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14 December 2007 @ 09:52 am
Supernatural 3x08: Brother Can You Spare Some Squee?  
Sometimes I feel like I'm living on a slightly different fandom planet, given everyone else's reaction to this ep last night.


So, I DID like this episode overall, and there were a lot of really great moments in it. But damn if it didn't put me in a complete funk for the boys, and that doesn't seem to match the way most of you felt about it.

The hardest part, honestly? It's that this episode confirmed all of my negative feelings about John, and if I were just an isolated viewer who was never exposed to what the rest of fandom thought, I'd be okay with that. It's knowing that there are those of you that think John's a good father that just makes this hard. Because my god, I really, really don't.

Being a good man and a good father are not the same thing, by a long shot. LOVING your children does not make you a good father— it's hard to be a good one if you don't, but that's only the first step, and they have to know unequivocally that they're loved. Sam doesn't know that, and you can sure see why.

Now, there are parents who spoil their kids by bending over backwards for them, and that's not good. But ultimately, a child's life to some degree needs to be about him or her. And Sam and Dean's lives were rarely about them. They were about what John wanted or needed to do, at the expense of his children's emotional needs, and that happened over and over again.

Do you know what kind of message that sends to a child? It's, You don't matter and You're not important enough, and what they hear in addition to that is You never will be.

It doesn't change anything knowing that an adult might look at some of the situations Sam and Dean faced growing up and see them differently than the boys did as kids. It's not the message that was sent, it's the message you heard.

Dean seems to have had the biggest hero-worship pair of blinders on that any child ever could have, and it hurt to listen to him talk up John's behavior to Sam. But if Dean gave up on John, what would he have left? Sam had Dean— and will always have Dean, to love and protect him and provide that stable force. Dean had nothing but John and himself, and 'yourself' isn't squat when you're four and eight and ten.

Leaving your children to fend for themselves for days on end— never knowing when you'll be back— is a form of neglect. Doing it over Christmas when the holiday/sentiment matters to your kids is just being an ass It's cruel, and it's pretty much inexcusable. You can't save all of the world all of the time, or even most of it. And if you're letting your kids raise themselves, you need to re-evaluate.

*sigh* Sorry for the ranting. I really have strong feelings on this issue, both as a parent and as a child. My dad wasn't perfect, and he made several choices during his life that were entirely about him and cost a little bit of his children's well-being. But compared to John? Hardly a blip on the radar. When I look at John, the only things I can say in his favor as a parent are that he loved his kids. I can't say that he tried to keep them safe— because though he gave them some tools to protect themselves, he also left them alone at points where kids of ANY family could burn down the apartment, let alone be susceptible to dangers from other human beings. And by hunting as he did, he increased their exposure to danger.

Canon doesn't support that John knew way-back-when that something was threatening Sam— and if he had, I doubt he'd have let Sam out of his sight. Ever. Canon shows instead that he dragged them all around the country, left them alone at times when they were much too young to be alone, and put more responsibility on Dean to parent both kids than you should ever ask unless you're absolutely desperate. The man wasn't desperate— he chose to be desperate, or to be obsessed. Not the same thing as actual need.

Okay. I've probably alienated about 50% of my f-list by now, and I'm sorry. Feel free to continue loving John and thinking he's the bestest Daddy ever. I just really, really can't. Good man? Yes. Good father? Absolutely not.

More and more, I think those boys would have been better off being raised by Bobby. His love for them is obvious and certain— in a way their father's wasn't (to them). That matters. Plus, he had an actual clue about the things that matter to kids.

~*~

As to the rest of the episode (OMG, other stuff happened in this episode?), there was a lot of The Good:
+ Soulless Santa Village— wow. Angry Santa, dispirited/muddy everything, commercialization out the whazoo. That entire idea was a total win.
+ The Anti-Santa lore and visuals. Fantastic!
+ Deadly Ward And June Cleaver, who have "What's that word, dear?" "Assimilated." Just yes. They remind me of BtVS' wholesomely homicidal mayor \o/
+ Suspense and horror— a little too much almost for me, but damn if it wasn't really, vividly there.
+ The boys get it very, very wrong and are forced to carol their way out of a bad moment. I love that the show addresses the idea of them getting it wrong sometimes, because it's got to happen.
+ Kid!Sammy here looks like he could be Sammy (including the nose). As opposed to Kid!Dean, who really doesn't look like Dean.
+ Kid!Dean tried to rescue a crappy Christmas for Sammy, even though he stole the presents and they totally sucked. But it's the thought that counts.
+ Thank you Sammy for coming through on Dean's last Christmas, awkward as that scene was.
+ Emo!Porn in spades, though it personally left me more depressed than uplifted.
+ Present-day motel room of decorating horror. Or should that be on the "bad" list?

Also a little of The Bad:
- Seriously, gods are supposed to be immortal and invulnerable. That's why they're gods.
- Not that big on Kid!Dean in this episode. Freckles do not a Dean make. A father who can't be home for Christmas isn't going to shell out for plastic surgery to pin back a pair of ears like that later, either.
- Fingernail scene. Glagh, but that was excruciating. Why, Kripke, why?

And The Depressing:
:{ John.
:{ That filthy, broken-down motel room in Nebraska.
:{ Grandpa-Santa gets it, while his grandson is watching. It's that last part that really bothers me.
:{ Child-molester porn-watching Bad!Santa. But not funny, like Billy Bob Thornton's Bad!Santa.
:{ Blood-suit instead of Santa Suit. Effective, really worked with the story, but damned depressing.
:{ Kid!Dean lets Sammy cry himself to sleep, even though he tries to make up for it later.
:{ OMG Sam, you'd skip Dean's last Christmas? Broke my heart. Glad you changed your mind.
:{ Watching B&W football on Xmas with your brother from way over there. :(
:{ Teetering on my seat for crumbs of love and affection between the boys, when I want so much more for them. They're all the other has! I know this is Kripke's mantra, but at the same time it hurts me to watch.

Now with Fanon-Killers!:
! Sammy hates Christmas.
! Dean loves it?!? Or something?
! SAM gave Dean the amulet, way back when? Which was from Bobby? There goes my fic.


Okay. That was a lot of blathering. Now, the question is whether I'll be able to write any of my SPN Xmas fic assignments after watching that episode. Man, but that put me in a funk. :\


 
 
 
Ice-T: an actor, also a refreshing beverage: SPN - Sam's hands nnnngggfiddleyoumust on December 14th, 2007 07:45 pm (UTC)
You know, I've always been a big supporter of John. I still am. But you're right. He isn't the best father. I do think he loved his sons, but he's a very flawed individual. He didn't do it right.

I think, once the mission became the most important thing in his life, there wasn't really anyway for him to make it better for Sam and Dean. Would being shipped off to Bobby's to be raised make them feel any less abandoned? No matter what he could have done, it was always going to come down to revenge being more important that his children.

The thing that bothered me most about this episode is, knowing what we know about John, I can't see any possible way Sam made it to that age WITHOUT knowing monsters were real. It doesn't fit with canon John that he would have tried to spare Sam that fear. Sam was probably seven, eight? Dean around twelve? I just don't buy it.

I really liked this episode, but it did make me ache for them. They're so dysfunctional, so distant and needy and messed up. I'm not surprised they have a hard time saying I love you and being physically affectionate. Constant rejection tends to make you afraid to put yourself out there time after time. What if one of them says it and the other doesn't say it back? It would just hurt too much.

It was a gore filled episode and the fingernail and the teeth had me cringing and yelling. I think this season has been exceptionally bloody. *shudders*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 07:48 pm (UTC)
I'm not surprised they have a hard time saying I love you and being physically affectionate. Constant rejection tends to make you afraid to put yourself out there time after time. What if one of them says it and the other doesn't say it back? It would just hurt too much.
I can understand that issue as adults, but I still come back to Sam having to have learned how to love from someone, and you know it wasn't John. So I've always thought it was Dean, and I expect their childhood relationship to be a little bit more that way (because your younger sibling who hero-worships you won't reject you, not until they turn into an adolescent nightmare). Now, though... Yeah. *sigh. Hate it.

It was a gore filled episode and the fingernail and the teeth had me cringing and yelling.
Oh, me too. I was SO glad that doorbell rang.

Honestly, the unseen Evil!Santa looming over that little boy on the way to/from taking his Dad for a meal... that not only had me cringing, it made my husband bail out of the episode. The possibility of that boy getting hurt was just too much for him. *shudders is right*
(no subject) - fiddleyoumust on December 14th, 2007 10:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thelana on December 14th, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thelana on December 14th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 10:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fiddleyoumust on December 14th, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thelana on December 14th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fiddleyoumust on December 14th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Entendre? Make mine a double.: SN brothers stillnessdeirdre_c on December 14th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC)
I'm neither a huge John fan nor a hater, so I'm pretty open to all kinds of interpretations of his character. On the other hand, I have a strong tendency to identify with Sam's perspective on most things, so his frustration and anger with and somewhat detached admiration of his father often colors my view.

I think your point about the distinction between John being a good man and a good father is at the core of my ambivalence toward him. Because (for me personally) those two things should go hand-in-hand. Parenting is such an integral part of my own identity and of my adoration of my husband for his incredible talent and devotion to parenting, that seeing John-- let's just say it-- neglect his sons, makes it impossible for me to idolize him the way some other fans do. That doesn't mean I can't read stories where he's portrayed in a positive light and that emphasize his love for the boys. I enjoy those. I do think he loved them. It just means that I don't respect his decisions very much, even though perhaps he is serving a greater good, because it comes at the expense of his children.

I also love that you viewed the episode through a different lens than I did (or others on my flist did). I'm glad you laid it out here and didn't censor yourself or put on some insincere enthusiasm.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
so his frustration and anger with and somewhat detached admiration of his father often colors my view.
I identify with Dean as an older sibling, and with Sam in a lot of other ways (though I'm mainly a Dean girl). But from an objective standpoint... I still think Sam's reaction is the 'normal' one to this situation. It's how most people would think and feel.

It just means that I don't respect his decisions very much, even though perhaps he is serving a greater good, because it comes at the expense of his children.
That's it for me in a nutshell. As a person, there is a lot to admire about him (and moreover, we wouldn't have a show otherwise!). But as a father... I really kind of hate him as a father, because he chose what he wanted to do over choosing his children, again and again. Dean is a major Daddy's boy because of it, and talk about negative fallout. Sam actually survived better than Dean, though I think Dean was the reason for that.

I'm glad you laid it out here and didn't censor yourself or put on some insincere enthusiasm.
I'm stuck in a way, because no-one likes having their squee harshed really (and I don't want to diminish people's love for this ep-- I just feel differently than they do). But it stirred up such passionate feelings regarding John, and such a suprising funk regarding the boys that I just... had to get it out, I guess.

The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on December 14th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
I'm no expert on Supernatural by any means, but I wonder if one factor isn't that John is dead and we can no longer see whether he ever truly regretted it.

Not that regret makes much of a difference, the boys will probably have to live with the fact that they had a crappy father (even if they might never see it that way). But it would still be interesting to see John's take on it.

(again, comparing it to Lincoln in my mind, who undoubtedly was a crappy father too; we have seen some indication that he tried tomake up for it (tales of him having LJ on weekends after all). He obviously seemed to care that LJ knew he was loved back when he thought he was dying and he obviously has to struggle now with the whole, do I abandon him for his own safety or not deal too; and of course guys like Aldo who I'm guessing never seriously regretted it all that much that he abandoned them; or at least probably thought the ends totally justified the means here, no matter what he might say)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 10:51 pm (UTC)
But it would still be interesting to see John's take on it.
Oh, I agree. Canon didn't offer us that. I can't help but think that it wouldn't have made much difference-- he never seemed to step back and take the long view of what he was doing, and he still wasn't speaking to Sam since Sam ran off to college. That choice right there was so harsh and stupid and so "my way or the highway" that it says a lot about his character. And conveniently sets up the show's Pilot episode. ;)

He obviously seemed to care that LJ knew he was loved back when he thought he was dying and he obviously has to struggle now with the whole, do I abandon him for his own safety or not deal too;
Lincoln, at least in recent parts of Prison Break (because he fell off the drug-wagon in other parts) seems a loving if totally inept father. Now Aldo, on the other hand, just didn't give much of a damn about his kids. He chose his job over them, willingly, and clearly didn't regret it. His day-late-dollar-short finale on that show does nothing to change that (though it does make me want to kick the producers). ;)
(no subject) - thelana on December 14th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
motherlycluckermotherlyclucker on December 15th, 2007 12:31 am (UTC)
I know exactly what you mean as John not being the best father for them. I kind of didn't like Kid!Dean, because at first he was being an asshole, but then he was really nice, stealing those christmas presents for Kid!Sam. Like you said, it's the thought that counts!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: weechestershalfshellvenus on December 15th, 2007 01:00 am (UTC)
I kind of didn't like Kid!Dean, because at first he was being an asshole,
Same here-- he wasn't neutral, he really was an asshole. Also, the kid portraying him was so stiff (and looked so very unlike Dean, though I realize they probably kept him because they'd used him before) that those scenes didn't go down well.

Like you said, it's the thought that counts!
And oddly enough, it actually makes me a little sad-- that's what John left him to, having to find presents and an insta-Christmas to keep from breaking his little brother's heart, and the only resources he up with were stealing it. There's both good and bad in all that, but it's the kind of thing that happens when you let kids raise themselves. :(
brigid_tanner: brothers-on fence at lakebrigid_tanner on December 15th, 2007 12:48 am (UTC)
I'm not going to hate you for your opinion on John. I have mixed feelings about him, and I've seen good points from both sides. So I'm in the middle, thinking he was so damaged himself that he didn't realize what he was doing to his boys. I'd love to see some fic where Bobby finds out that Sam gave the amulet to Dean instead of John. I do agree that the boys would have benefitted from more time with Bobby.
Kid Sammy was great, he even had some of Jared's expressions. I liked Kid Dean, but probably cause he was the first kid Dean we had and I like using the same actors.
Fingernail scene could have been left off and I'd have been MUCH happier. During that last scene I found myself trying to see if Sam had some kind of bandage on his finger and probably missed some of the good stuff. But I'll watch it again later tonight. Now that I've seen the bandaid, I can concentrate on the other stuff ;)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 15th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
I have mixed feelings about him, and I've seen good points from both sides.
Which is understandable. My feelings about him as a 'person' are very different about how I feel about him as a 'parent.' And I can be kind of unforgiving about the things people do to their children because they're too caught up in their own drama.

So I'm in the middle, thinking he was so damaged himself that he didn't realize what he was doing to his boys.
I definitely think that's how it started for him-- you can see how he would have drifted that way, and how it would have gotten worse if he'd never stepped back and really looked at where he was, how he got there, and whether this was the right place to be. So many people never do.

I'd love to see some fic where Bobby finds out that Sam gave the amulet to Dean instead of John.
I've heard other people mention wanting to see this to, so it could happen! Not by me, you understand, but I'm betting somebody will write this. :)

During that last scene I found myself trying to see if Sam had some kind of bandage on his finger and probably missed some of the good stuff. But I'll watch it again later tonight. Now that I've seen the bandaid, I can concentrate on the other stuff ;)
Hahahaha! See now, I laugh because I was doing exactly the same thing. The whole ending scene was contaminated by my obsessive bandaid-check in the name of continuity (because I'm weird like that), and thinking that the regular old bandaid Sam used was NOT up to the task of dealing with that particular injury. I'm still cringing over it.

I thought I saw a flicker at the end, of Sam rubbing/petting Dean's back for a moment in that long shot. Which I must scrutinize that ending scene for again later. Not sure I can take the whole scene, though-- it was another of those Almost, almost... gah! Why do you kill me like this, Kripke? Why can't there be a full connection on both sides at the same time? WHY? kinds of scenes.
black_regalia on December 15th, 2007 01:04 am (UTC)
I loved loved loved this ep, loved it a lot, even the bits that hurt. Maybe especially the bits that hurt.

What drives me crazy with the John thing, is that I adore John. He's a great character. And a terrible father. Like, I feel like every time I assert that John is a negligent parent, everyone accuses me of hating on John. But I love John! He's a great, grey character(grey in that he has good intentions(avenging his wife, saving people) but makes terrible decisions(doing so at the sacrifice of his children)).

I'm not one of those folks that thinks John hit his kids, but one thing people don't seem to understand is that negligence is a form of abuse. You don't have to hit or hurt your child to abuse them.

One of the things I studied in psychology that pinged for me in SPN(in canon, not fanon) is covert incest. Covert incest is not about sex, and no physical molestation occurs. It's when a parent, who is alone for whatever reason, looks to a child to fill the emotional role of the other parent. IE, the child has to look after his/her siblings, be the breadwinner, be the emotional support for their parent. The thing that John described in "IMToD"(where Dean comforted John) is a perfect example of parentification, where a child takes on the role of a parent. It's nothing like overt incest, in which the child is molested or receives inappropriate compliments or touches from a parent. It's all to do with the role the child has to fill.

I feel, in canon, Dean is definitely a victim of covert incest. The adult problems that come from covert incest include low self esteem, emotional/social troubles, and promiscuity(and inability to form meaningful relationships). Which, to me, just about screams Dean.

Again, this is a form of abuse. John didn't mean to hurt Dean, and didn't cause him physical harm, but by expecting him to fill the emotional role of Mary(raise Sam, get food, help John, be an adult before he was old enough), he did do a lot of damage.

And yes, Sam had Dean, at least, but I think a lot of fans think that Sam is somehow less screwed up than Dean. Sam is paranoid about being lied to, about being left out -- and I can't blame him, with the fact that his family has kept secrets from him for 23 years(even in IMToD, he's asked to leave the room to get coffee, so that Dean and John can talk about serious stuff -- this is effectively the same as 'kids have to leave the room, time for the adults to talk'). And Sam loves his brother, and he loved Jess, but he's just as ill equipt as Dean to express it or deal with it.

I also hate the "John was doing it because Sam was in danger!" argument. Canon just does not support that. They didn't even know it was a demon until season one. Canon suggests that John found out about Sam in Jericho, so up until that point, he had deliberately and purposefully chosen revenge over parenthood.

But again, people think that that means I would change any of it. I wouldn't! I like my conflicted, emotionally scarred, grey characters. I loves them muchly. But just because I love them doesn't mean I'm going to watch them be fuckups and not be like "...man, you're a fuckup."
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Johnhalfshellvenus on December 15th, 2007 01:26 am (UTC)
Response Part I
Can't believe I'm over the box-size limit. Okay, 2-parter:

He's a great character. And a terrible father.
Ooh-- yes! Yes!

I LOVE watching Gregory House on House, M.D. for the same reason. Incredible talents, incredible doctor, terrible person, and the mix is fascinating.

He's a great, grey character(grey in that he has good intentions(avenging his wife, saving people) but makes terrible decisions(doing so at the sacrifice of his children)).
Ah, I see you share my love of this kind of character. I wish we had more of them, honestly. So much of TV writing tends to start with someone who is gray, and then Redeemed! or TotallyEvilNow! And I'm disappointed-- some characters are much more interesting if they never completely assert out of that muddy territory.

but one thing people don't seem to understand is that negligence is a form of abuse. You don't have to hit or hurt your child to abuse them.
Yes. YES! This was something I was muttering at Wincon, because if you say abuse, people tend to assume beating/sexual abuse/etc. It's a loaded word. But negligence is a lesser form of abuse that still can leave enormous amoutns of damage. :(

I feel, in canon, Dean is definitely a victim of covert incest. The adult problems that come from covert incest include low self esteem, emotional/social troubles, and promiscuity(and inability to form meaningful relationships). Which, to me, just about screams Dean.
God, this is fascinating. The only form of this I'm familiar with is someone my mother used to date whom she refused to marry because she really thought he was gay (he was. Still in the closet to this day). And one of the reasons she thought that had happened (as a psychiatrist, she typically thinks it's biology and not environment, but every now and then...) was because his mother used to treat him like her beau and not her son. All his relationships with women were mother-contaminated to some degree after that-- him avoiding the incestuous feel of something she'd put there.

I tend to see Dean's damage as more of a typical "Daddy's Boy" result. This, like "Mama's Girl," is an adult who doesn't trust their own judgment, always looks to their parent to find the real and right answer, and is never satisfied with themselves because that withholding parent will never be satisfied with them. Remember Season 1 Dean? *sigh* My grandmother was a "Mama's Girl," and she consulted her mother on every little thing right up until the day her mother died.

Again, this is a form of abuse. John didn't mean to hurt Dean, and didn't cause him physical harm, but by expecting him to fill the emotional role of Mary(raise Sam, get food, help John, be an adult before he was old enough), he did do a lot of damage.
Yes, exactly. Now, the saddest thing here is that I'm sure he was not aware of what he'd caused by doing this-- and never would have done it had he known. That makes it instead a tragedy-- which is exactly the kind of f***ed up result I can really sink my teeth into.

And Sam loves his brother, and he loved Jess, but he's just as ill equipt as Dean to express it or deal with it.
I've always been on the fence about this, because he was able to show Jess real love- no holding back at all- but in his relationship with Dean, it's usually DEAN who pushes him back. Because Dean does not need/does not deserve any of that chick-flick stuff. Sam needs and deserves it, and Dean will give it to him. But for himself? No. So I can't be sure whether that's Sam being damaged, or Dean, or both at once. Except that I definitely know Dean does that, and our exposure with Sam has been Jess/old friends/Dean/John. Sam hugs his college friends, is touchy-feely with them (even the guy in that photo), and John? That whole relationship is a mine field.

I think I'm saying I'm still on the fence, because I don't see compelling evidence to outweigh either side!
Re: Response Part I - black_regalia on December 15th, 2007 04:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
And Part II! - halfshellvenus on December 15th, 2007 01:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
I'm Mulder, She's Scully: Chicagorunedgirl on December 15th, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
I loved this episode, but would be the first to agree that it was *painful* to watch. It's impossible for me, as a parent, to look at John as a parent and feel anything but heartbroken for the boys, especially Dean. Yet John, as a character, is amazingly rendered -- even when he's not even *in* the episode, his character is omnipresent and incredibly powerful. He's shaped Dean and Sam, by his absence as much -- or more than -- his presence. And as painful as that is to see, it makes the awkward, fumbling tenderness the boys struggle for with each other all the more compelling and touching. They can't say 'I love you,' but they can hear it from each other anyway, we know they can by the looks on their faces.

As for the wee!chesters, the problem with trying to convey those kind of complicated emotions is that you have to be an actor of Jensen or Jared calibre, and there are precious few little kids who are up to that challenge. Actually, precious few adult actors are up to that challenge! So the nuanced performances we're used to from J2 don't happen, and we feel the lack of them, I think.

Dean is the quintessential parentified child, but he's also way more broken from the rest of the traumas in his life on top of that dynamic than most. But in a sense that just makes the character even more compelling, because his strength and determination are all the more amazing.

Lovely thinky post. Thanks :)
Lynsey
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 15th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
I loved this episode, but would be the first to agree that it was *painful* to watch.

I think that's probably what I was having trouble coming to terms with. It was a really good episode, it was damn hard to watch in places for a number of reasons (namely absent-John and broken-boys), and very vivid overall.

It's impossible for me, as a parent, to look at John as a parent and feel anything but heartbroken for the boys, especially Dean.
Yes. I did a poll ages ago that I didn't ever collate, but one of my hidden theories (supported ever so slightly by the poll) is that people who resonate more for Dean (not "like" him more, but are more moved by him) tend to have a lower opinion of John as a father. The damage of John's choices is so clear in what it did to Dean. Sam has his problems, but he's much better off in comparison. *sigh*

Yet John, as a character, is amazingly rendered -- even when he's not even *in* the episode, his character is omnipresent and incredibly powerful. He's shaped Dean and Sam, by his absence as much -- or more than -- his presence.
I really, really love how you phrased this. It's true, and yet it isn't obvious, and it would not have occurred to me on my own!

the problem with trying to convey those kind of complicated emotions is that you have to be an actor of Jensen or Jared calibre
I think of Jared honestly as a "pretty good" actor and Jensen as a "very good" actor (more of a character actor, really), but in either case you're right-- child actors usually don't have this level of ability. Every once in awhile, but not often!

But in a sense that just makes the character even more compelling, because his strength and determination are all the more amazing.
What really does it for me is the layers under the asshole facade. Those layers run deep, and there's a lot of damage and recovery that helped build them. And it's like we're still finding new ones (moreso in S2, though), which always works for me! Rich characters fascinate me, even when they're not always "likeable". For instance, woobie!Dean gets me every time. Assy!Dean I just want to kick in the nads. And it's all the same person...

Lovely thinky post. Thanks :)
Thanks for doing your part to add interesting discussion to it! You definitely have me thinking about the side-effect of John now. :)
(no subject) - dotfic on December 15th, 2007 05:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on December 15th, 2007 05:48 pm (UTC)
The thing, it's not mutually exclusive for me. I'm a John-girl but there are times when I want to thwap him. (I feel like there's an assumption that *every* John-girl thinks he's a wonderful father all the time, which isn't what I've seen or my feeling on it) Not every mistake he made can be explained by "he wanted to protect the boys." I think SOME of his mistakes were well-meant and for the boys' sake, and you have to take context into consideration. It's not John-bashing to point out his mistakes as a parent and think about the tragedy of it. The Winchesters are an American tragedy, for all their triumphs.

I adore the character and I think he really loved the boys. In some ways he was a decent father and in other ways he sucked beyond belief. Not for lack of trying, and not because he was a selfish drunk, but because of his tunnel vision, his fear, and his obsession with hunting (which I think can be argued was a part of "protect the boys.")

But good intentions doesn't negate the damage done. It's part of what makes this family so fascinating. It is painful, and it hits home. I think also it shows how parents can make terrible mistakes and screw up as parents but there are also good things they do for their kids. On a personal note, I've come to terms with the ways my parents failed me but I also have a very long list of things they did right and what they gave to me.

Something Wicked prepared me for this ep. If this had been my first exposure to seeing the neglect, I'd be more shocked, instead I see it as part of the canon (and also, I've read hundreds of fics that have this being Sam and Dean's childhood), this is what John did. Whatever his reasons -- it wasn't what was best for his kids. But I think he really did love them more than breathing. The sadness of the boys' childhood is part of the reason this worked as an episode -- it was honest and brutal and true to the characters as they've been presented so far. Maybe it's too sad for out and out squee, it's so ambivalent.

[ETA: to clarify, I'm not trying to excuse him. I don't want to excuse him. It's part of the character package. It IS heartbreaking. But that said, there are many things I admire about the *character* -- and if you look at adult Sam and Dean, you see the good he did as well as the bad.]

Edited at 2007-12-15 05:53 pm (UTC)
Deadbeat Nymph: dean lip curldeadbeat_nymph on December 15th, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
I didn't read the first part because of the spoileriness. (Thank you for the warning.)

However, I basically agree with all of your points. I was impressed, though somewhat scandalised, by the fact that they didn't pull any punches because it was Christmas. I mean, they actually managed to shock me, which I didn't like, exactly, but was impressed by. I also thought that it made sense - all these years of throwing themselves into the line of fire, nasty shit like the fingernail was bound to happen at some point.

I thought the whole 'Sam refuses to do Christmas' thing was OOC. I could definitely understand why he'd feel that way, but I would have expected him to push those feelings aside for Dean's sake. It seemed very artificial, like they stuck it in there thoughtlessly just for angst.

Okay. That was a lot of blathering. Now, the question is whether I'll be able to write any of my SPN Xmas fic assignments after watching that episode. Man, but that put me in a funk. :\

Yeah, it kind of fucks with my SPN_Rainyday fic. Not that it contradicts it, exactly, but I had a whole 'Dean tries to make a Christmas for Sammy because John's an asshole' sort of thing planned as part of my fic. It wasn't the basis of the whole fic, but it was a significant element and was part of the overall theme. And there was a special gift from Sam part, too, although it wasn't the amulet. *sighs* Now what?

Overall, though, I was pretty pleased with the ep.
she said mysteriously: wee!Deanresounding_echo on December 15th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
I freakin' love wee!Dean. Just, a lot.

I love John as a character, and a lot of the reason why is what you've ranted about here. I think John's a good man and not the best father, and I always have. I don't romanticize their childhood because one, it's not keeping in canon, and two, that's never where the appeal lied for me. I came for the fucked up history and I stayed for the fucked up present relations. :D