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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. :\


 
 
 
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!
black_regalia on December 15th, 2007 04:23 am (UTC)
Re: Response Part I
Yeah, I pretty much agree with you.....100%!

I wanted to clarify what I was thinking in regards to Sam being as damaged as Dean.

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.

From here on out, I'm walking into the territory of pure FANON >> I know well that the creators never intended for us to examine the show as closely as we do, so this is all me trying to rationalize a character through things that the writers probably didn't think twice about. *g*

I think Sam is much better at hiding his damage than Dean is. I think, like most children that had a lack of proper socialization in childhood, he learned how to act like a normal kid, but that didn't change the problems underneath.

It's not that I think he didn't love Jess/was beginning to love Madison, or doesn't love Dean. He absolutely does/did. No doubt about it.

We, unfortunately, only see Jess for all of five minutes(and good lord do I want more), but we know that Sam lied to her through their entire relationship -- whether to protect her, or because he was still that Winchester.

I think one of the neat things in Sam's character is that he's constantly destined to be the thing he hates. He didn't want to be like his father, but he ended up lying to the person he loved for a year and half, even though he hated how much his father lied to him, and hated that he was constantly being sheltered by his family. Then Jessica dies and he goes on a vengeful quest, like John(although Sam didn't have two children who needed him, which, to me, makes it a whole different kettle of fish). Now, of course, he knows he has demon blood in him, and feels he is coming to a point that he can't escape being demonic, even though he kills demons for a living.

But anyways, Sam is a damned good liar. He lies better than Dean does, holds a cover better, etc. He's used to lying to try and fit in, and I think, a lot of times, that that's what we see. The hugging, the college friends, etc -- it's not that he doesn't genuinely feel affection for them, but that when he's with them he does all the things he knows he's supposed to do to fit in.

When he's openly emotional(with Dean), no lies, no covers, he's usually awkward and halting, uncertain of what to do/say. I think this comes from having only one emotional support growing up, and that was Dean. And Dean constantly shuts down any attempt Sam makes to connect with him, except for when things are very very dire.

Anyways! That's my clarification. Now that I read back over it(I kept getting distracted by WoW), I'm not sure it follows any kind of logic...Hmm >>

One thing I hate that I see in (wincestuous)SPN fic a lot, is when Dean shuts Sam down and Sam responds with "I know you really love me, so I'm not going to be thrown off by this!" and is really chipper and convinced he's right. Sam sees through a lot of Dean's bullshit, yeah, but he's still always hurt when his big brother won't reach out to him.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Johnhalfshellvenus on December 15th, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
And Part II!
Okay, I guess that comment WAS totally big. It didn't look that big when I was typing it!

I also hate the "John was doing it because Sam was in danger!" argument. Canon just does not support that.
I agree with you there. From what we can tell, canon supports only the idea that sometime IN SEASON ONE John became aware that something was either after Sam or that there was something different/wrong about Sam. There's no evidence for anything before that, especially not in their childhood. And again, if there had been? He would never have left the boys alone.

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."
Hahaha! You know, it's funny-- we're like peas in a pod on this issue. I couldn't agree more-- John as a parent bugs the snot out of me, but he's why the show is what it is, and the fact that he has admirable qualities in other areas just makes his character all the grayer, which... is not a bad thing! :)