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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*
Ice-T: an actor, also a refreshing beveragefiddleyoumust on December 14th, 2007 10:05 pm (UTC)
I think my own personal canon is that Sam was sort of emotionally stunted until he got to college. I think the 2, 3, 4 (however many) years he spent there, staying in one place and making friends and falling in love is where he learned how to function like a "normal" member of society.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
Would being shipped off to Bobby's to be raised make them feel any less abandoned?

I wanted to come back and address this separately, because it's such an interesting and thorny issue.

We just don't know, honestly. If he'd left them with Bobby, they would have been more overtly loved (and in a more stable day-to-day environment), but they'd know their father left them behind (ouch!). With the choice John made instead, they're still with him but they're not important enough. And that hurts and damages in a different way.

We go through this with my sister's ex-husband. He loves the girls, but a lot of the time he can't be bothered to take them for his custody-- he's a no-show. If he disappeared entirely, they might feel abandoned by him. But as it is now, his active disinterest in them is harming them in a different way-- perhaps one that will affect who they choose as mates in the future, i.e., men they need to "fix" so that "they will love them."

Gah, but I wish there were clearcut answers to all this. And foster care? So rarely a good thing, and in a case like this where you have neglect rather than direct abuse... probably not an improvement (because at least the boys have each other).

I imagine I'd be bothered less like this if it never, ever came up in people's real lives or if there were an obviously right answer. No such luck. :(
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on December 14th, 2007 09:05 pm (UTC)
The problem is that in fiction you have the added complication that you have situations that wouldn't (or would be very unlikely) to exist in real life.

In real life, 99% of the time I would say that there ARE no good reasons to leave your child behind. That if you do so, you are probably not trying hard enough, you are making excuses, or you are lazy.

Yet on fictional shows our characters are put into situations and into the positions of making decisions that are much more drastic than what one would reasonably encounter in real life.

I still think if Sam and Dean (or at least Dean) would be given the choice whether they would have preferred to gew up stable with somebody else or close to John with hunting, they might have chosen John. In a, yeah, it was traumatic, but we wouldn't want to have missed out on it. Though Sam, Sam might have preferred to have grown up with some other person he could have grown to love. And that he might have met his dad only as a stranger as a grown up.

Now from John's perspective, I can't help but wonder if leaving them with some sort of adoptive family and then officially trying to mend things with them once they were grown up, the way these things work in real life sometimes too, wouldn't have been the healthier option. Simply because it is something we, as real people, are more used to.

But again, John lives in a fictional universe and has to deal with threats that real people don't have to deal with. Like your kids being endangered by monsters.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC)
Though Sam, Sam might have preferred to have grown up with some other person he could have grown to love. And that he might have met his dad only as a stranger as a grown up.
I don't think Dean could ever have voluntarily given up John-- he lost his mother already! Sam... once Dean made that choice, Sam's choice was gone too. Such an impossible and unhappy dilemna, really.

But again, John lives in a fictional universe and has to deal with threats that real people don't have to deal with. Like your kids being endangered by monsters.
Well, they would have been no more endangered than anyone else's kids, which is to say that one way or another... he chose other people's families over his own. :(
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on December 14th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there's also the aspect that people have to give up things for their kids all the time. John wanted certain things, revenge, to be active in the hunter movement... It's a honorable cause but...

1.) Haven't monsters been around as long as people can think? Meaning the world didn't come to an end before John was hunting
2.) How much difference did he make? Sure, I'm sure he saved many people, but did he actually stop the world from coming to an end?

Maybe he should have settled down and raised his kids right before going back to hunting. Or found a way that combined hunting with a table lifestyle. Run support for the hunter movement rather than going out into the field himself.

Of course, my problem with Supernatural has ALWAYS been that the hunting seems so pointless to me. Because I always figure that they could save gazillion more people if they actually outed the unseen world. I mean, they hunt monsters all the time. So well, grab some proof, take a video, show it the authorities and media. Let people KNOW they are under threat and what ways there are to protect their families.

Always feels to me more like guys wanting to be macho rather than guys being honestly interested in saving other people.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 10:56 pm (UTC)
Maybe he should have settled down and raised his kids right before going back to hunting. Or found a way that combined hunting with a stable lifestyle.
I think it was more that he got into it as an act of vengeance (wanting to kill whatever killed Mary)... and then he didn't find a quick solution. And one thing led to another, and pretty soon ten years go by and you still haven't caught the perpetrator but meanwhile you've cost your family so much happiness and stability.

I.e., if in hindsight he could have seen where it would end up, I'm sure he'd have thought twice before starting down that road. But he didn't go into it with those thoughts, and he was an obsessed and stubborn man...

Always feels to me more like guys wanting to be macho rather than guys being honestly interested in saving other people.
Hahaha! Never thought of it this way, but you have a point. Darn you for bringing logic into the larger fandom!

One of the things I always wondered with BtVS was whether anyone else in Sunnyvale was aware of what was going on in the shadows. So it amused me greatly when at the high school graduation speech, the valedictorian mentioned losing so many of the students to random Supernatural acts along the way. "Not all of our class made it here..." :D
Ice-T: an actor, also a refreshing beverage: SPN - Dean Tearsfiddleyoumust on December 14th, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)
I agree there's no right answer. I'm not even sure that Bobby was a feasible option back then, since he was younger himself, and probably hunting just as actively as John was. We have to remember that this was John and Bobby around Dean's age (a little older). They were probably both out as often as they could be.

It makes it that much harder because there is no one else to take care of them. If Ben had turned out to be Dean's son, would we have been just as angry at Dean for leaving him with Lisa and continuing to hunt? Probably not, because he still had a parent that put him first. John wasn't left with that option.

So, yes. He damaged them both. I can't even really get mad at Dean for not knowing how to comfort Sam. The last time Dean probably had any comfort of his own was when Mary was still alive. It also really pisses me off when people talk about how Dean should remember that. I don't remember anything from when I was four and I didn't have a traumatizing childhood like he did. Ugh. The whole thing just makes me hurt for them. Poor babies.
The Good, The Bad and The Lana: smilie priyankathelana on December 14th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
I totally remember things from when I was four. :) Meanwhile my brother at least claims not to remember anything before he entered college or so.
Ice-T: an actor, also a refreshing beveragefiddleyoumust on December 14th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
I sound like your brother. I can't even remember what happened yesterday.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 14th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC)
They were probably both out as often as they could be.
True, it's hard to know. Bobby has settled down now certainly, and John never would have though. So I tend to think that Bobby at least had some sort of home-base going-- it's more in his nature.

I don't remember anything from when I was four and I didn't have a traumatizing childhood like he did.
Really, most of us don't. It's sad for me to think that as incredibly happy as my children's early years were, they don't remember a bit of it.

What they do remember, though, is that sense of having been happy and secure. And there's the crux between Sam and Dean-- Dean had that and lost it, though he likely remembers the feeling and knows what he lost. Sam never had it to begin with, and so in a way Dean has lost more.