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SPN Meta: Papa!John and The Save!Dean Campaign (PT 1/2) - Bloodslave for Cookies — LiveJournal
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I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Mon, Aug. 7th, 2006 08:33 pm
SPN Meta: Papa!John and The Save!Dean Campaign (PT 1/2)

Edit to Add: A concern has been brought to my attention that I want to clarify beyond any doubt that may exist. By framing my meta around sargraf 's comment -- comments I not only solicited from her, but that I also cherrypicked to suit what I wanted to discuss about what she said, thus taking them very much out of their original context when viewed as a whole -- I may have inadvertantly given the impression that her original comments were dissing John as a character or calling him an asshat of a father. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and I want to make that clear. 

Her original comments, in fact, were concerning story-John rather than canon-John, and they were provided as feedback to the way I portrayed him in the fic, as compared to the way he is portrayed on the show. Beyond that, they were very John-supportive comments, when read in context of everything she said, not ones that criticized him as either a character or a father. If by selecting some of those comments that addressed other John issues I've been wanting to talk to for a while now and re-quoting them out of their original context gave ANYONE the idea that sargraf was fronting a Villify!John Campaign or otherwise expressing anti-John sentiments, that is entirely MY fault, not an accurate representation of what she actually said.

Edit to Add: I hate LJ post limits. Have I mentioned that? Okay, fine, I wrote a meta that exceeded my POST limits. See now why I didn't want to respond to it as a comment? *sheesh* Now I've gotta cut it in two. Sorry folks.

Because the always wonderful sargraf is in a fine habit of bringing up things far too interesting to discuss within the confines of LJ’s comment character limits, I’m going to respond to one of her comments on Parental Instincts here, in my LJ, because really, what we are talking about is actually meta on the subject of John – especially John as a parent – and I thought it might be interesting to more than just the two of us. And there’s not nearly as short a character limit on posts as there is on comments. So two birds with one stone. Except it would be wrong to throw stones at birds, especially if your intention was to kill them. So two birds with one stone, only a soft stone, and just throwing to stun them. :D

Fair warning to all who enter: I thought this was going to run really long, and it ran about twice that long. So unless you are looking to read a meta that is 11,500 words long (I am NOT kidding), then you might wanna think about not clicking on the linky-link. I'm jes warning you. If you're up for that level of discertation, go ahead and click. ( sargraf, you have no choice. You must click. *g*)

Papa!John and The Save!Dean Campaign
Rules of the post: If it’s in italics, it’s something sargraf said. If not, it’s me. And if you want to understand what we’re referring to story-wise, you might want to read Parental Instincts first, cause otherwise you probably be a little lost in places.
Okay. Why I had trouble "recognizing" John is this:

I have a very hard time believing that, if he did realize on any conscious level that his decision was going to have any negative or stunting effect on Dean, he would still push him into that role because it makes for a smoother operation, short-term. Which is what it boils down to, right? It gives Dean a sense of purpose, but the way John sees it, it's a false purpose, because he knows he doesn't need Dean to be Sam's caretaker the way he's describing it to Dean, but Dean needs the pick-me-up to get him over the death of Mary.
This isn’t really the way I’m seeing it. This isn’t a short-term solution because it makes for a smoother operation. Such a view paints John far too much a man trying to simply his own life rather than, as I consider him to be, a man who is doing whatever it takes to save his child.
Equally, I don’t see John viewing this solution as something to give Dean a false sense of purpose for expediency’s sake; but rather as a solution that allows Dean to take a sense of purpose from doing things John might otherwise be capable of doing, if Dean weren’t so in need of the sense of purpose doing those things provide. The short-sighted aspects of John’s choice in this situation falls into the category of knowing there will be long-term negative consequences to what he is doing, but equally knowing those long-term consequences are paltry compared to the short-term consequences of not taking this action.
This is a military mindset (something I very much attribute as a driver in how and why John makes many of the choices he does in all things, parenting and otherwise) in a war zone: Worry about the scars later. For now, stop the bleeding.
Is it short-term thinking to tourniquet a bleeding limb in such a way that results in the limb later being lost, especially if you know this is a likely end result of applying a tourniquet? Yes, certainly, as no one wants to lose a limb. But when the only other choice available is for the wounded to bleed out on the battlefield, the choice always must be limb over life; so even knowing the tourniquet will result in other damage down the road, it must be done.
The simple truth is the limb is lost either way: a casualty of war. But the life can be saved if the bleeding is stanched, even if the method of stanching it also ensures the limb will be lost … something that might be avoidable if the means to stop the bleeding without the use of tourniquet was available on the battlefield rather than only available behind the lines in the safe zone – if available at all – and too far away to do the wounded on the field of play any good.
In terms of John, I’m saying this: John’s the guy who has to make the choice. Can his son live long enough to find the hospital on the back lines? Or should a tourniquet be applied now, saving the life at the eventual, inevitable cost of the limb?
Worry about the scars later. For now, stop the bleeding.
From John’s perspective (in the way I’m framing this story, at least), Dean is bleeding to death, emotionally speaking. John has tried other courses of action including doctors and drugs. Nothing has worked. Dean is going under, and everyone watching is wringing their hands and wailing but still, watching him go under.
So John makes a command choice in a life or death situation. He puts on a tourniquet, knowing it will create problems down the road but needing, right now, with no viable hospital in play to save his child’s life AND limb, to at least save the life. Because that’s who John is. He can’t stand by and let it happen. He has to at least try to save his child. To do something. And since this seems like the only thing left for him to do, he does it, even knowing up front it will cause different problems down the road.
Because any chance is better than no chance. Just as life with one leg is better than no life with two legs. At least, in John’s eyes, when it comes to his five year old son.
In terms of false purpose: No. I don’t think John feels this is a false purpose at all. It’s like allowing a child to learn responsibility by feeding their own dog. Is that a false lesson because, if the child didn’t feed the dog, the parent could? John gives Sammy to Dean to give Dean a reason to live. And he does so having evidentiary proof already in play that this is something to which Dean will respond (he’s already responded to it once); and that this sense of responsibility for Sammy does give Dean a sense of purpose that seems capable of over-riding the emotional trauma causal to Mary’s murder and resulting in his desire to go catatonic as a means of coping.
The cause-and-effect dynamic of Dean taking responsibility for Sammy has already played out once, giving John a logical high-probability assumption of success if he convinces Dean that Sammy needs to be taken care of, rather than simply can be taken care of. The difference between "you feed the dog or no one will" and "you feed the dog or I’ll do it." The end result is the dog will get fed either way (unless the parent is actually willing to let the dog die if the child fails), but what the child needs to believe in order to carry the responsibility they have to feel they’ve carried in order take pride in that achievement in a way that will allow them to carry like responsibilities in the future when there is no fail-safe in play, is that the dog’s life is at stake. If they are aware there’s an "I don’t do it, mom will" dynamic in play, the huge majority of children will default to that and never learn the lesson they need to learn.
A smart parent doesn’t let the child know the failsafe exists unless initiating the failsafe is required.
This is what I am suggesting John did with Sammy. Would he have allowed Sammy to die if Dean hadn’t stepped up to the task of taking care of him? No. Would he have let Sammy go hungry a couple of times to convince Dean there was no fail-safe in play if Dean hadn’t stepped up to the task of taking care of him immediately? My answer: yes. Which is why John tells Jessup he realizes how he chooses to do what he did is not something many people would approve of. But John is a military man, and I not only believe he would do this, I believe he would think it was the right thing to do, even if others didn’t agree.
So back to your original statement: no, John is not giving Dean a false sense of purpose for expediency’s sake or to help him get over the hump of Mary’s death. Rather, he is giving Dean BACK the one thing that gave his life purpose and started him healing when he found this need on his own (when John was originally grieving rather than taking care of Sammy the way he should have been) and filled it: Taking care of Sammy.
And John is doing it in a genuine way, charging Dean with the responsibility of Sammy’s care and allowing him to carry the weight of that responsibility to a specific degree that accomplishes what Dean needs – giving him a reason to go on – with the failsafe of John in place should Dean fail … not something John likely makes Dean aware exists, but something I am no less sure DOES exist, seeing as I consider John a good father and not fail-safing such a choice would be negligent of him in a way I do not find John capable of being, much fannish descent to the contrary.
Beyond that, while his strategy is admittedly short-sighted in the fact that it addresses the immediate need without capitulating to the likely damage the solution will wreak in the long run; there exists the simple fact that, without success in the short run, there is no long run. It is not, however, something John views as a transitory fix; but rather one he initiates to give Dean a continuing sense of purpose and importance that will help him reclaim what is taken from him by the supernatural mode of Mary’s murder: his sense of stability and control over the world in which he lives.
It is temporary only in that John hopes it will allow Dean the time and space he needs to find some other reason to go on, some other sense of stability and control over his world. Which is to say, John greatest fear is probably that it isn’t temporary, and that rather than offering his child a bridge to more functional solution, he is offering him a crutch upon which that child will become ultimate dependant. A risk John is willing to take because the need is so great, but not one of which he is either unaware or unafraid.
For the most part, John is acting on the same reasoning that drives me in this case (huh, imagine that lol): that Dean’s tailspin is a result not only of Mary’s murder, but of the traumatic way in which that murder redefines everything Dean has heretofore held as truth. Very much like the boy in Dead in the Water seeing his father pulled under by the ghost boy redefined that boy’s view of reality in a way that drove him to far more mental anguish than had his father simply drowned in a non supernatural fashion; so does Dean’s awareness that Mary’s murder was at the hand of a demon rather than merely in a house fire.
So while John’s choice to give Sammy to Dean may be short-sighted, and in the view of some (many?) ill-advised; it is done for the purpose of saving a child that he can find no other way to save, one who hasn’t been responsive to the efforts of medical professionals to save him in more traditional fashion. So John, being a military man, makes a military choice and stands by it, knowing it might be wrong in some ways for the long term, but confident it is the only choice he can make if he wants to save his child’s life, even at the potential cost of that child’s functionality at some later date – something I’m sure he hopes to address and fix before it becomes situation critical, but realizes he might not be able to, a responsibility he is willing to bear by making this choice he feels he has no choice but to make.
My fundamental view of John is that he is so obsessed that he lost sight of his sons as sons. He's not so analytical and detached from them, so much as he just simply lost track of what he was doing to them in his rush of fear and determination regarding all things evil, particularly the Demon. (I think his talk with Sam in DMB is a good indication that he also feels that way...?) Because once he does notice them, he drops everything else to love and/or comfort them above and beyond what is practical, sometimes. (Shadow, for instance.)
I don’t see this (big surprise, eh? lol). Far more, I see John as having built an obsession in the protection of his sons. Much of what is written in his journal, as well as what is said by John himself on air, takes the stance that John became terrified by the world around him after Mary’s murder: That he saw evil everywhere. Repeatedly (particularly in Shadow and DMB), he expresses that the one thing he cannot afford to lose is his sons, they are all he has left. Putting these two together leads me to a very different set of conclusions than you are seeing.
Rather than John losing track of his sons in an obsession to hunt Mary’s killer, I see John as having become obsessed with protecting all he has left, his sons. And protecting them focuses around two things: reclaiming Dean from the trauma of his mother’s murder and protecting Sam (and Dean, to a lesser degree perhaps) from the attentions of supernatural forces beyond his ken and current ability to defend them from.
In the pursuit of these two goals, John proceeds as the military man he is: Know thine enemy. He learns everything he can about the "evil" he is now seeing everywhere and that he perceives to be a clear and present danger to his children. Then he embarks on training missions to learn how to deal with it effectively, eliminating it not only from threat position to his children, but also from whatever threat it might represent to others (a small driver for him, IMO; but since it becomes such an overwhelmingly strong driver for Dean later, one I think must be in play to some degree).
This is quintessentially a military man’s solution to danger: learn about it, find it and take it out by whatever means necessary. Without Mary to balance him to a less militaristic, less masculine response, John takes this as his new way of living. It not only plays to his strengths and skills and experience, but also serves his needs – protecting the only things he cares about in the world: his sons. This is how he becomes the hunter we see on the show.
And it is also how he reclaims his own sense of stability and control of his world … something of which he is stripped by the mode of Mary’s murder as surely as Dean.
But I don’t see his evolution to a hunter as one driven by obsession for revenge as so many fans see it to be; but rather one driven by obsession to protect what he has left, and by a need to assert some form of control over the circumstances of his life as so many men – and so many military men in particular – feel a need to do. Having your world change to one that doesn’t play by the rules of reality as you understand it would be intolerable to most military men. Their response to such a thing would be to learn the new rules of engagement so they feel confident they are fighting a battle they understand against a foe they know how to defeat. This is the drive behind John learning everything he learns to be a hunter, and behind keeping a journal to remind him how the new rules of engagement differ from the old rules that guided his life for the first twenty-odd years.
On a seemingly unrelated topic that isn’t, in reality, unrelated at all, those who learn a second language universally report thinking and dreaming in their native language, then translating to the second language, even when that second language has become so native to them as to be their language of choice and most experience, if not origin. I see this as relevant to John’s views on reality. His view or origin (the one with which he was born/raised) on the way the world works is the same as ours, which means he thinks this way and responds this way natively. He must then translate that information into the new language of his post-Demon reality in order to use it.
Because he has so much experience at it and has studied it to a degree that this language has become second nature to him, the translation may seem instantaneous to the external observer; but the truth remains that it is a translation, not the native way in which he thinks. And that’s the purpose of the journal. To remind John of the differences between his native language on the nature of reality compared to his second language on the nature of reality … a cheat sheet, so to speak, of the things he still finds occasionally confusing, or something he might not use enough to be sure he will remember it when he needs it.
I mention this because I find it relevant to John’s evolution into a hunter. He has the skills of a hunter long before he has the language (perception of reality) of a hunter. But it is in learning and using that second language (perception of reality) that he actually becomes a hunter. And that takes time. There’s a great deal of learning and experience involved in becoming so adept at the manipulation of a language not your native tongue just as there is a great deal of learning and experience involved in becoming so adept at the manipulation of a reality not your native reality.
John can’t possess this immediately after Mary’s death. Rather, he is dispossessed of his native reality and transplanted into a new reality without benefit of preparatory language lessons at all. He is a stranger in a strange land; thrust into a world where the only ones speaking his native tongue of reality are the ones who don’t see the danger posing imminent threat to those he loves, his sons. So John takes it upon himself to learn this new language of reality so he can protect his children. That becomes his obsession.
The thirst for revenge comes later, when his children are older and less vulnerable and dependant upon him for their protection. Only then can he begin to afford to indulge his own issues, like a need to take revenge Mary’s murder and punish her murderer for the pain caused himself and his sons. And once he begins indulging that need, then yes, I agree it begins to play a role in his obsessive quest of the demon. But that is when both Sam and Dean are adults, not when they are children.
But in the beginning, at the time when Parental Instincts is set, I very much consider John’s obsessions to be the safety and recovery of his sons, not a thirst for revenge for Mary that would result in him loosing sight of his sons or setting aside what they need in terms of protection and parenting.
And in terms of his comments in Dean Man’s Blood, I consider that to be John acknowledging that, in the obsessive pursuit of their safety, he may have allowed himself to lose sight of the fact that his sons might need something OTHER than to be safe, or to be healed. As they grew older and developed a need to live their own lives, he admits losing sight of what he used to know as a father when he was originally planning for their futures, before Mary was murdered: that they would some day need to make their own way in the world; and it was part of his job, as their father, to step aside and allow them do so, even if it meant letting them make their own mistakes along the way.
That is the hardest thing for any parent to do, even under normal circumstances – to allow their child to fail when they can see those failures coming and, with a simple word of advice or well-timed shove, get their kids out of the path of impending doom or one big-ass credit card debt accumulation. But in John’s world, when failure means death for his sons, it would be nearly impossible for him to live all those years, so obsessed with their protection that he dedicates his entire life to that pursuit, to then step aside and allow Sam the freedom to pursue what he wants in life, making his own mistakes along the way … mistakes John almost MUST perceive, at that point, to be mistakes he can’t let Sam make without risking that those failures will prove fatal to him, in this new world of evil John knows now to be an inescapable reality.
So for me, John’s comments in DMB re-enforce what I perceive to be his early drivers rather than confounding them. They put in John’s own words the fact that he became so obsessed with keeping his sons safe that it didn’t occur to him to consider what they wanted. Because what they wanted was irrelevant. That they were safe was all that mattered.
And in that, he is acknowledging, to some degree, that this obsession with the safety of his sons has always been as much about him as it has been about them – another reason why I so love this character because while this kind of obsession may SEEM to be about something other than self, but when push comes to shove, it never is. And John is far too honest with himself about the reality of the man he is to fail to see this about himself, even if it hurts to admit as much to his son.
We are only so interested as this when the subject of interest is our own.
So John understand this, and is willing to admit it: Yes, my obsession for your safety was to protect you; but as much as it was to protect your for your sake, it was also to protect you for my sake, so I wouldn’t lose you. Because I cannot afford to lose you. I cannot – will not – allow that to happen. So when you, Sammy, wanted to live your own life, it simply didn’t occur to me that you were old enough to make that choice for yourself. Because the choice you wanted to make ran the risk of endangering everything I need, which was for you to be safe, something I only feel you are if you are under my direct authority. So I acted selfishly and tried to keep you safe at the cost of you being happy. And I understand that now, and can even acknowledge that maybe I was wrong in doing it. But damn, boy, I need you to be safe. Not want it, but need it. My whole post-Demon life has been spent in pursuit of this one goal. It’s what I need, and I still need it, even if you have reminded me that it may not be what you need and that I have to at least consider that in the way I act, even if I don’t want to.
So for me, in talking to Sammy in DMB, John is acknowledging that he never wanted to trade Sam’s happiness for his safety, but that is what this evolution from pre-demon father to post-demon hunter has led him to. And even in knowing this, he still feels the same need so strongly that it’s all he can do to keep from locking Sammy in a little box and keeping him there forever, just so he will be safe, just so John won’t have to lose him. In comparison to that need, what Sammy wants or what will make Sammy happy (as compared to safe) is a pale indifference; and he has to fight against his feelings on that every moment, because it feels so strong to him that he must protect his sons at all costs, even the cost of them never truly being happy.
In addition, he is acknowledging the Stanford reaction, among other things, as places he may have failed Sammy as a father, acting in his own interests to keep Sam safe rather than acting in Sam’s interest to allow him a future that will make him happy. Which, again, is why I love John. Because he can acknowledge these failures yet, still, in his heart of hearts, know he would absolutely do it all over again, just to keep Sammy safe. Which is exactly what he then tries to do in keeping Sam and Dean out of the hunt … because it is just that strong in him to need them to be safe.
And, again, that message is re-enforced in Shadow. "It was a trap, Dad. I didn’t know." "I thought it might be." He realizes it’s a trap, yet he comes anyway? Yes. Because even if it is a trap, he has to be there because the bait for that trap is the safety of his sons. And even knowing he is walking straight to an ambush, that one thing is so important to him he cannot fail to act on it … something Meg understands about him, and is right in calling it his greatest weakness.
Devil's Trap cemented this view of him for me. Before then, his characterization was so wonky that I had no clue what to make of him, or why he did what he did.
I think this may actually be at the core of why we see this character so differently. That you feel his characterization was wonky and without consistency that you could detect prior to DT is so different from what I saw: a man who made absolute and consistent sense from the moment he was introduced right up until he’s bleeding in the passenger seat of the Impala as the screen goes black. There has never been a time I didn’t feel like what was driving John was not excruciatingly clear, but also excruciatingly consistent in the way it was being portrayed.
For me, he is and always has been (and probably always will be) a military man protecting all he has left in a world he views as out to get them. And he will do anything in pursuit of that end, including getting himself killed and making those sons he is so driven to protect absolutely miserable, albeit safely so. And this is a man he evolved into from a man who began as a very caring, gentle, intuitive father with a military background but a wife who nicely balanced both his military and masculine perspectives to a more domestic end than he might have otherwise accomplished on his own or with someone else.
I’ve never seen John as anything other than this, and I’ve never seen him as someone who acts in a way that is contrary to this.
But if I couldn’t see this about him, and I was judging him by some other criterion less militaristic, less father-oriented, and more considering of revenge as his true motivator; I can very much see where his behaviors might have seemed inconsistent and a little bit cracked. At the very least, self indulgent to his own needs and short-sighted when it comes to his children’s needs. And inconsistent on that subject as well.
And I think that may be more where you are, along with many other fans. And as I’ve put to meta in the past, I consider this to be, at least in part, relevant to how overwhelmingly female this fandom is, and how much the masculine and feminine perspectives vary on what makes people do what they do, especially on the subject of expressing love and trying to protect the things we love from a perception of imminent and ever-present danger.
Because I so overwhelmingly write the masculine perspective and so overwhelmingly am intrigued by what drives men to do what they do (especially under traumatic circumstances or in the aftermath of psychologically devastating events); I think I have a relatively unique perspective on this dynamic for someone who isn’t a man; and that perspective is part of what makes me so love John for doing the same things that so many other fans so hate him for doing.
All that to say, while I disagree with your assessment of why John does what he does, knowing why you see him to be driven to act this way, I can very much see why you don’t have much respect or affection for the man. I might share that opinion, in fact, if I didn’t see John reasons so differently, and from a much more masculine view point.
I am firmly convinced of at least these two things: 1) he loves his sons to an epic degree and 2) he is only recently "waking up" to the effect he's unintentionally had on them.
I absolutely agree with 1, and I agree with 2 as well, but in a slightly different context. Rather than "waking up" to the effect John has unintentionally had on his sons in the context in which you’ve framed this comment by earlier remarks, I see him to be "waking up" to the effect he’s unintentionally had on them by trying so dogmatically and obsessively to protect them from things at the cost of other aspects of their lives … aspects that have taken collateral damage from his obsessive need to keep them safe, his obsessive need not to lose them.
When they were younger, this need served the vast majority of what his sons needed. But now, as they are aging into their own, maturing to a point in life where he’d once so wanted to see them, trying to establish their own lives to the end of being happy; John is finding that one child seems incapable of even aspiring to his own form of happiness or life and the other has to fight John every step of the way just to do what John once wanted them both to do.
Live their own lives.
So in terms of your "awakening," I think John is beginning to realize that some of the things he did in service to their protection are the same reasons Dean won’t look for happiness and Sam and he have to come to blows over Sam looking for happiness. And I feel, especially during their conversation in DMB, John is lamenting this sacrifice made, but is also defending, to a certain degree, the idea that he really had no choice but to make that sacrifice. That he still thinks he’s done the right thing as their father – what was in the best interest of their survival at the time – and that even though his choices have had some consequences that break his heart and that end in both of his children living lives he never wanted them to live; he also believes the only reason they are still alive to seek any kind of life or happiness at all is because he WAS so obsessive about keeping them safe all these years, even if it meant sacrificing their happiness in the future (and sometimes, in the moment itself) for their safety at any given moment.
And again, this is why I so love John. Because he is incapable of self delusion. He can SEE the damage his choices have wrought, and he can mourn that damage. But even in doing so, he still feels they were the right choices to make at the time, and the only ones that would have kept his children alive. He doesn’t think he did the wrong thing. He hates that it has come to this end. And that is very much a military mindset, as well as a masculine one; and it very much, IMO, typifies John as the man he is.
And the man I love for being that way.
It's the deliberate manipulation of Dean that I can't wrap my brain around.
John is no more deliberately manipulative of Dean in this than any parent is an any choice they make for their child’s own good when that good requires some level of misrepresentation of reality in the framing of it. How manipulative is it to let a child win a game? Or to think they have cooked the cookies they "helped" you make?
Being a parent is a series of misrepresentations made in the interest of a child’s greatest good, and while some are small and seemingly inconsequential, others can be huge and necessary and still untrue as hell. Especially for a father in the kind of extreme circumstances John suffers, dealing with a child victimized by the kind of extreme trauma to which Dean has been subjected, and in the context of so few (if any) socially supported programs to deal with the emotional and/or psychological fallout attendant to the specifics of Dean’s trauma.
On a very bare bones level, John is simply making choices for Dean in Dean’s best interests, feeling like it is imperative (and rightfully so, IMO) for Dean to continue interacting with the world even if that interaction opens him to the pain that is part of living … a greater pain for Dean than it would be for other children who have not experienced the dramatic traumas he has. Where John varies from many other parents, IMO (and most dramatically, from other parents who are women), is in how far he is willing to go in order to secure for Dean what he feels is in Dean’s best interests to secure.
If giving Dean the responsibility for Sammy is what Dean needs to keep him from sinking into himself so far that he will never come out again, that is what John will give him. Period. And in terms of manipulation, what John ultimately does is no more manipulative than a parent speaking to a belief in the Divine that they may not necessarily feel themselves in order to help a child deal with grief that might otherwise consume them.
Adults are afforded the right to choose their own way of dealing with whatever screws with them because (hopefully) they have the perspective, the emotional maturity, the experience and the philosophical and psychological sophistication to make such choices from a fully informed context. Children, on the other hand, possess none of these things and thus must not be given choices that require such things exist in order for the choice to be made in an informed context. So instead, children are dependent upon their parents to make such choices for them, the parent assumably having the context the child lacks, being ultimately responsible for the child’s welfare, and being the one most likely to make those choices for the sake of the child rather than for the sake of some other external driver.
And John is not only capable of, but also willing to, make that choice for Dean when it comes to giving Dean some kind of external purpose in life to keep him engaged with life rather than retreating into himself to avoid it. Dean lacks the context in which to make a choice that life has no meaning, and there’s no reason to go on. So John makes that choice for him, and then does what needs to be done in order to enforce that choice.
Life is worth living, you will go on. Here, take care of Sammy because he needs you.
And if the way John makes that happen is acting as if Sammy might not otherwise get the care he needs if Dean doesn’t step up to the plate? Such is a parent’s responsibility, in John’s eyes. Full disclosure is for adults. Between an adult and a child, the child’s needs, psychologically and emotionally, must take precedence over the letter of truth and verity.
John is equal parts Great Love and Obsession to me, sometimes intertwined, but the thought of him being calculating, whether well-intentioned or no, is a brick wall for me. I believe he can be calculating when it comes to hunting (though that doesn't necessarily make him brilliant in my book, thanks to crappy plot devices), but not at all in relation to his sons. He's not that... cold.
I don’t find John calculating at all. I do, however, find him strategic, not only by personality but also by training. Many people are intuitively strategic, and make choices they believe to be from their "gut" but that are actually made in the service of some strategy they simply don’t understand enough to call it by name. I consider John one of those people, although I also think he is intellectually strategic as well … something that need not be cold or calculating at all.
On this particular subject, I have unique insight and experience I’ll share with you. As someone who spent a large chunk of my career as a profession strategist, I can assure you the skills required (to succeed) are anything but cold or calculating. Rather, they are a mix of a number of things, among them: a capacity to understand the dynamics of cause and effect; a capacity to see and understand what makes people do what they do, even when their actions seem to defy common sense; a capacity to look at every angle of an intention to act, not only from your own side of the coin, but from your opponents as well; a confidence to believe your own view and judgements balanced by the humility to seek the view and judgements of others, especially those directly involved, on either side of the equation, with the intent to act; the passion to care about what you do and what the outcome is of the strategy you implement so much as to make it your own stakes, rather than simply the stakes of your client; and the capacity to believe what you are doing is right on such a deep and emotional level that you can and will commit to it fully rather than allowing anyone (client included) to half-ass it to bad end or second-guess themselves out of the right move one step short of the goal, even when the stakes in play are life or death, or success and failure of someone’s financial future and/or life’s work.
Trust me, cold and calculating aren’t in the mix for successful strategists, only for those who fail and don’t give a crap that they’ve taken someone down with them.
So in terms of John, I have no problem seeing him as strategic not only by personality, but also by military training … a training protocol that not only encourages inherent strategic skills to present themselves, but that also teaches critical thinking and logic in such a way as to allow even those who aren’t inherently strategic to succeed in that endeavor to limited degree.
And terms of how he applies his strategic skills to the parenting of his son, I find John to not only be a good parent, but also an exceptionally capable one; using the skills he has to assure the best possible outcome for his sons, boys for whom he is responsible and who he loves more than anything else on the planet. John uses his strategic skills just like a smart man uses his intellect, like a strong man uses his brawn, like a passionate man uses his passion, like a rich man uses his money, like an influential man uses his influence.
Parenting takes all sorts of skills, and every parent has a different mix of different skills in the set. John has a great set (ha!) IMO, and he uses them very well. To better end, in fact, that many parent who have a far greater breadth of skills, if not depth of skills.
And beyond all that, he’s got a wonderful sense of Parental Instincts, which is exactly why I named this fic what I did.
He loves them that much. Meg was right. He's not rational about his sons, and I don't believe that he thinks everything through as much as people who hate him or love him believe. There's no grand or elaborate pattern to it, from what we've seen. He goes all-out in one direction, and sometimes that's love, and sometimes that's obsession.
I agree Meg is right. I think she is saying, however, that he isn’t able to be detached when the safety of his sons is involved, not that he is irrational about the subject of his sons. Which is very much what I was referring to earlier. Meg understands John’s greatest weakness is his need to protect his sons. She knows he will break his own strategies, break his own rules, break anything that needs breaking as well as sacrifice anything that needs sacrificing, including himself and others, to keep those boys safe.
And this is what makes him so vulnerable when they’re around: Because any threat to them turns him into someone who must act reactively to the threat rather than allowing him to be proactive to his original intent. The best defense is a good offence. And John’s sons are her offense, as well as her ultimate trump card. No matter what John knows is the right thing to do – like not walk into an ambush that he sees up front is a trap – he will still do whatever serves the protection of his sons.
And because Meg knows this, and knows it is a 100% consistent response for him, she can factor that capacity to be irrational to the logic he knows correct if the safety of his sons is at stake into the equation, using it to destroy him because, no matter what cards he holds, she’s got the ace and king of spades. All she has to do is put them in danger, and John will do anything she wants him to do: A response she can predict with 100% accuracy even when what she wants him to do defies every possible logic to what he should otherwise be doing, if his end desire is to defeat her, or even to live himself.
But that isn’t being irrational. That’s being a father. And it is being John; an epic and laudable and heroic failure of character upon which Meg depends – and can afford to depend – to be John’s Achilles heel. Which is exactly why Dean is correct in saying John can’t go with them in Shadows. Because the only way to protect against your Achilles heel is to not put it anywhere it can be hurt. Never leave a chink in the armor there, and you are invincible. But put that one vulnerability into play on the field of conflict, and all someone need do is put a knife to it to cripple you.
John’s only defense against Meg’s trump card is to keep the Ace and King of spades off the field of play. That is the only way he can keep her from forcing him to work against his own agenda in defeating her and/or staying alive himself.
As for thinking things through … I’m one of those who thinks John thinks most things through to an nth degree, if he is afforded the time to do so. I also tend to believe he is someone who very much understands and trusts his own instincts and strategic skills, so if a decision is required without giving him time to consider it the way he would prefer, he is not afraid to commit to what he feels, in his gut, is the right way to go.
And then go for it.
That, in large part, is the difference between the high end strategists and the rest of the pack in the professional world. Those who do the best work are always the ones who do their homework to the nth, thinking every possible scenario through to endgame before committing to a choice of action … if they are given the time to do so.
But if they aren’t afforded that luxury, they will make a choice based on their best guess and commit to it wholly. That level of gut instinct and willingness to commit is something that can’t be taught. It is the true "gut" part of being a strategist, and it is something every strategist I’ve ever met who was really good had in spades. And something some of the crappiest strategists I know also have in spades.
The difference between the great and the crappy? Discipline. The crappy ones don’t have the discipline not to indulge their gut at the risk of their client out of either laziness or ego. In virtually all cases, the grunt work simply verifies what your gut already told you in the first ten minutes of the project. Those without discipline view that as a waste of time. Those with discipline view it as a necessary redundancy, considering the stakes involved.
Because while the grunt work is almost always simply a process through which you verify your gut instincts, on occasion, it will bring to light some sort of anomaly (often specific to the industry or an individual it(them)self, and not universal to any other application than this singular one in which you are engaged) that isn’t readily apparent and that you hadn’t actually considered. And that one anomaly changes the whole dynamic in such a way as to lead you a completely different direction … a disaster if you’ve already proceeded, without the grunt work to verify, in exactly the wrong direction that was the right one without the heretofore undisclosed aspect in play, but that with it in play, will fuck you up big time.
And kill your client dead.
Because those sorts of anomalies tend to be few and far between (thus the name "anomaly" lol) for strategists who are skilled at snapping an accurate big picture view of any scenario in a relatively short amount of time (the Human nature card is the trump card here … people act the way they do for very consistent reasons, so if you understand Human nature, you can apply it across the board of pretty much any subject that involves people and be assured you’ll be 100% right 99.5% percent of the time), there is a real temptation to dump the grunt work and just go for the easy dollar. Those who do often make a lot of money. And then lose it (along with their client’s livelihood) all on one risk too many.
Those with the discipline to only run that risk when absolutely required, however, rarely get hoist by it, as that .5% becomes an almost infinitesimal percentage when you consider it spread across only 1% of your work load. The chance of actually hitting an unknown in that small percentage of possibility is far less than the chance of getting chomped on by a great white while being struck by lightening.
Which is to say, not that it can’t happen, but hell, you’ve really gotta be on the Universe’s shit list for it to be that bad a day on the one day you need to trust your gut.
I tell you all this because I consider in excruciatingly relevant to John’s capacity to make a snap choice on relatively little information and have the confidence to know he’s right, thus to pursue it as if it were a well-researched, verified gut instinct rather than just a strategist’s best guess. It’s the old "thinking on your feet" thing, and John is good at it because he is one of those disciplined enough to do all the grunt work when he has the time, so he understands that the few times he has no choice but to make snap choices, he can trust himself to be far more likely right than most people would.
And beyond that, but equally important, (which is why there are gazillions of male strategists and very few female ones) John’s got the cajones to commit to his choice and take it all the way as if it is as well researched and duly verified as any strategic choice he has ever made. Because almost always (another thing good strategists know) the failure of snap choices lies in the failure to commit to the choice of action whole heartedly. Because such strategic choices are vulnerable to second guessing in a way that more informed choices often aren’t, many will only commit to the strategy in part, or to a certain degree, or for so far: all of which up your chances of failing exponentially on a strategy that would work if followed through on decisively.
So often there are 15 strategies that can work, but you can also fail at all 15 of them if you start second guessing yourself to a degree that impinges your capacity to commit what must be committed in order for it to work. And again, I draw that notion back to John in thinking that his willingness to trust his own choices enough to back them with 110% of what he’s got to give is very much responsible for why he’s made some choices with very little information and has still come out on top – or at least alive – when others less willing to commit likely wouldn’t have.
And I also see this capacity in Dean. Once Dean chooses a course of action, he commits to his choice fully, even if it isn’t the best choice he could have made. I very much believe this comes from his dad teaching him to do the homework up front as much as he can, but in the end, trust his gut and don’t second guess yourself once you hit the initiate key. Some day, if he’s really on the Universe’s shit list, that attitude might result in a spectacular crash-and-burn. But that attitude is also why Dean’s still alive, doing things that should have gotten him killed long ago. Like burning down a haunted house cause the haunting isn’t actually a ghost. Thinking on your feet, but it works when you commit. To the contrast, by the time Sam got done second guessing that choice, they’d’ve both been dead.
So I guess what I’m saying (in a really long-assed, round about fashion) is that, unlike you, I do see a pattern to John’s behavior, a very consistent, albeit complex, pattern. But the pattern of it isn’t necessarily an obvious one, or one that will likely be picked up by someone who isn’t in tune with the way John is thinking or why he is choosing to make the choices he is. But like most intricate and complex patterns, it may be ten times harder to spot in the early stages of the hunt when what is pattern appears so convincingly to be nothing more than random and/or inconsistent chaos; but once you pick up the scent, it is ten times easier (and ten times more fun and exciting) to verify beyond shadow of doubt that it is, indeed, a pattern that will dictate future choices and/or actions.
Did I mention being a little (or a lot) OCD also helps if you want to be a strategist? J




             Clicky Clicky for Part 2 

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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Tue, Aug. 8th, 2006 05:27 am (UTC)

I agree with absolutely everything you said. Seriously, everything. Especially the part about distracting the boys by sending the coordinates ... keeping them out of big harm's way by putting them into little harm's way. Very John and very likely, IMO.

I would LOVE to edit your fic for you. And you are right, we are absolutely on the same page.

I'll look forward to your thoughts tomorrow.

ReplyThread Parent
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf
Tue, Aug. 8th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)

Okay, more reading, more commenting.

And that's the purpose of the journal. To remind John of the differences between his native language on the nature of reality compared to his second language on the nature of reality... a cheat sheet, so to speak, of the things he still finds occasionally confusing, or something he might not use enough to be sure he will remember it when he needs it.

Okay, this made me realize another reason for John and Sam to clash so much. The worldview that John struggles to deal with *is* Sam's native language. He's known about the demons and the ghosts and all the evil, dangerous things as long as he's known anything, so of course it's not really a big deal to him. Of course he's going to go off and live his own life despite those dangers, just as the rest of us go live our own lives despite the dangers we're told about growing up--the drug dealers, the rapists, the terrorists, whatever. We don't usually stay at home instead of going to college because we *might* get hurt, even if we have overprotective parents.

I also tend to see John as reacting the way somebody would if something drastic happened--the end of the world, that sort of thing. He takes his children, keeps them close, protects them, teaches them to protect themselves in a very dangerous world, disregards societal conventions that seem outmoded and irrelevant to the situation. The problem is that the world has only ended for John (and Dean), not for the rest of the world. And Sam doesn't remember the world ending. What, to John and Dean, looks like rubble just looks like the world as it's always been to Sam. How could they not have conflict? They're not really living in the same world.

I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, Aug. 9th, 2006 06:04 am (UTC)

The worldview that John struggles to deal with *is* Sam's native language.

Exactly. I consider the primary difference between Sam's capacity to seek normalcy and Dean's incapacity to do so to be the difference between one boy who was never stripped of his sense of reality and another who was.

Dean and John are SO much more damaged by Mary's murder than Sam is by Jess's simply because Sam knew what killed Jess existed. Her murder didn't re-define his sense of reality the way Mary's murder re-defined reality for both Dean and John; so he is simply dealing with the murder of the woman he loved, not dealing with the murder of the woman he loved AND the restructure everything he thought was real into a world where anything can and will happen ... a sense of dislocation and unfathomable terror that would put Dean, as a child, and John, as someone trying to protect his children, in such an embattled state as to scar them forever, even well after they'd found thier footing again in defining a world where they can expect rules to apply ... different rules from before, but at least rules.

ReplyThread Parent
Tue, Aug. 8th, 2006 08:21 pm (UTC)


so I'll read the rest later...

So far, I can't even begin to say how much I agree with you!

What I love about John is the combination of the militaristic mentality and deep fatherly concern that enables him to make the tough choices and train his sons to it as well, and to be the father circumstances force him to be instead of sitting back and not taking the hardline because it won't make him 'friends' with his sons, or because the latest parenting fad doesn't encourage making demands in terms of responsibility and accountability on children.

You have brilliant insights into his character and have expressed so wonderfully things that have been bumping against eachother in my brain for some time.

I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, Aug. 9th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC)

Thanks so much! I love how many people are seeing this in John, too. And like you, one of John's best character attributes when it comes to my appreciation for him is the fierce balance between his military mindset and the compassion of his fatherly love and protective instincts and how that balance applies itself to the way he has raised Sam and Dean.

ReplyThread Parent
Wed, Aug. 9th, 2006 01:02 am (UTC)

Words cannot describe how much I adore you right now. You are putting into words everything I think and feel about the character of John Winchester that I haven't had the ability to articulate.

I must go read part two now.

(PS, I am not some random stalker, lol, I got here from spn_heavymeta. Hee.)

I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, Aug. 9th, 2006 06:07 am (UTC)

LOL. That's all right, I love random stalkers. Especially if they agree with me on John. ;)

I'm jazzed this is hitting you where you live on the subject of John. I'd never quite put these concepts to specific words before, so it was fun for me to try and explain a concept that has always been a part of the way I see John: That his choices that made Dean so dependent on him in the long run were the lesser of two evils, and choices he made to keep Dean from drowning when he had his entire sense of stability in the world stripped away from him at the time when a child is most emotionally vulnerable and needs a sense of stability and safety so very much more than pretty much anything else.

ReplyThread Parent
getting the chocolate in the peanut butter
Thu, Aug. 10th, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC)

Rather than John losing track of his sons in an obsession to hunt Mary's killer, I see John as having become obsessed with protecting all he has left, his sons.

a) I agree John made his sons his obsession, and protecting them the mission. Hunting the demon only *appears* to be the main mission but that hunt is only about making the world safer for his kids; and more to my point, that b) when you make something (or someones) your obsession, you are very likely to lose sight of them as people. You say you think he didn't lose track of them. But in staying so focused on them, he could lose sight of who they are, and as his sons rather than small soldiers in a war.

John HAS lost sight of his sons as people, *because* he's made protecting them his obsession. He's just too close to see them clearly. You're right he's made their safety his highest mission--and in that situation, it would be so easy to stop seeing what you're protecting clearly, and sacrifice more than you meant to in trying to save them.

I'm not sure we disagree; just have a slightly different view of how much he's lost sight of.

And in terms of his comments in Dea[d] Man's Blood, I consider that to be John acknowledging that, in the obsessive pursuit of their safety, he may have allowed himself to lose sight of the fact that his sons might need something OTHER than to be safe, or to be healed. As they grew older and developed a need to live their own lives, he admits losing sight of what he used to know as a father when he was originally planning for their futures

That's confusing me a bit--do you mean he acknowledges losing track of them, and that you think he did in fact lose track of them as people? Or just lost track of their needs beyond being protected? Which is kind of the same thing--losing track of someone's needs is losing track of who they are in the process.

I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Thu, Aug. 10th, 2006 08:59 pm (UTC)

I actually think you and I are very close in what we see here. The part of the "losing track of them" statement that always bunches up at the base of my spine is he could lose sight of who they are, and as his sons rather than small soldiers in a war. Because that evokes such a strong reaction in me -- I DON'T think John views his sons as soldiers rather than his children, nor makes his command decisions in a way that reflects he has -- I may be voicing my extreme disagreement with that sentiment in a way that reflects I don't consider he has lost track of them at all.

What I think John has lost track of when it comes to his sons is that they are adults, not children. He wants to bottle them up and keep them safe and never let them put themselves in danger. And that is in direct conflict with everything he knows and believes as a father. So even though he sees his sons age and responds to the changes in their abilities between being children and being adults, he is so obsessed with their safety that he has "lost track" (to parallel it to what you're saying) of the fact that to be alive, they must be free to make their own choices rather than living dogmatically with his.

In many ways, I think saying John views his sons as solder now rather than children bends me so much because it so devaules them in his eyes when I think they are the begin all and end all of everything John has done since the demon murdered Mary. I think a more accurate statement is that John has become so obsessed with his sons safety that he has lost sight of their happiness. He's become so concerned with their physical welfare that he has totally discounted their mental welfare when it conflicts with what he thinks needs to happen for their safety.

John has lost track of his sons as autonomous beings with the right to free will rather than children who he can protect even against their own choices because they have no free will beyond what falls in the perview of what he allows.

And I think this is parallel to what many men do with their wives in marriages that become obsessive. They fall in love with them because of who they are, then become so fearful of losing that person, they lose track of the person their wife is (and needs to be) by viewing her as an object to be protected at all costs, including the cost of her autonomy and happiness.

This is how I see John to have lost track of his sons. When they were children, he was preparing them for their futures while he was protecting them. But their futures are here now, and he is so frightened that he hasn't done his job well enough for them to keep themselves as safe as he feels he can, or that some supernatural entity like the demon will destroy them in spite of him doing his job well enough, he just can't bear to let them go. He needs to keep control of them to keep them safe. And yes, that includes him sending them on hunts without him ... because the control he is the same control he exerts in taking the false gun to Meg without them -- he is choosing where they are and he is putting them out of the way of what he sees as capable of hurting them as compared to what he thinks they can handle.

So contrary to losing track of his sons as sons, I think John can't lose track of his sons as his sons. He can't view them as adults and autonomous beings because the risk of losing them is too great. They have to remain his sons, his children, so he can maintain control over their lives for their own protection. And he can't remember what he did know 20 years ago ... that a father's role is to raise his sons, not rule their lives forever.

So I actually think we are on very similar tracks, and probably the difference between what we are seeing is more semantics than actual difference of view.

ReplyThread Parent Expand

Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 11:43 am (UTC)
John as Strategist

I’m finally diving in! I am going to try to answer as I have time, so I can't address every point all at once.

And thank you so much for the ETA. I appreciate it very much.

I need to preface this, perhaps, by saying that the main thrust of your view of John seems to depend on him not only having a military mindset but also being a strategist, and a good one. Not only having being aware of his children, but actually looking at the various issues (Dean’s depression, in this particular case) from all angles and applying the best of all possible “tourniquets,” so to speak, with the future cost/effect a known risk. The main thrust of my view of John is based on a perception that, along with having lost sight of his children (a statement I need to clarify), he is anything but a strategist. Certainly not a good one. (I posted some thoughts on how John is written here. It clarifies some of my thoughts about his "losing sight" and so on. I will refer to the points I raised there, now and then, so in case you want to understand where I'm coming from, there's the link.)

We don’t know his service record (...do we? I might have missed it). And while I am neither in the military service nor in any other field that is remotely similar to John's past or present experiences, as an interested observer, I have a few thoughts.

The military mindset doesn't automatically mean that you are a military strategist. Now, I'm not a strategist by trade, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but as a layman, I don't recognize a systematic scheme in his modus operandi. There is a world of difference between being a good researcher, which he seems to be by all accounts, and being a good or even adequate strategist. I feel this is very much a part of him that Sam reflects. His talent for "strategy," as such, seems stunted or cut off halfway, for he brilliantly connects the dots, and yet he does not seem to be able to take those onto an active level, to convert that information he gathered into an elaborate and systematic plan of action. Having watched Dead Man's Blood recently has made this painfully obvious. Once again, he was terrific at connecting the dots (911 call – tooth – vampire – etc.), yet his "strategy" in taking out the vampires consisted of two misfires and having his bacon saved by disobedient sons. I emphasize that because, had they obeyed him and honored his strategy, he would have been killed. And his sons would be marked for life by vampires who had the Colt, their (presumably) only way of defeating the Demon. That's quite a failure of strategy. To this day, it boggles my mind that John did not ready the dead man's blood before they went into the barn, and take out the vampires as they slept, like shooting fish in a barrel. Why, John?

Perhaps it's not fair to judge the coherency of his strategy by these events or the events of Something Wicked and the final Demon arc, etc., as his sons' presence influences his actions. But they are all we have to go on, and they paint an overwhelmingly negative portrait of John the Strategist. And I have to say that, especially in Dead Man's Blood, he risked his sons' lives by his faulty strategy, not once but twice, and left that threat lingering by stopping in his tracks once he realized the Colt was for real. TV plot devices notwithstanding, he should have procured the dead man's blood beforehand, so that his sons would be in the least amount of danger possible as they entered the barn. That would have been putting his sons' safety above his goal, as you and others claim he's been doing all along. That would also have been basic common sense for someone who knows of this vamp Achilles' heel, as he clearly did by mentioning it the moment they left the barn. He did none of those things. He bumbled around and nearly died. In the end, he left a threat to his sons, himself and random innocents alive because he was overwhelmed with the heady rush of personal satisfaction. That's not a strategist or self-aware father. That’s a man obsessed. Addicted, as Astri puts it.

Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 12:04 pm (UTC)
John as Strategist (2)

So I find it difficult to be convinced by metas pro and con which attribute his decisions to his “best-laid plan," one that is used either to manipulate his sons or with their best interests considered from every possible angle. Since both of those views of John require him to be a detailed and coherent strategist, those theories just do not compute with this brain of mine. That’s part of what I meant when I said he’s not that calculating or that cold. His fight 'em, take the battle to 'em mentality is very military; I can see that part of your argument and I agree. But what we have seen of him, on screen, in "action" (so to speak) has shown a man that does not stop to consider all options. He researches; as I said, he is brilliant at connecting the dots. But the follow-through is emotional, not methodical. When he has his answer, he rushes forward. I think that’s what he did after Mary’s death, once he found Missouri and “the truth.” It’s a hot reaction, so to speak; a “now” and “here” reaction, rather than an “after” and “in time.” I don’t believe he’s incapable of introspection; clearly he is. But I find no evidence in canon that his MO is one with full awareness of the cost of “now” and/or the impact on “after.” That seems to come later, in bitter retrospect, after he feels the way for rectifying it has passed. John seems to live in the hot "now," in the times he is able to escape living in the desolate past, but I've not seen him once on screen live in (or for) the future. (Sam does. Dean is more like John. Not coincidental, I think.)

So while I appreciate your tourniquet theory and believe it might apply if John was that fully self- & others-aware father, that's just not the John I see that Kripke has created. Soldier? Yes. Strategist? No. And let me clarify: I have no problem seeing him applying an tourniquet in the heat of battle, to actually save his sons lives, or a metaphorical tourniquet if, say, Dean had a waking nightmare about Mary's death or whatnot and he needed to nip it in the bud right here and now. That part is military, a quick-thinking solution to an immediate problem; as you say, Dean is also that way, and I believe he learned it from John. It's a "now" and "here" reaction. I agree that he falls on his military training. I believe he applied it to the care-taking of his sons, and I think that his obsession was equal parts wanting to keep anything evil away from what remained of his family, and wanting to kill anything that represented the supernatural way in which Mary was killed, up to and including the Demon itself, natch. Still, this is where I feel compelled to add that I see him as very inconsistent in his obsession and his relationship with his sons; not a fault of his, but of how he is written. (Points addressed in that linked meta.)

Where I disagree, though, is that I can't see canon John in this fic John scenario, having thought everything through and arriving at this "tourniquet" of Sam care. It's too painstakingly forward-thinking, in a way that I just don't find John capable of, given what we've seen on screen. I can go along with this Strategist John view for the space of a story, but it will always seem as if the John of that story is a John who... well, who would have shot those vampires in the barrel... among other things. A John who is better than the original John; not a better man, just... better at things.

ReplyThread Parent

Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 12:28 pm (UTC)
John's Healing Touch

Worry about the scars later. For now, stop the bleeding.

I can see him doing this, in the moment. Understanding there may be a cost down the road, but telling himself that this is the only thing he can do. What I can’t see is it being applied to a deep awareness and study of something as intangible as Dean’s psyche, even from a father’s perspective. He’s a father who sent his sons off on hunts in Asylum and Scarecrow (possibly in Wendigo, as well) in order to keep them occupied and away from him, by all indications. That’s a way he stops the bleeding, so to speak. On a surface level, it's what he's doing in this fic: giving Dean a task to keep him occupied. But it's not a complex plan; it's a simple diversion. Like batting away a fly; the fly's still hungry and is still seeking you, but you keep batting it away here and there. It's only as complex as saying "Go there. Go away." But even then, the very act of contacting them and telling/warning them off is an emotional reaction based on protectiveness or desperation or fear or pride. And when he does address those emotional scars, he doesn’t take a harsh soldier’s approach to them at all. He may not always address them, but when he does, he is constantly heart first, plan-of-action later. Home. Scarecrow, on the phone with Sam. Shadow. Now, this changed after Shadow, as Kripke began to push him into a different type of father (IMO; addressed in that meta), but there were still some indications of this feelings first, thought later MO. The pride that kept him from parting with basic intel in DMB. The 1) pride or 2) protectiveness that kept him from choosing a logical course of action in DMB; either way, it’s an emotional decision. The despair in Salvation, and that last-ditch solution. (DT is a whirlwind of characterization, so I won’t touch it right now.) He is a feeling man, a hot man. So the thought of him calculating the cost, assessing the damage, planning a strategy, and following-through in a methodical manner is nearly the opposite of how I believe he would handle Dean’s depression.

But even being aware of Dean’s depression in the first place is taking John to a level of awareness that I don’t believe he’s shown. And let me backtrack here a little, because this is where the wonky writing does him in for me. IMO: Pre-Shadow and Shadow John is a father who did not abandon his boys, but had an eye on them from the distance and protected them as best he could. He was not blindly obsessed, but driven by his loss. He still was no strategist, in my opinion, but he didn’t do much to flat-out negate the possibility, either. He is defined by his great love, for Mary and for his boys. That John, I can see taking the time to be Dean’s father and addressing this very real pain and possible crippling damage. Post-Shadow John, however, is one who did, by all appearances and apologies, abandon his boys and does not protect them to the best of his ability. He is blindly obsessed, not merely driven. He is no strategist, and gives us ample reason to believe he isn't. He is defined by his obsession, which so far outweighs his love for his sons that they are secondary to his thirst to vanquish the Demon. I cannot in any way, shape or form, see that John addressing Dean’s damage... certainly not in any way that is in aware and thoughtful.

Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC)
John's Healing Touch (2)

For example: Post-Shadow John is a man who offered no good reason for the no-show, no-call in Faith, and never even apologized for it, merely for his current tone of voice/chastisement. He is a man who chose to ignore his dying son in DT to bitch at Sam. (Whether you like him or not, whether you consider that scene as him falling back behind his comfort zone/control area out of panic or him simply being an asshat as per his standard MO, it doesn’t really matter. It’s John putting John’s comfort/needs first as one of his sons lay dying. Hardly a shining example of fatherhood. ...And I'll refrain from voicing my opinion on the theory that Dean, being embarrassed by physical or otherwise overt attention, prefers to be left bleeding to death in the back seat of the car by his father who is all but calling him collateral damage. Because I’ll get bitchy for sure. I have my opinions on that whole scene: Kripke fucked John over. But anyway, where was I? You should probably read that other meta of mine.) Post-Shadow John is a man whose kind and supportive demeanor tipped Dean off that he was not his real father. The whole picture is of a father who is not only Obsessed!, but now also Cruel! and Cold! and a Bastard! >:E

Pre-Shadow and Shadow John, by contrast, could never been categorized as any of those things, except as an exaggerated image based on Sam’s teen angst. He was aware of his sons, whether they realized it or not. Sam, certainly, and even Dean during the course of S1, in little ways revealed in episodes like Home, Asylum and Scarecrow. I still, for the reasons I stated in my comment above, can’t see canon pre-Shadow canon John giving Dean the responsibility for Sam as a "tourniquet" to stop the bleeding, but I can see him being aware of the bleeding and doing things less methodical and more intimate to help Dean over the loss. Including, but not limited to, talking to Dean. Also handing him tasks, perhaps, as he did in Scarecrow, etc., but not as a life or death, make or break Dean situation. Not manipulating Dean into having such a narrow purpose in life, but giving him little things to break up the depression (maybe cooking, maybe changing Sam's diaper, maybe teaching him how to shoot), with the stronger and warmer focus straight on Dean as father to son. (Random: Actually, training him to hunt would be my No.1 guess at what John did to give Dean meaning, if there was a tourniquet. Rid the world of evil. That outweighs Dean's feelings of responsibility over Sam, and defines the course he's set for himself. But that's a different meta.) In any case, that’s the John of Shadow, pre-Shadow and pre-Demon pilot. But Kripke went so far in negating that aware, soft father in the episodes post-Shadow, that it’s hard to know exactly what type of father he wants us to believe John is.

Well, no. I do believe we’re supposed to take the most current John as canon John. The John who has to be explained away somehow, as an addict or a strategist or some other reason that might cover all of those gaps. Kripke served him very poorly in that, for we have direct evidence in the script that this new “improved” John is the John we’re meant to take at face value (a line to describe Dean’s reaction to John’s praise in DT, stating plainly that Dean "never gets this kind of appreciation or approval," even though the idea that he wouldn’t is a pretty direct slap in the face to Shadow and pre-Shadow John).

Anyway, my rambling point is that I can see a John in canon that would be aware of Dean, that didn’t lose sight of him as his son, and the whole nine yards. But he got mutilated halfway through, and Dean’s relationship with John, in particular, went through a deconstruction. So none of those ideas seem to apply to the current John.

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Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 01:01 pm (UTC)
Missouri not an option?

So John, being a military man, makes a military choice and stands by it, knowing it might be wrong in some ways for the long term, but confident it is the only choice he can make if he wants to save his child’s life, even at the potential cost of that child’s functionality at some later date – something I’m sure he hopes to address and fix before it becomes situation critical, but realizes he might not be able to, a responsibility he is willing to bear by making this choice he feels he has no choice but to make.

I know you say that he is not being manipulative; he’s thinking like a soldier. But I think there is some distinction between their situation in canon and their apparent situation in the fic: you speak of the time-frame, as if John is fighting against the clock and can’t take his time. That is taking place in the fic, though, so I don’t think you can use the broader concept of John racing against time in canon terms. We don’t know all the details, but John didn’t rush into demon hunting immediately, and in that aftermath of Mary’s death (even up through the first few years), he had enough time to meet someone who helped him (Missouri), so why would he not find someone who could also help his son, if it wasn’t Missouri (which the journal seems to indicate that it was, and that Dean opened up again after meeting her)?

This is a small point, because I may be misunderstanding your fic, but it seems to me that Dean is in no danger of dying or losing his life. John calls it that, but he's using it to excuse his actions. Dean is not functioning as he did in the past. So what John is doing is not saving his child’s life at the expense of future functionality; he’s exchanging the functionality of "later" for "now." Which seems as much in accordance with my "smoother operation" concept as it is with your "stop the bleeding" concept. Either way, he’s just trading timecards. "Later" is far in the future, so he’ll exchange it for "now." Dean isn’t dying, but he wants him to function, and here’s an easy fix. That’s what it feels like to me. Along those lines: if he is equating "not functioning" with "dying," then by default, he is trading his son's life in the future for his son's life now. Future Dean "dies" so that now Dean can live.

And while I realize it’s the basis on which your fic was written, I can’t help but feel that you limited John’s options without giving them their due course, which wouldn’t really matter except he’s using that limit as a reason for his actions. You're defining this as John's only feasible option... though canon suggests otherwise. See, I don’t want to assume anything about your fic, but I think it brushes aside too easily the possibility of help by doctors and conventional methods (or even someone like Missouri), and hurries to give a reason that you think fits canon John’s actions in episodes such as Something Wicked. When he explains it in depth to the teacher, for instance, I felt it was more you being John’s voice to other fans, offering a reason why John isn’t a bastard for treating his children they way he has and does. It didn’t feel like John, to explain himself, and it didn’t feel like John, to have planned it in the first place.

More later! Must get ready for work, now. Eep!

I'd Sell My Soul for a Blunt Instrument ...
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Missouri not an option?

I do see a very specific and escelating time crunch for John when it comes to Dean's emotional welfare, not only because of who John is, but also because of the escelating nature of emotional damage. I put John in a situation where he is dealing with a child on an instinctive level under the time crunch of feeling that if he lets the damage go on to long, Dean will become irretreivable to him.

Very much, in terms of early child hood emotional development, this can be the case, where trauma that might be tolerated later in life and dealt with in an extended fashion without undue scarring are escleated to critical degree by happening when a child is forming the foundation for their emotional lives ... a foundation which can't be allowed to exist in specific states for too long without so dramatically screwing up everything being built upon that screwed up foundation as to send that child so far off into an emotional dysfunction as to never get them back on track, even if the original trauma is dealt with effectively at a later date.

So to put it to an alegory, I have John dealing with a miscalculation in his child's programming BEFORE the computer cranks on it for twenty years to extrapolate the mapping to Mars because that kind of a miscalculation, made early on, means missing Mars by twelve billion miles later on the down the road and being so lost in the out there as to never be found again. Where that exact same kind of miscalculation made in year 19 of the calculations (rather than year 1) might mean the rover missed it's mark a little to the left or a little to the right, but not ended up in a completely different galaxy.

So yeah, big time crunch for John in helping Dean deal with his emotional issues now, much more a bleeding out issue than a small cut that can be taken care of whenever the time is there and the bandaids are available. Whether or not others see it that way? I don't know. But that's the way I would see it in John's place, which is why I write it that way when I'm putting John to the task of trying to help his son deal with a complete restructure of his reality ... something John is not trained to do, but that he must do because no doctor who cannot accept the reality Dean is dealing with as a viable reality will ever be able to address the destabilization of his world as anything more than the death of a mother, rather than the death of everything Dean has ever known to be true and every sense of safety Dean has ever enjoyed ... certainly the issue on the table from my perspective, if not from others.

And while I certainly believe Missouri and Pastor Jim and some others are helpful to John in dealing with Dean in this capacity, I don't believe any of them are capable of, or would be willing to, take that on as their full time endeavoer the way John (as Dean's father) must, and consequently does.

But again, that's simply the way I see it. I'm sure opinions vary. (they almost always do!)

ReplyThread Parent
Sun, Jun. 28th, 2009 12:27 pm (UTC)

Hi, I've recently taken up stalkerhood (of your journal mostly) and I just wanted to say that I love your insights ^^

I don't really have anything of my own to add - sorry, not much of a big thinker - but I was just reading 'Nevermore' by Keith DeCandido and a particular line reminded me of your post :)