far portrayed the world as a whole, that forced me into taking #1 as the right way of reconciling the differences into something that made sense across the board. Which is why I came to the conclusion that Sam's choice must have been the wrong choice even though originally, I, like most fans, took it to be a triumph in that he put Dean before his need for vengeance.


ReplyThread Parent
fadagaski
fadagaski
Allocin
Sat, May. 13th, 2006 01:18 pm (UTC)

Holy cow. You've managed to flip the whole show on its head, shake it around, beat it with bricks, and pull it out different but recognisable. *bows to you* I really, really, really like your theory.


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC)

Thank you. I love the way you say this. That is always what I look to do -- examine everything (especially character motivations) from every possible ange to see if it looks better from a view I hadn't previously considered than it does from the one I'm taking for granted is the right view merely because it is my gut reaction.

I trust my gut no end, but when my observations and my experience with Human nature lead me to different conclusions than my gut, they tend to win.


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katbcoll
katbcoll
katbcoll
Sat, May. 13th, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC)

Wonderfully put! At first I wasn't sure I'd agree, but soon found myself nodding and saying "yeah, I saw that too." Especially when you were talking about Dean.

I hadn't thought about Sam's confrontation with the Demon in Daddy like that, but yes.... I can't argue with you on that.

Well done!


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC)

Thanks! I love trying to put something out there that makes people at least consider another way of looking at the characters, even if they don't necessarily buy into it as the only way. I see these guys in so many different ways that it seems to be a short shrifting of the incredible complexity that is the human psyche to think there is only one way to view why they do what they do. If it was that clear cut, these characters wouldn't be nearly as interesting as they are. I think it is a tribute to Kripke, Shiban, Manners, Jensen, Jared and JDM (among others) that we can see so many complex and emotionally compelling aspects to the people they create for us onscreen.


ReplyThread Parent
jonesandashes
jonesandashes
andashes
Sat, May. 13th, 2006 08:53 pm (UTC)
O.O

Whoa. Just - whoa. It's a ~circle~! *excited hand motions* This was a very well written, plausible SPN meta. I like and understand your reasoning. Also? I'm going to end up drawing a symbolic circle on my wall now, look what you've done!

And the ficlets were adorable. My fav was Saving Dean. *claps*

~Jones and Ashes


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 01:36 am (UTC)
Re: O.O

LOL. The real question I must ask: are you going to draw the circle in erasable ink, magic marker, or blood? I'd take your answer to be a measure of how much I convinced you that my way of thinking is the right way. :D

Thanks for the claps for the trilogy. I'm personally most driven by Slaying Demons, but I have to admit, Saving Dean certainly made me a little happier about the end fate of fellas I love. Seemed such a shame to make it all so bleak.


ReplyThread Parent
tsuki_no_bara
tsuki_no_bara
cindy
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 12:06 am (UTC)

i'm not sure i agree with you 100% on everything, but you've definitely hit some good points and made me think about devil's trap a different way. i do agree that sam didn't shoot the demon because dean begged him not to, but if you look at it a certain way it IS a redemption for him, because it means he's not single-mindedly (and self-destructively) acting like john. it means he's looking at something besides himself and his own vengeance. (which i don't think john ever did. i don't know if it ever occurred to him what he was doing to his sons, the way he raised them. and even if he cared, i don't think it would have stopped him.) it means he's actually thinking about the consequences of his actions as they relate to someone else, namely dean. i'm gonna be the one that has to bury you. to dean's eyes, it is sam's redemption.

in terms of the plot, tho, not so much. and the way you put it, dean really is his fatal flaw, because sam holds off on killing the demon because of dean, and in so doing lets the demon live to torment them - and the rest of the world - another day. which is good for dean in the short term, and possibly even good for sam, but will turn out to be a bad idea all around.

(and for john, yeah, it really is all about the demon and always has been. no argument there. :> )


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 01:27 am (UTC)

I'm so glad you bring this up. This is exactly the subject I wanted to discuss in another meta, but didn't really have the right framework in which to construct it. After I've done some replying to comments, I'll post a detailed response to this as a second meta (mostly because what I want to say is way too long to fit in the comments character count limitations). I'll look forward to discussing it with you.


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astri13
astri13
astri13
Sun, May. 14th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)

Needed to ponder this for a while.
You certainly raise a lot of interesting points and I agree with a lot of what you said.

I have a different interpretation of Sam not shooting DemonDad. At least I think he did it as much for his own sake as for Dean`s. Sure doing "whatever is necessary" is the heroic and rational thing to do, but it`s also fundamentally human and understandable to simply say: I don`t want this to be everything for me. I won`t sacrifice EVERYTHING to vengeance (and my future happyness.)
At least I don`t see it as succumbing to a fatal flaw. It`s just human. And I bet it`s something a lot of people would have done in his place too.

Something none of the Winchester men really seem to understand is the concept of "happy medium". Loving somebody is always a weakness in a way but it doesn`t need to rule your life. You can sacrifice yourself for your loved ones on occassion while putting yourself first at other times.

The family doesn`t need to be together 24/7 to be a family, which is something Dean just can`t understand.
On the other hand, Sam`s desired happy life doesn`t necessarily need to exclude Dean or John. Granted there were special circumstances for the prolongued silence between them during Sam`s college years but he in the Pilot he had seemingly pretty much moved on from them. Did he never wonder or worry about them? In their line of work? All the while living in his own little denial world of: "If I concentrate really hard on forgetting Sam Winchester of the freak childhood and not tell any of my friends or the woman I want to marry! about him, he`ll never have existed."

For me the actions of both brothers in the Finale were more of a logical progression of the First Season, of two people relearning and rediscovering each other, coming to understand each other now as adults and equals, and (re)forming a strong bond of love.


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Mon, May. 15th, 2006 12:02 am (UTC)

ROTFLMFA @ your icon!

I have a different interpretation of Sam not shooting DemonDad. At least I think he did it as much for his own sake as for Dean`s. Sure doing "whatever is necessary" is the heroic and rational thing to do, but it`s also fundamentally human and understandable to simply say: I don`t want this to be everything for me. I won`t sacrifice EVERYTHING to vengeance (and my future happyness.) At least I don`t see it as succumbing to a fatal flaw. It`s just human.

I can absolutely see this being exactly the case. In fact, this is much along the lines of what I intend to address in the meta I haven't quite finished yet.

And I bet it`s something a lot of people would have done in his place too.

This is probably the core of the difference between our stances. I'm not looking at it from a perspective of what Sam would have done, nor what he should have done, but rather what motivated him to do what he did. And more specific than even that, at the show writers are trying to tell us his motivation was based on the consequences of that choice.

So while I can absolutely see where Sam would have made that choice for a variety of reasons that aren't he's all about the Dean to a fatal flaw degree; what I'm saying is that, in the context of how the writers deal with the consequences of his choice, what THEY are trying to say was his motivation for making that choice.

And in that context, I find the strongest arguement to be that their stance is that Sam failed by indulging his fatal flaw rather than making the choice he should have made for the good of everyone but Dean. And I make that arguement based largely on the fact that they've set SPN up with a core message of "If you do the right thing, you will at least break even, if not prevail" but the Winchesters neither broke even nor prevailed as a direct result of Sam's choice, so they are saying that choice was a failure. And in order for that choice to be deemed a failure, I have to go to the arguments I made in my original meta.

Is that about as clear as mud? :D

Something none of the Winchester men really seem to understand is the concept of "happy medium". Loving somebody is always a weakness in a way but it doesn`t need to rule your life. You can sacrifice yourself for your loved ones on occassion while putting yourself first at other times. The family doesn`t need to be together 24/7 to be a family, which is something Dean just can`t understand. On the other hand, Sam`s desired happy life doesn`t necessarily need to exclude Dean or John.

I absolutely agree. Truer words never spoke ... especially the part about the Winchester men having no grip on the concept of a happy medium.


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rheasilvia
rheasilvia
Sylvia
Fri, May. 19th, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC)

Very, very well thought-out. Very interesting. Thank you very much for sharing this!

For the most part, and for all of the most important points, I agree with you entirely. :-)

There are just two (fairly minor) points which I would debate.

For one: I don't think that Dean is frozen at the emotional stage of a child to the extent which you assume. In many ways, he is emotionally crippled by the catastrophic collapse of his world, and the life which he then found himself in. This is obvious, and inevitable, and - at least in some ways - insurmountable.

In relation to his father, Dean has always - and purposefully at least on a subconscious level - upheld the childish belief that John can do anything, that he is God, that everything that is good in Dean's world hangs on his approval, and that John's disapproval means that Dean's world collapses. (Like you, I also think Dean has the potential to grow beyond this, and that if he does, it will be motivated by Sam - but Dean is still a long way from doing this, if he ever will.)

In other ways, however, Dean doesn't seem particularly emotionally child-like to me. In some ways, he is immature - but in a way that I'd consider relatively normal immaturity rather than emotional stasis at the age of 5. He is emotionally damaged, obviously, which shows in a myriad of ways. He is extremely, almost ridiculously vulnerable to Sam (John, of course, is in another category altogether). He puts up a fairly ineffective and utterly transparent "tough front" as self-defence. He is tremendously needy, clingy and insecure, not just in his relationship with family members, but also when he falls in love with Cassie, which he does with an inevitable desperation and speed. And so on - but... none of those qualities seem particularly child-like to me.

And: Dean's worldview seems far less simplistic than that of a child to me. I don't think he has an entirely black-and-white view of morality; he doesn't necessarily think of himself as the good guy, even. To me, he also doesn't seem to believe that good always triumphs over evil. Rather the contrary, actually, because evil has more minions, and Dean has always pursued the hunt in the knowledge and expectation that he will eventually be killed by one of the things he hunts (to me, this became quite clear in "Faith"). To Dean, though, the assumption that he will necessarily be overcome by something evil in the end does not mean that his hunt is meaningless.

The second point with which I would quibble is that the only reason Sam has not to shoot John is Dean. John's needs would certainly be served best if Sam shot him - but Sam's own need for his own, safe and normal life is not the only motivational force at work within Sam. There is also the very real love for his father that naturally makes him reluctant to shoot John, even if - intellectually - he knows that it would be the best thing to do. Dean is probably a very important factor in Sam's inability to go through with what he must logically know is the most reasonable course of action - but then, so are Sam's own emotions.

Those are my two minor quibbles - which should not distract from the fact that I agree whole-heartedly with your theory of the motivational circle. :-)

Again, thanks for sharing! I've taken the liberty of friending you so as not to miss out on further SPN meta. :-)



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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Sat, May. 20th, 2006 08:25 pm (UTC)

Thanks for friending. I love talking SPN metas with others! Having people willing to chit-chat over it always inspires me to babble on about other aspects that, heretofore, have lived only in my head.

extremely, almost ridiculously vulnerable ... ineffective and utterly transparent "tough front" as self-defence ... tremendously needy, clingy and insecure ... none of those qualities seem particularly child-like to me.

Really? I see these all as fairly childlike. I agree with you that he isn't frozen in that 5 year old emotional state completely across the board, just for the most part, though. One aspect of his character I find more emotionally complex and mature than the frozen-in-time theory allows for is his capacity to struggle, in retrospect, on such a deep level with the ethically rightness of a choice he makes fairly easily at the time.

Both in FAITH (where it happens twice, before they interfere with Layal's healing, and after) and in DEVIL'S TRAP (in questioning his willingness to do anything for his family) he shows not only the capacity to revisit decisions already made to ponder the ethics and/or morality of a choice he cannot change, but also a need to cogitate on those choices and the reasons he made them internally, only seeking external advise from his singular advisor, Sam, and only that to a very limited degree.

And I don't think these two examples (I know there are many more, these 2 were just easy to point out) are atypical of Dean's character at all, but in many ways, defining of it. I tend to think that is because, while he's frozen at the age of 5 emotionally, the ethical aspects of his persona are far more mature than most people his age, or most people period.

That's I think where I see what you're referring to as not necessarily a black and white view of the world. I see Dean's view of the world as very black and white, but his ethic judgements of himself to be every shade of grey imaginable (which I think may be what you're pointing out). So while it is ether good or bad, evil or good, right or wrong in his world view and that is what he uses to make his choices when action (especially when under time pressure); his moral and ethical maturity kick in later to wonder if he fell on the right side of the black/white line.

I don't find Dean a "do it and get over it" kind of guy, he just presents himself that way. When he thinks he might have made a wrong choice along the way, he agonizes over that choice, looking at it from every angle with a genuine agenda to judge it fairly rather than a retrospect justification process.

When forced into a state of grey here, his urge is to try and b&w this to match his world view. He does this in my examples, tries to black and white the choice, when the reality of his choice is actually grey. But he has a hard time accepting that as it doesn't fit his ways of judging the external world. So he asks Sam to verify that they were doing the right thing, or did the right thing, in interfering with Layla's healing, unable to accept for himself what Sam so readily accepts: that it is mostly a right choice in terms of serving the greater good, but also wrong in costing an innocent life.

Likewise, he seems to be trying to force the choice to murder Meg and her bro's hosts to kill their respective demons, in retrospect, to a purely white choices, but his morally/ethically maturity forces him to at least consider they may be b&w in terms of right for his family, but shades of moral grey exist when judged by other standards.

But when he act, we don't see these hesitations. It's the right choice -- a judgement of his b&w view of the world. t is only in retrospect it becomes a grey choice relevant to his very mature ethical/moral way of judging himself, which I find very different from the way he judges the world around him.

This is a great conversation to have, I think. Dean is such an incredibly complex and dysfunctional character and yet portrays himself as utterly shallow and very easy to read. I think that's why he's so fascinating to so many. Because, in many ways, he wants to be seen as just a regular guy as badly as Sam does, he just isn't ... as neither is Sam.

Uh oh ... I feel another meta coming on ... :D


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koorifumi
koorifumi
koorifumi
Wed, May. 24th, 2006 01:03 am (UTC)

doger_winslow wrote further up:

For instance, I don't tend to see Dean as thinking no one loves him enough to stay as much as he thinks how much he loves them dictates a leave or stay choice. In this mindset, if someone Dean loves leaves, it becomes his fault, his failure for not loving them enough (or in the right way) to make them stay.

This view may be elemental to the core of why we see things at about a 30% skew from one another. On a core level, I think Dean views EVERYTHING bad that happens as his fault, so whenever something goes wrong, whether subconsciously or consciously, he takes the oness for the failure on his own shoulders. And, for the most part, I believe that to be a function of his emotional development freezing at age 5, when his father charged him so completely with the responsiblity for his brother's safety that Dean felt to have failed in protecting Sammy would have meant that Sammy dying would be his fault in failing to protect, not the fault of the demon who toasted him.


I’ve been thinking about this for some time. Though it somehow seemed the right thing to suppose that Dean consciously or subconsciously takes the blame for everything bad that happens it somehow felt wrong to me and didn’t quite fit my impression of him. I realized that this is mainly because this line of reasoning is something I connect with drama-queens and people who pity themselves. And that’s not part of Dean’s personality in my opinion. (Actually it’s something I rather connect with Sam.) Perhaps I’ve taken your words too literal and you didn’t quite mean this “drama-queen-sort-sort of: it’s all my fault” still this got me on the road to do some more character analysing, which I’d like to share, because it differs from yours. And I think some of it didn’t come up in the other comments so far.

Well then - to me Dean isn’t a person who thinks: “it’s all my fault”. Of course he feels very much responsible. It’s his task, his duty and his wish/need to help people and he can’t afford to fail because if he does, people die. But actually he is refreshingly mature about this IMO.

There are a lot of bad things out there, but that’s how it is and it’s not his fault. He also knows that he can’t stop all of them. He does feel responsible, when he doesn’t manage and when people get hurt, but I never got the impression that he is feeling guilty and blaming himself (only with the stryga, because he thinks he messed up that time.) Otherwise I think he really gives people credit by not being overprotective. He lets people do their part in fighting the monsters, even asks of them to do it. He also believes they’re able to do it and to cope with it – I’m thinking especially about Michael here from Something Wicked. But come to think of it he isn’t overprotective with Sam either, not in the least. (Which is quite amazing I think, given the circumstances.)

Actually Dean gets rather mad at this “it’s all my fault” attitude. He did so when Sam whined about it being all his fault the demon killed their mother. And when John accused him of not having phoned him about Sam’s visions - because it’s his duty to tell him when something like this happens to his little brother - Dean gets quite angry too, confronting his father. I don’t think he felt it was his fault or that he was to blame for this. And during this exchange he *did* implicitly blame his father for not answering his calls, for not turning up when he was dying.


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 24th, 2006 04:30 am (UTC)

Dean consciously or subconsciously takes the blame for everything bad that happens it somehow felt wrong to me

Actually, that got a little out of the context in which I meant it. That statement refers to the way I see Dean in terms of things going wrong with those he loves, especially in terms of those he loves leaving him. I absolutely agree with you that it isn't relevant to the way he views whatever failures occur in the line of work.

He lets people do their part in fighting the monsters, even asks of them to do it. He also believes they’re able to do it and to cope with it – I’m thinking especially about Michael here from Something Wicked.

I see this as something else ... something relevant to another discussion I was having on a similar topic. While debating the difference between the view of Dean as emotionally attached to those he helps or merely empathetic to their plight but not emotionally attached to them as individuals, I take this to be one of the stronger evidences that Dean isn't actually emotionally attached (as compared to empathetic and compassionate) to the vast majority of the people he helps. If he were, he wouldn't have let that kid play bait, IMO. But he does because Dean views the evil in the world in a much bigger picture way than merely individuals.

And as you point out, he lets individuals do their part in fighting that evil even if it risks their lives in the process ... something I don't think he would do (or at least, not so easily) if he were actually emotionally attached to these people as compared to merely empathetic of them. So it is in that context that I view those events.

Actually Dean gets rather mad at this “it’s all my fault” attitude. He did so when Sam whined about it being all his fault the demon killed their mother.

I think Dean gets mad at Sam's attitude for 2 reasons: 1) he doesn't think it is Sam's fault and 2) Sam is blaming himself in a "poor pity me" way that I agree, is not relevant to the way Dean carries his blame.

I see Dean carrying his guilt at a much deeper level, and one he doesn't show but on rare occasion. Sam, on the other hand, was well on the road to thinking he should blame himself for his mom's murder and that should be his justification for all sorts of self destructive behavior in the name of that blame. I don't see Dean as having much use for that. His guilt drives him to save more people, not destroy himself. And I think that's the difference. And, too, I think Dean views Sam's culpability in their mother's murder like a 28 year old, while he views his own culpability in that murder like a 5 year old. Which is why he blames himself, but not Sam. IMO.

I don’t think he felt it was his fault or that he was to blame for this. And during this exchange he *did* implicitly blame his father for not answering his calls, for not turning up when he was dying.

Exactly why I think Sam is serving as a catalyst to a long overdue emotional growing up for Dean. Because this time, he lays the blame where it should be put. And as Dean admitted at least one time in the past, he envied Sam's capacity to do that, to stand up to John and say, "It's your fault!" That Dean finally does this, and at an appropriate time, ispart of why I consider Sam to be the key to Dean's redemption. Or perhaps salvation would be a better word.


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koorifumi
koorifumi
koorifumi
Wed, May. 24th, 2006 01:04 am (UTC)

Continued:

During the last three episodes I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling that there was a lot of anger, a lot of pain and disillusion seething in Dean. But even though he was angry with John and Sam and *did* blame them about putting the need to kill the Demon above anything else, he still could not need them.

Which leads me to the matter of Dean and the people he loves leaving him.

I don’t think Dean is blaming himself or thinking that it’s his fault they leave. I totally can’t see this line of reasoning, when it comes to his mother. And I don’t think he feels he doesn’t love them enough and therefore they’re leaving. They just don’t need him, the way he needs them. He just isn’t important enough. His only value lays in being a good soldier and protector. It’s not his fault; it’s just the way it is. I do think that this really is about Dean having a low self esteem.

He probably feels he’s not being worth to be loved just for himself, but only for being what Dad expects him to be: his good little soldier. Unlike Sam, who’s been the centre of attention, the one to be protected just because he’s the vulnerable little brother. But even though Dean strives to do his best, it still doesn’t get him the love and attention he needs. Actually it’s just taken for granted that he obeys, that he’s loyal and that he does his best. (While Sam has the liberty and leisure to rebel, to protest and argue and to question and still he remains the one who needs to be protected and cared for. It’s not cause Sam loves Dad more and is more obedient than Dean. It’s cause Sam’s just more important. And it doesn’t matter, how much Dean loves Dad. That’s not important, that’s not his purpose and it’s not what Dad needs of Dean.

Perhaps this low self-esteem explanation is only fractionally different from saying: Dean blames himself or sees it as his failure that they don’t love him/leave him. But to me it is an important small difference – it’s got a somewhat different flavour and different implications.

tbc


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 24th, 2006 05:03 am (UTC)

LOL. Dude, you've got this character limit thing beat. Huzzah!

I don’t think Dean is blaming himself or thinking that it’s his fault they leave. I totally can’t see this line of reasoning, when it comes to his mother.

Often, adults don't get how kids could possibly blame themselves for the things that kids invariably blame themselves for. Divorce and death in the family are the 2 biggies, and the most likely ages for kids to take on personal guilt for these trauma is between 5 and 7.

Does it make logical sense? No. But for the kid, it makes emotional sense. And this is how children of divorce so often find their way to believing (in a genuine fashion, not in a manipulative one) daddy left because they weren't a good boy. Or mommy died because they didn't love her enough, or because they got mad and thought bad thoughts about her.

It isn't a logical reason to blame themselves, but it is very emotionally sound in terms of the way a child that age views their role in the world around them. And it is only in realizing that it doesn't matter whether or not a child is actually to blame for something terrible happening to their stability matrix, it only matters whether or not the child BELIEVES they are to blame for that.

And usually, if they believe it -- again, truely believe it as compared to believe it for the sake of manipulation or to get attention -- two things will be true: 1) They will never tell you this is what they believe because it is their darkest and most horrible secret and 2) They will begin to define themselves this way in thier own minds, which often manifests itself as acting out.

Daddy left because I'm a bad boy, so I must be a bad boy so why shouldn't I act that way? Mommy died because I didn't love her enough so I won't ever love anyone enough to make them stay so might as well push them away first. Sound a little like Dean, especially in the way he deals with women? Does to me.

I do think that this really is about Dean having a low self esteem.

rheasilvia sees it this way, too; but I really don't. I don't see Dean having low self esteem anywhere. In fact, if anything, I think he has a little more self esteem than many might view as attractive. But I do think he has some very odd vulnerabilities in his self image, and I find all of those to be reflective of someone who stopped developing emotionally at around the age of 5.

In fact, how and when he exhibits things that could be taken as results of low self esteem, in combination with how and where he exhibits things I take to be examples of extraordinarily high self esteem are exactly the reasons I say his issue is having his emotional development frozen. Because they aren't consistent enough, IMO, to be self esteem issues.

But to me it is an important small difference – it’s got a somewhat different flavour and different implications.

Oh, I very much agree there are significantly different implications between these 2 interpretations. For example: Low self esteem very much can be the reason why men become serial daters -- they don't consider themselves worthy to be loved so they get in and get out as quickly as they can, trying for a moment of passing affection before she sees him as he believes himself to be: unworthy.

I don't find this relevant to Dean at all. Rather, I find both Dean's choice in partners and the berevity of their liasons to be because, whether consciously or subconsciouly, he knows he won't ever be able to love someone enough to make them stay so he picks women he can leave before they leave. And I think that's why he tends to less-than-bright or soulful women. Because he doesn't want to expose himself to someone for whom he might develop real feelings.

tbc ...


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koorifumi
koorifumi
koorifumi
Wed, May. 24th, 2006 01:16 am (UTC)

Continued:

And it’s getting more complex and escalates with the Season final.

During the last few episodes Sam and especially John make it clear over and over again that living as hunters is the worst thing ever, that their family is cursed, is a mess, isn’t normal. They just want it to end, they wish for something different, better: a normal life. All this isn’t the life they want, neither for themselves nor the other two. And I get the distinct impression this hurts Dean like hell, infuriates him, saddens him and adds to making him feel worthless. Because IMO Dean quite likes this life – despite everything.

He likes being with Dad and Sam (and the Impala) and doing the right thing: helping people, hunting things – even though it’s hard sometimes, even though he gets scared and has to leave people behind all the time. It’s *his* life. He doesn’t want to be „normal“, wouldn’t know how to be. It’s not that bad a life in Dean’s eyes, but John and Sam never seem able to see the good parts. Nor do they seem to realize that leading a “normal” life isn’t a guarantee for happiness. Time and again Dean seems almost shocked and disbelieving when Sam compares their family with those messed up families they meet.

That’s why it really hurts Dean to hear them speak ill of their family and their way of living: because it’s all Dean has, it’s what he holds most dear, it’s what defines him. That’s why John and Sam just can’t love and need him as much as he loves and needs them, because it’s not what they want and it’s not what defines them. Small wonder Dean has a low self-esteem since this gets rubbed in all the time during the season.

And John and Sam just don’t get this. They don’t pay attention to Dean – who is really quite transparent. He is so not good at pretending and in the end he doesn’t even bother to lie at all. You can’t get any less subtle and still John doesn’t get it… and Sam takes a really long time.

The strange thing is by having to get less and less subtle, by having to really *say* what’s bothering him, he gets more and more clingy, more obsessive and more intense. Ok – perhaps that’s not strange at all. I think Dean is being disappointed, hurt and feeling betrayed by his father but this drives him only to still believe more strongly, stubbornly and with abundance in him. There is something of a child in this stubborn believe and the way he clings to it. But at the same time it’s utterly desperate and somehow even disillusioned. Because if this believe is stripped away there’ll be nothing left – and Dean knows that.

Therefore I think Sam finally getting it and not shooting DemonJohn is a success in this aspect even if everything else goes to hell. Well - I needed to add this, otherwise I’d feel quite sad right now about where this line of reasoning took me to.

Just to make sure: that’s only one way I’m able to view the characters development. And there are a lot more aspects that could be added to go along with this theory but some of them have already been mentioned – so I’ll shut up for now.


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 24th, 2006 05:19 am (UTC)

They just want it to end, they wish for something different, better: a normal life.

I don't agree with this. Sam wants the hunt to end so he can have a normal life. John wants the hunt to end so it will be over, and his every intention and belief is that by being over, it means he'll be dead, not going on to live a normal life that he could never hope, at this stage of the game, to ever live.

Because IMO Dean quite likes this life – despite everything.

I think Dean likes rescuing people. And I think he likes doing it with his father and his brother because he wants his family around him. And this is one of the reasons why I tend to think, if Dean ever does break free of his fatal flaw, he will probably continue to be a hunter, he just won't lead a tragic life while he is hunting ... something I don't think you would have to do if you are good at being a hunter the way Dean is good at being one.

That’s why John and Sam just can’t love and need him as much as he loves and needs them, because it’s not what they want and it’s not what defines them. Small wonder Dean has a low self-esteem since this gets rubbed in all the time during the season.

Eh, I don't see it this way. Probably because I don't see Dean as having low self esteem. ;-) But also, I don't see Dean getting his feelings hurt much either. I think Dean just periodically gets pissed that his dad and his brother don't want to live the hunter's life as a family the way he does. But I don't think that hurts him as much as it pisses him off that they are getting in the way of what he wants by not being willing to do what he wants. :D

It’s *his* life. He doesn’t want to be „normal“, wouldn’t know how to be.

Tigriswolf has the most beautiful and spot on line in her story here:
http://tigriswolf.livejournal.com/601.html#cutid1
that I have ever read about the reality of Dean not "wanting" a normal life: "By the time he was ten, he knew normality wasn’t for him; by the time he was eleven, he’d convinced himself he didn’t want it. That he never had."

I think that's Dean in a nutshell.

so I’ll shut up for now.

Don't do that. This is fun!




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koorifumi
koorifumi
koorifumi
Wed, May. 24th, 2006 01:17 am (UTC)

Just two more lines before I’m off to bed:

John is living in the past.
Dean is living in the present.
Sam is living in the future.

Or:

John is all about the dead.
Dean is all about the living.
And Sam is wavering between those two.


Well – actually I’m not too convinced of trying to sum things up that shortly because most of the time it’s all so much more complex, but those lines just popped into my mind due to your phrasing at the start of this discussion. :-)


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dodger_winslow
dodger_winslow
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, May. 24th, 2006 04:15 am (UTC)

I like those assessments. And find them both very accurate (though I'm more fond of the second one). Like you, even though I love tying it all up in nice little soundbytes, the reality of it all is always much more complex than that. But I still like putting a snappy quote in there as a summation, given that I've usually covered the complexity issues ad nauseum before I ever get to a summation. :D

Beyond your 2, I found myself also favoring this observation about the boys in respect to each other and the Demon and how they want to live their lives if given a choice: Sam is his father before the Demon, Dean is his father after the Demon.


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