Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology



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I think that as the deal gets closer and Dean gets more irrational, Sam will go further to the darkside. I'd rather not see this be a result of his supposedly having a little bit of the devil in him. We all have that. I'd rather see it come out of his rationality, his humanity. As he becomes more desperate and Dean gets more out of control, I think that Sam is going to go into control-freak mode and do exactly what he's always done when Dean's life gets too messy--try to control Dean. I think that we will see Sam do some very dark and horrible things to his brother in his attempts to "save" him. This is already starting. He's talking to people and sneaking around behind Dean's back. And were Dean to follow up on his threat to "stop" Sam from breaking the deal, I think that Sam would not hesitate to have Dean locked up to "keep him safe" while Sam went about "saving" him.
Sam's dilemma with Dean is the same that "civilized" people get into when they try to "help" hunter-gatherers. When they exploit or fight them, they hurt them, but not nearly as much as when they try to "help" them, because helping automatically means destroying their entire way of life in order to bring them into the protective fold of civilization.
Also, Sam has always been the "sane" one of the family, whereas Dean clearly isn't. In Sam's reactions to Dean, you see many frustrations common to people dealing with relatives who suffer from major mental illness. It's much easier to treat the person like a child (or worse, blame them for the family's entire dysfunction) when that person is erratic, self-destructive and generally out of control, than to try to work with that person and help them learn to control and heal themselves, not to mention acknowledging one's own contribution to the loved one's illness. Mental illness doesn't happen in isolation. Screwed up families incubate screwed up children. And the Winchester clan is mighty dysfunctional.
This is why codependency is so popular--it gives the "sane" one in the relationship a considerable amount of control, or at least the illusion of control. You see Sam enabling Dean's damage by constantly telling him he's wrong in the head and trying to take away control from him (doesn't help that Sam is still struggling to become an autonomous adult and lashing out at the one reliable father figure in his life in the process). You can't do that. You gotta dial back and give the person some encouragement every time they take even a baby step while setting boundaries and refusing to let them screw up your life. And since he's out on the road riding shotgun with Dean, Sam obviously isn't do that.
Hendrickson's words to Dean about Sam, though harsh, have merit: "Yeah, I get it: he's Bonnie to your Clyde."

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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by blumoodeanie (Wed Dec 5 2007 14:17:29)

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Hi thesnowleopard. Do you think John emotionally abused Dean?

Ain't Karma a bitch?


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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by thesnowleopard (Wed Dec 5 2007 16:40:02)

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Hi thesnowleopard. Do you think John emotionally abused Dean?


Yes.
There are some things that Kripke makes absolutely clear in pretty much every episode. One is that Dean is about ten different kinds of crazy. Another is that John is completely responsible for that. Dean is so far from normal that normal, for him, is a bright, blue, fluffy place on the horizon, kinda like Never-Never Land. He's perpetually stuck on the outside, looking in with his face pressed against the window. He can sort of fake it enough to get by on the edges of society, but not nearly enough to blend in the way Sam can. He doesn't even play well with other hunters. And that is entirely John's fault.


Two of the saddest scenes in the show are the very beginning, where we see a happy four-year-old Dean running into his father's arms, and the penultimate scene in IMOTD where John finally realizes what he's done to his son and attempts to fix it--only to realize that he can't fix twenty-three years of damage in five minutes. That happy kid is long gone and John can't ever get him back. I can't think of a better reason for John to claw his way back up from Hell, grab YED long enough to save his son and then focus so heavily on Dean in the short moment he has left before he disappears in a flash of light.
Chronic emotional and verbal abuse, neglect, a total lack of decent shelter...I mean, John effectively raised his kids homeless. Sam can fake normal largely because by the time he reached the critical age of socialization, Dean was old enough to give him some stability. Sam could blend into society and was doing so pretty well with Jess, though I think some large cracks would have appeared down the road and he probably would have ended up leaving Jess to hunt with Dean at some point, anyway. "Skin" does a good job of showing that Sam was faking a mask of normalcy in his old life as much as any shapeshifter. Sam's damage is perhaps not quite as fundamental as Dean's, but it's still pretty heavy.
I think the show is quite brave in going against the trend of simplifying child abuse into sex and cigarette burns, and of portraying abusers as complete monsters. Many abusive parents do not set out to become abusers (abusive partners are a different story; they're all kinds of intentional). You can screw up a kid with words and neglect as thoroughly as you can with repeated sexual abuse and battery, and you can do it without meaning to. Not infrequently, tragedy causes a family to fall apart and parents can go completely off the rails. This is what John did. I'm sure that he didn't intend to create a worse monster than any he ever hunted and put it inside his eldest's head, but that's just what he did.
I should add that I absolutely don't think that this is Sam's fault. Near the very end of Devil's Trap, a still very-obsessed John yells at Sam for not shooting him (Dean had begged him not to do it) and declares that killing YED "comes first, before everything" and Sam looks at a battered, moribund Dean in the rear-view mirror and says, "No, sir. Not before everything." In fact, the huge fights that they have in IMTOD center around John's treatment of Dean over the years. Sam sees very clearly what John has done to his brother (far more than Dean, who only gets confusing and scary flashes of disillusion about his father) and he doesn't like it one bit. His attemps to "fix" Dean may be pretty dysfunctional in their own right, but his heart is in the right place. Always has been, probably always will be, no matter how demonic he gets.

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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by donilou2 (Thu Dec 6 2007 07:25:41)

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Ah, the much reviled Daddy Dearest.As a parent, I cannot tell you how much it hurts me to see what John did to Dean, and even when he gave his life to save Dean, I never saw it as a true sacrifice, but merely a means to an end.I believe if John thought for one moment that he could do a better job of looking after Sam than Dean could, he would have let Dean go.

Even his apology to Dean was followed by that appalling transfer of responsibility to Dean's already overburdened shoulders. No loving parent EVER does something like that to their children.

I always wanted to like John, but just couldn't find anything in the man that was admirable. A single year in Hell was small recompense.


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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by only_nyc (Thu Dec 6 2007 11:02:00)

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fantastic read! it's gg to be 3am where i live, and i've been out the whole day. yet this board has kept me glued. love the mythology, you really go in dept. -insert awed expression- (sorry i'm a little anti smileys right now) i think my weekend will be occupied with rewatching s1 and s2 so i can appreciate some of the things you pointed out that i haven't noticed before. thanks!


<3 the winchesters!
Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by blumoodeanie (Thu Dec 6 2007 11:51:02)

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Thanks thesnowleopard. I have always feel that John emotionally abused Dean, but found that my friends don't share the same feeling. I tried to explain to my friends why I feel that John was abusive to Dean, but didn't get my point across as well as you do :)
In additional, do you think that John loved Sam more than Dean, because Sam is a lot more like John than Dean?

Ain't Karma a bitch?


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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by thesnowleopard (Fri Dec 7 2007 02:34:19)

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Ah, the much reviled Daddy Dearest.As a parent, I cannot tell you how much it hurts me to see what John did to Dean, and even when he gave his life to save Dean, I never saw it as a true sacrifice, but merely a means to an end.I believe if John thought for one moment that he could do a better job of looking after Sam than Dean could, he would have let Dean go.


I don't--quite--agree with this, but I see where you're coming from. I do think that John at least intended for his trade to be a true sacrifice. He gave away his one chance to beat YED and even his own life, to save Dean. When he called YED down to the basement, if it was just a ruse, he could have shot YED then and there. Dean would, of course, have died, but John would have achieved his ultimate goal. As for Sam, he was an adult. John didn't really need Dean there to raise Sam or even mediate between the two of them. And John could have taken care of Sam's "antichrist" tendencies, if necessary. So, in that sense, John didn't absolutely need Dean around.


Two things also convince me that John wanted to save Dean for real--when YED is using John's body to torture Dean and Dean begs John not to let YED kill him, John is able to break YED's control long enough to release Sam, who then shoots him in the leg with the Colt and releases Dean. That's a more successful resistance than we've seen anybody else manage against a possessing demon in the series, and against a demon so powerful that holy water does not affect him, too. John had to have been highly motivated to do that, and the most obvious motivation was saving Dean's life.
The second thing is that he crawled out of Hell, not just to distract YED, but also to make one last attempt to show his love to Dean and convince Dean that he was worth a damn. Notice how he focused almost exclusively on Dean and barely glanced at Sam in that scene.
But.
I do agree with you that John was ultimately unable to break his abusive habits, and so just ended up hurting Dean more in that last conversation in the hospital. When faced with his son's utter bewilderment and confusion in the face of his attempt to mend 23 years of mindjobbing him, John reverts to old habit and drops his final bomb into Dean's life. I think he did it for two very selfish reasons--one was because he couldn't resist taking one last potshot at YED via Dean. Maybe his failure to get through to Dean made him despair so much that he couldn't resist the temptation to be selfish, even though he'd managed it up until that moment. Second, I think that John always felt a bit of resentment toward the closeness between the brothers. I don't think he intended to, or even knew it consciously, but I think it was there. Truth is, John didn't raise Sam; Dean did. And Dean did a lot better job with Sam than John did with him. So, yeah, that was pretty selfish.
Another thing is that John and Sam always competed over Dean's love, and most certainly found him indispensable. YED and the other demons lied about that, or more likely, they were all so focused on the importance of Sam as a psykid, and so ignorant of human love, that their vision of what was going on inside the Winchester clan was highly distorted. At any rate, it's no coincidence that Dean is constantly trapped in the middle between John and Sam, even when one or the other isn't there. Dean has had no one else but his father and his brother and has loved them unconditionally, with total loyalty unto death. That's a special thing and nobody likes to share that, even when the person giving it is quite capable of loving more than one person.
The really sad thing is that both John and Sam were capable of forming other attachments and getting love and support from other quarters beside their families. Dean, meanwhile, is too damaged to do that because he has so much difficulty thinking anybody but his family would *want* him around that he either leaves or pushes others away before he's rejected. He even seems to believe all of those demons who assure him that his family doesn't really care about or need him that much, so he seems to operate on a "home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in" basis. So, it was incredibly unfair and selfish for John and Sam to constantly try to make Dean choose between them.
That said, each one did eventually put Dean first, though Sam has been somewhat healthier about it than John. I do wonder if Dean was essentially forced into the same role as what his mother would have adopted, and that this might be part of why he still feels so strongly about her, and not just that his feelings about her tap directly into that lost four-year-old. Dean seems to take after her more in personality than John.

I always wanted to like John, but just couldn't find anything in the man that was admirable. A single year in Hell was small recompense.


Very true. But I don't think the higher power that we occasionally glimpse in the Supernaturalverse let John out because it felt he'd suffered enough. I think it let him out for Dean and Sam's sake, because they had already suffered *too* much. Sam might have been able to move on, but Dean definitely wasn't doing that. Thus, not only did John get out, but he saved Dean, allowed Dean to kill YED, and made it clear his pride and love for Dean. It wasn't about John; it was about Dean, and, to a lesser extent, Sam.

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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by thesnowleopard (Fri Dec 7 2007 03:00:05)

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Thanks thesnowleopard. I have always feel that John emotionally abused Dean, but found that my friends don't share the same feeling. I tried to explain to my friends why I feel that John was abusive to Dean, but didn't get my point across as well as you do :)


LOL! Thanks, guys. I aim to please.


I've found that people who have no experience with child abuse, either personally or through someone they know, do not see it unless it's physical or sexual or something else obvious. And often, there's a kneejerk attempt to defend the parent and blame the victim. While there are certainly people with lovely parents who still grow up all twisted, the parents usually have to take at least partial responsibility for a screwed up child turning into a screwed up adult. Either way, Dean did not get the way he is now without help. Somebody raised him that way, and there are literally no other suspects than John. Sure, John is sympathetic and not a bad guy. Sure, he loves his kids. Not all abusive parents love their kids, but many do. Abusive people are, after all, people. Abuse is not all black and white.
BTW, I would be unsurprised if Bobby went after John with a shotgun because of a dispute over Dean and Dean simply didn't realize it. That would explain the warm welcome Sam and Dean got in Devil's Trap when Dean was expecting hostility. Bobby seems to feel very strongly about how John raised Dean and acted in a very paternal way toward Dean even before John died. I think he ultimately blames John for Dean's deal because John caused the damage that made Dean incapable of making a rational decision under those circumstances. He refers quite directly to Dean being damaged when he's raging at him in the junkyard and Dean looks completely unsurprised at Bobby's viewpoint on the subject. He actually looks embarrassed and even frightened, as if he knew beforehand that Bobby would be upset and feels he let Bobby down. So I don't think that's the first conversation they ever had about Dean's low self-esteem. Bobby likes Sam, too, and acts fatherly toward him, but he seems very focused on dragging Dean, kicking and screaming, into a little more self-love. Sam just doesn't need as much attention at this point in order to be okay.

In additional, do you think that John loved Sam more than Dean, because Sam is a lot more like John than Dean?


I think that everyone involved thought that John loved Sam because up to that point, John had more conflicts and more open emotion going with Sam. And yeah, Sam is a lot more like John than Dean. As I said before, Dean seems to be a lot more like Mary.


But when push came to shove, John chose Dean. Once it looked like Dean was going to die, John was abruptly forced to stop taking Dean for granted and discovered the hard way who he'd really choose in the crunch. That said, I don't think that John loved Dean all that much more than Sam. I think that a lot of what we see in IMTOD and AHBL2 is overcompensation for all the years of ignoring Dean. Choosing Dean was a lot like the main character's decision in "Sophie's Choice". It's not a choice that John ever would have made unless his back was against the wall. It could be that he ultimately chose Dean more out of guilt than anything else.

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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by donilou2 (Fri Dec 7 2007 11:41:52)

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When faced with his son's utter bewilderment and confusion in the face of his attempt to mend 23 years of mindjobbing him, John reverts to old habit and drops his final bomb into Dean's life.

When John said "Don't be scared Dean" I thought- Aha! John really does have a plan.He's left something that will help Dean sort through this.

I waited anxiously most of the season for some evidence that John had not simply left Dean hanging, but that's in fact what he had done.Of course we can speculate that John knew enough about both sons to know they could rise to the challenge, but that's when I lost my last shred of sympathy for him.
It's interesting you say Dean is so much like Mary, because over the years I believe Dean has become Mary, at least as close a copy as Dean is able to manufacture from his own memory.

Dean was a completely parentalized child by the time he was nine years old. John drove the last nail into that coffin in "Something Wicked..." No comforting hugs for Dean in that one, just for Sammy, and that was probably the last time Dean ever did anything for himself while Sam was around.


In those last hours, I believe John recognised what he'd done, that Dean was Sam's true parent,and he knew that Sam would stay with Dean, could be influenced by him, and that while John himself had been motivated by revenge all those years, Dean had been motivated solely by the need to keep Sam safe.
It could be that he ultimately chose Dean more out of guilt than anything else.

I really had never thought of that, and it makes me so sad because once again, Dean didn't get anything from his father based on his own merits,only because of John's own shortcomings. You know what they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and Sam was definitely the squeaky wheel while Dean was just taken for granted by both of them.

I guess that's why I like Bobby so much, and to a lesser extent Ellen. I can readily identify with both of them,how they are more focussed on the brothers emotional well being and not so much on the hunt.I wish we could see more of them, and less of the new girls,but lets face it, older people are just not sexy enough.Still looking forward to more of Bobby's story in 3.10.
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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by snowbunny2003 (Fri Dec 7 2007 15:08:17)

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With every episode that reveals something about John the less pleased I am with the man. In season one he was this awsome dude, this awsome hunter. Yes, he sacrificed his kids' childhood for it but he was a damned good hunter. And now from season 2 John just really sucks.

-didn't tell the boys about Ellen or the Roadhouse

-didn't tell them ANYTHING about Will Harvelle

-didn't tell them about Mary and her fam members

(he may not of known, but I think he did, how could he not)

-didn't tell his boys about the storage or the things that might be in the storage


Whomever said that Dean was Sam's parent was absolutely right. I've been reading this thread and it's awesome. If you were to ask some people who's smarter they would say Sam. I'd say they're both smart but in different ways. Dean would of probably taken the route that Sam had taken, leaving home and all if Sam didn't exist. Dean had a lot against him, his dad and his brother, in a way he had to look after both of them and that's why Dean never left his dad and which is why he came to Sam to look for him.
I don't know how things are going to go in the future now. I think Dean sees his life and his sacrifices as a waste. I think Dean has low self esteem because of his dad's attitude of that was good but you have to be better. I think Dean wanted to keep his dad safe and sees himself as a failure for it and that now he's accepted that Sam's going to turn evil - another failure and he doesn't want to be around to see that happen. He alluded to this in TKAA, when he said the only thing he's leaving behind is a car. Dean's tired of failing and that's why he's ok with dying, but he's by no means ok with going to hell though. But I guess he figures that Sam's life is more important than his own.
Dean's always saying he's pretty sure, or maybe sure. But remember in Route 666 Sam didn't even think of the possibility that he might be wrong. I'm not saying that Sam's selfish but as the baby you don't have to worry about anyone else to take care of when you're younger so when you get older you're used to it and when you do try to take care of someone else they don't accept it because it seems unnatural like in CSPWDT. Dean carried John's secret for what I thought was a long time because he felt that Sam shouldn't have to worry because he's the baby.
I really am going to be a tv writer.
Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by blumoodeanie (Fri Dec 7 2007 16:15:03)

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I love how you put things into perspective and make them clear thesnowleopard :)
I'm with snowbunny. I don't know why most people assume that Dean is dumb as dirt. Seriously, I've read many fan fics in which Dean was written as the brain dead brother, which makes me madder than hell. How could he be so dumb and yet managed to raise his brother to be so smart. I could understand Sam's natural ability to learn, but with the constant moving, Dean must have been there to tutor Sam.

Ain't Karma a bitch?


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Re: Cain versus Abel and the show's mythology (spoilers for past episode

by donilou2 (Fri Dec 7 2007 16:26:00)

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I don't know why most people assume that Dean is dumb as dirt.

I've always taken exception to this as well.Dean has merely denied himself so Sam could have as much as possible (a typical parental trait)and by appearing or acting dumb he is merely deflecting any concerns others might have that he's unhappy with his life.


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