‘All happy families resemble one another,
but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’
Leo Tolstoi
 
 
After dealing with the guilt issues of Sam and Dean in another article, I felt compelled to take a closer look at the relationships of the Winchester men. John’s role remains a crucial one, even though we haven’t seen him for a long time now. Who was John Winchester? How did he influence his sons and why? What kind of father was he?
 
John Winchester was, as Dean once stated, ‘many things’: a vietnam survivor, a corporal, a mechanic, a loving husband to a lovely woman, a father to exceptional, intelligent and courageous sons, an obsessed hunter of the supernatural. Although John died in episode one of the second season, he remained a part of this show – appearing every once in a while in conversations, in memories, sometimes in fights and heated discussions. He made it out of hell, as far as we know, after decades of agony that didn’t manage to turn him into a torturer. And only Heaven (and Kripke, I suppose) knows what has and will become of him.
 
Neglect, invalidation and a missing mother
 
John was probably one of the most ambivalent figures in the young Winchesters’ lives, and his ability – albeit being dead and somewhat gone – to create an impact on his sons hasn’t changed.
 
John, while providing the skills imperative for survival, comfort to an extent he considered necessary (while at the same time loading his sons, and Dean in particular), and love as much as he could muster after his own traumatic shock of finding his beloved wife pinned to the ceiling… trained his kids to serve his purpose: execute revenge and find the demon responsible. In part he taught them the essential abilities to deal with whatever might lunge at them, in part he moulded them into handy tools to help him hunt down the yellow-eyed demon Azazel.  His actions were fuelled by despair, loneliness and confusion after being violently thrown into a paranormal world he had no idea existed.
 
I wonder if his approach had taken a different colour, had Mary informed him about her past and her deal with the demon to save John (Season 4, Episode 3, In The Beginning). In all likelihood Mary tried to protect him (after all, keeping your mouth shut deliberately is one Winchester way). Her silence concerning her previous life as a huntress left John altogether unprepared. He did not even see what hit him.
 
After going through this personal hell without any kind of warning or needed equipment John wanted his children to be ready no matter what. It was an act of love, yes, but it backfired, and hit his sons with the kind of harshness that causes wounds that never entirely heal. 
 
In order to find out more about what happened to his wife, John was forced to get on the road and seek answers – in the course of which frequently leaving his sons alone for days or weeks at a time (e.g. S1, Ep.18, Something Wicked, S3, Ep.8, A Very Supernatural Christmas).
 
Dean was instructed to take care of Sam, as he had the night that changed their lives for ever, but he was in fact too young to grasp the enormity of it all. He did not question his task, ‘I always tried to protect you. Keep you safe. Dad didn’t even have to tell me. It was just always my responsibility, you know.’ (S2, Ep.22, All Hell Breaks Loose, part II), which is a clear sign of at how early an age Dean internalized his father’s orders and the job transferred to him, thereby becoming often the primary caregiver, a role usually occupied by a mother.
 
Within psychological theories and research of attachment we find one universal thesis: secure mother-infant attachment provides the psychological foundation to prosper and thrive. With more children entering day care, primary caregiver attachment is considered almost as important as mother-infant attachment. It is most likely that Dean – being Sam’s primary role model (and often mother) – took a huge part in providing Sam with the confidence necessary to pursue another life.
 
I believe it was above all Dean’s caring, loving and protective nature (most likely visible only to Sam, to most others he was the Han-Soloesque cool guy, see S4, Ep.13, After School Special) that enabled Sam to eventually leave the family business, additionally supported by something his teacher said to him (same episode).
 
I also think – though we did not actually see it – that Dean might have even encouraged Sam to do that, reassuring him that dad and he were going be okay. But that is merely my hypothesis. Only Kripke knows for sure. I’d like to ask him that.
 
We know that Dean admired Sam’s determination to go after his desires: ‘Sam, you were right. You gotta do your own thing. You gotta live your own life. You’ve always known what you want, and you go after it. You stand up to Dad, and you always have. … Anyway, I admire that about you. I’m proud of you, Sammy.’ (S1, Ep.11, Scarecrow).
 
We began to realize – perhaps along with Dean – that he should not have met his father’s expectations unquestioningly. He needed about another year to actually work it though.
 
Where John was strict, Dean was tender and loving. We met him in Season 1, Ep.18 Something Wicked, as a caring boy, about ten years old, who’d go without the last bowl of Lucky Charms in favour of Sam (who offered him the prize in turn), and his annoyance over missing out on his perhaps fave cereal did little to hide the fact that he adored his baby brother. In that same episode, however, Dean suffered a blow from his father after an understandable childlike need to play… which endangered Sam.
 
John did not let it go. Even after sixteen years, and even being God knows where he sent Dean to finish the shtriga that almost killed Sam, settling an old score that clearly bore the signs of I-haven’t-forgotten-what-you-did all over.
 
In favour of John, however, one could also assume another possible reason for sending his eldest son to kill the creature: what if John knew how much guilt Dean carried with him (especially concerning the shtriga-incident), and tried to help him get it off his shoulders by pointing him in the according direction?
 
But, nevertheless, back then Dean would have needed some comforting word, an indication of forgiveness, which he didn’t get. The ten-year-old boy never received that, leaving him vulnerable for good.
 
Dean instinctively and immediately consoled the young boy Michael who blamed himself, thereby protecting him from the same kind of pain Dean still carried with him, as he later admitted to Sam: ‘I’m the one that screwed up. It’s my fault. There’s no telling how many kids have gotten hurt because of me. (…) You know, Dad never spoke about it again. I didn’t ask. But he… He looked at me different, you know? Which was worse. Not that I blamed him. He gave me an order, and I didn’t listen. I almost got you killed.’ Deans conviction of having been utterly responsible for the situation had been internalized to an extent that he couldn’t even accept Sam’s offer ‘You were just a kid.’- â€˜Don’t. Don’t. Dad knew this was unfinished business for me. He sent me here to finish it.’ And the adult Dean somewhat turned into a ten year old lad, confused, reactivating the profound sense of guilt he never was relieved of.
 
With certainty that incident was not the first of its kind, but it might have been the most traumatic for little Dean, which might be the reason we are told about it. It cut through his young, already stressed psyche and left a deep wound, only barely closing.
 
When a child lives through a horrific experience the kid will often store it in a sort-of ‘wounded’ state of mind, and the emotion behind it will easily surface even as an adult – when reminded of the incident.  Dean felt like the child he was back then, profoundly remembering how unreliable and insufficient he must have been in his father’s eyes. But, nevertheless, he kept defending John whenever necessary, especially when confronted with Sam’s difficulties with dad. 
 
He needed to do that. With dad’s standards so deeply rooted in his psyche Dean had to defend him, because else he would have violated everything he believed to be true, and would have gotten in breach with the person he thought his father wanted him to be.
Try taking away someone’s religion. Furthermore, Dean was in desperate need of dad’s approval, as his self-esteem was low and defined by his ability to be a good son and protective brother.
 
Sam carried other issues. He was under the misimpression that John saw the perfect son in Dean and was disappointed in everything that was Sam:
 
S.: ‘Dad never treated you like that. You were perfect. He was all over my case.’
D.: ‘Maybe he had to raise his voice, but sometimes you were out of line.’
And later:
S: ‘Dean, you think I didn’t respect Dad. That’s what this is about. (…) I respected him. But no matter what I did, it was never good enough’          
D: ‘So, what, Dad was disappointed in you?’
S: ‘ “was”? Is. Always has been.’
D: ‘And why would you think that?’
S: ‘Because I didn’t wanna bowhunt. Or hustle pool. Because I wanted to go to school and live my life. Which, in our whacked-out family, made me the freak. (…) Dean, you know what most dads are when their kids score a full ride? Proud. Most dads don’t toss their kids out of the house.’ (…) ‘You know, truth is, when we finally do find Dad I don’t know if he’s even gonna wanna see me.’
D: ‘Sam, Dad was never disappointed in you. Never. He was scared. (…) He was afraid of what could’ve happened to you if he wasn’t around. But even when you two weren’t talking he used to swing by Stanford whenever he could. Keep an eye on you. Make sure you were safe.’
S: ‘Why didn’t he tell me any of that?’
D: ‘Well, it’s a two-way street, dude. You could have picked up the phone.’
(S1, Ep 8, Bugs)
 
Dean had a point.
 
Yet, John should have told Sam about how much he cared about him as much as he could have told Dean that he was okay just the way he was. I wonder what it did to Dean to see his father driving out to Stanford every once in a while. We know that it bugged him to hear that John took brother number three, Adam, to a baseball game (S4, Ep.19, Jump The Shark). Had Dean been a lesser person he in all likelihood could have been maliciously jealous. But he loved his little brother. Unconditionally. Which was important for Sam to be able to develop and establish a more independent streak that Dean did not dare to even consider.
 
John failed to provide his elder son with the comfort any kid needs – a sense of being forgiven and the notion to be alright. Within the every day struggle to find Azazel, John neglected the emotional needs of Dean. Don’t get me wrong – John surely loved Dean. And he loved Sam. He had difficulties expressing what he felt, though. Tenderness was a weakness he probably was too afraid to afford to often.
 
Now, we have been told that John and Sam were more at each other’s throats than engaged in a calm conversation. With Sam John Winchester showed immense passion (being expressed in anger), thereby indicating that he was bothered by many a thing Sam did or said, whereas with Dean John’s tone was more that of a commanding officer, which is a somewhat distant position.
 
It is evident that John in his fights with his younger son dealt with Sam’s personality, that Sam actually was being seen by his father. A painful fact Azazel shoved into helpless Dean’s face: ‘You fight and you fight for this family, but the truth is: they don’t need you. Not like you need them. Sam, he’s clearly John’s favourite. Even when they fight, it’s more concern than he’s ever shown you.’ (S1, Ep.22, Devil’s Trap)
 
Sam, by opposing his father, forced dad to deal with him. Dean, on the other hand, was never in a position to know for sure that his dad actually saw him – or merely the well-trained, young soldier he had raised so meticulously. Dean hardly ever raised an opinion different from dad’s, in all likelihood hoping that if he did what was expected of him, he would be accepted and loved – surely fuelled by the shtriga incident and John’s withdrawal of paternal love.
 
It took his father about sixteen years and a deal with the demon resulting in John’s imminent death to tell his oldest son that he actually was proud of him, and to offer apologies for many a thing he did wrong: ‘You know, when you were a kid, I’d come home from a hunt. And after what I’d seen, I’d be wrecked. And you, you’d come up to me, and you’d put your hand on my shoulder, and you’d look me in the eye, and you’d say “it’s okay, Dad.” Dean. I’m sorry. … You shouldn’t have had to say that to me. I should’ve been saying that to you. You know, I put too much on your shoulders. I made you grow up too fast. You took care of Sam, and you took care of me. You did that. And you didn’t complain, not once. I just want you to know that I am so proud of you.’ (S2, Ep 1, In My Time Of Dying)
 
Dean was hardly able to believe his father’s words, words he had been longing to hear probably all his life. And because of the events following there was no time for John’s words to sink in. His sons had to cope with losing their father, and Dean was confronted with the fact of being alive because dad made a deal – and the weight John had, again, put on his shoulders: ‘I want you to watch out for Sammy.’ (S2, Ep1, In My Time Of Dying).
 
Dean needed about another year of feeling guilty and a deal of his own to realize that ‘my father was an obsessed bastard…’ (S3, Ep.10, Dream A Little Dream of Me). 
 
They fuck you up, your mum and dad,
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
Philip Larkin
 
English poet Larkin expresses a rather cynical view. Did John actually ‘fuck up’ his kids? Should we call John an abusive father? He surely never intended to harm his sons. Neither physically nor emotionally. But he displayed behaviour designed to control his sons, foremost for the reason of protecting them. Tending to their emotional needs was not on top of John’s to-do-list.
 
There was a lot of criticism to be heard, especially for Dean. Sam on the other hand was pushed away. John was not willing to reach out to him, as Bobby brilliantly analyzed (S4, Ep. 22, Lucifer Rising).
 
John transferred his own guilt about not being able to protect his family onto Dean, giving him the order to look after his younger sibling, and only if he did well, then Dean would be accepted.  If not, invalidation would be another means of control for John – which left Dean in particular feeling inadequate and unsure of his own worth, which surfaced painfully after Sam’s death, watching his brother’s dead body and later, as Bobby confronted  Dean about his deal:
 
D: ‘Dad brought me back, Bobby, I’m not even supposed to be here. At least this way, something good can come out of it, you know. It’s like my life can mean something.’
B: ‘What? And it didn’t before? Have you got that low an opinion of yourself? Are you that screwed in the head?’
D: ‘I couldn’t let him die, Bobby. I couldn’t. He’s my brother. ‘
B: ‘How’s your brother gonna feel when he knows you’re going to hell? How’d you feel when you knew your dad went for you?’
D: ‘You can’t tell him. You take a shot at me, whatever you gotta do, but please don’t tell him.’ (S2, Ep. 22, All Hell Breaks Loose, Part II)
 
Dean, now an adult and absolutely capable of taking care of himself and his brother, was still, when his Dad was concerned a kid - no more than perhaps ten or twelve years old. And yes, at this point he was indeed that screwed in the head. He defined his own worth via his capability to save his family, namely Sam. It’s what he had done since he was a child.
 
(It is wonderfully played out by Jensen Ackles, who actually in those scenes when he is confronted with Daddy-Issues shows the insecure glances, the tense body language and sometimes a look in his eyes as if he was searching for a means to escape, just like a kid would when confronted with the notion that he did something terribly wrong. And apart from that he conveys the unconditional love for a father who no one would depict as a poster boy for parental success.)
 
John did succeed in many ways, though – he trained his boys to be warriors, something he knew they would need to survive. Furthermore, he passed on his moral standards to them: to put the life and safety of others above their own, which became an integral part of their own identities (whether the ethos of self-sacrifice was a huge success still requires debate, though).
 
The price for that was more than any human being should be forced to pay, and it did not always sit well with the brothers. Sam eventually chose another life. Dean stayed. Much later, though, he allowed doubts to surface: â€˜I know what you would say: your happiness for all those people’s lives, no contest, right? But why? Why is it my job to save these people? Why do I have to be some kind of hero? What about us? Why do we have to sacrifice everything, Dad?’ (S2, Ep.20, What Is and What Should Never Be)
 
They may have earned the skills of highly alert soldiers, with a fit and strong body that might endure beatings and wounds like hardly any regular person’s, but the climate they grew up in left them both deeply vulnerable in their souls. And yet, they emerged as essentially good people. We can assume that John did a lot to help his sons become men of integrity, kindness and compassion.
 
The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
-          Edmund Burke
 
This is not what they do – do nothing. It is part of their moral code to do something. No matter what. They will do whatever might be necessary to save others, and especially their own family (expanding, after John’s death, to Bobby as their surrogate father, as well as Ellen and Jo, and to some extent Pamela and even Castiel).
 
Family, to quote Bobby ‘don’t end with blood’ (S3,. Ep.16, No Rest For The Wicked).
 
John, basically, provided his boys with the strong need to do whatever they could to prevent evil from damaging their universe even more. It had become their credo and purpose in life. Even though Sam had tried to pull away, he was forced to join Dean after losing Jessica.
 
The Family Grows
 
In season four’s 19th episode ‘Jump The Shark’ a new member of the tribe surfaced: Adam, brother number three.
The news hit the brothers at a most vulnerable and conflicted moment. Pamela had died helping them, Dean had been informed by Alistair about his role in the apocalypse, and they had learned about Chuck and the ‘Winchester Gospel’. Apart from that, a siren had confronted them with issues they had not been able to bury just yet.
 
Adam was a pre-med student, a polite, honest young man (considering he was impersonated by the ghoul who took on his traits and characteristics), who had not seen much of his father but felt comfortable enough with him to call him the instant his mother was missing.
 
The shock hit Dean with unexpected ferocity. Adam just couldn’t be real. He had to be some kind of evil creature (and it is tragic that he was right, although in a slightly different manner than he assumed) – for Dean (realizing that John might have led another life unbeknownst to his sons that sacrificed so much for him) the situation was without doubt a shattering, treason-like moment, as his father whom he had worshipped had not been entirely honest with him. Or Sam. On the other hand, it was also a typical behavior of John – not letting out too much.
 
John had been there for some birthdays of Adam, providing his youngest son with happy memories of baseball games and harmless adventures, while, we are told, he sometimes didn’t make it home to his ‘legitimate’ sons for Christmas.
Dean was disappointed, initially not ready to accept the truth, while Sam proved to be open and welcoming – suddenly Sam was the older brother, able to teach Adam a thing or two, slipping out of his role as the baby brother (after all, he told Dean in season 5, one reason why he got together with Ruby was his impulse to get away from his brother who wouldn’t let him grow up). He was able to relate to Adam who wanted revenge, and he wanted to protect the boy by training him, thereby becoming an echo of John: ‘we could train Adam, get him ready. Even if we kill this, there are tons of other freaks that want revenge. On dad. On us. What if they find the kid instead and he’s not ready?’ (same episode)
 
Children begin by loving their parents, after a time they judge them;- Oscar Wilde
 
He gave Adam the speech John had given Sam shortly before he went to Stanford: ‘Being a hunter isn’t a job, Adam. It’s life. You’re premed. You got a girlfriend? Friends? … Not anymore you don’t. If you’re really gonna do this, you can’t have those kind of connections, ever… You’ll just put those people in danger, get them killed…’
 
It is sad to observe the significant changes in the Winchester family. Sam had heard this speech by this father, later again by Dean in a paraphrased version (S1, Ep. 6, Skin), and now he was the one to hold on to its meaning.  Dean, having idolized and worshipped his father in the beginning, had become a more critical son, aware of the importance of John, but also noticing his weak points and obsessions – the rose colored glasses of his childhood and adolescence finally gone. This time it was Sam who defended their father: ‘Dad did right by us. He taught us how to protect ourselves’ (S 4, Ep 19, Jump the Shark).
 
            D: ‘Adam, he’s still got a chance, man. He can got to school, be a doctor!’
            S: ‘What makes Adam so special?’
            D: ‘What, are you jealous of the kid?’
            S: ‘Are you?’
            (same episode)
 
In a way, Adam represented the kind of unspectacular, normal life they could have had, if fate had not chosen to destroy their family. It wouldn’t be surprising to anyone, if Sam and Dean felt jealous – Adam was going to study medicine, perhaps marry his girlfriend… and he had a mother and, occasionally, a father.
 
Sam almost would have led a life like that. Dean had never seen the opportunity, although ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ (S3, Ep. 10) and, ‘What Is and What Should Never Be’ (S2, Ep.20) tragically showed that he had the same dream, on a less ambitious scale.
Adam served as a mirror, painfully pointing at the fatal course their lives had taken, at a point when both were disillusioned and metamorphosed young men.
 
‘You know, I finally get it why you and dad butted heads so much. You two are practically the same person. I mean, I worshipped the guy, you know, I dressed like him, acted like him, I listen to the same music. But you are more like him than I will ever be' (S4, Ep.19, Jump the Shark). In the past, realizing that Dean was very much unlike John would have hurt him profoundly. Now he almost seemed relieved.
 
After all, he had switched into older-brother-and-protector mode instinctively, this time to protect Adam, like he had done with Sam in the past. This behavior was so much part of his being that it surfaced the moment he realized that John had not wanted a hunter’s life for his youngest son.  Even though he tried to ‘respect dad’s wishes’ and keep Adam save, it was not only John legacy he was following.
 
All those years of being a hunter by his father’s side stepped back. Dean had become his own person. He had experienced his own traumatic life events that had altered his blind acceptance of John. This was important, as he made the kind of decision Sam had found by going to Stanford – relying on a mind of his own, taking responsibility for himself and letting go of an over-demanding father who loved his sons, undoubtedly, but who had seen no other choices than the ones he made.
 
For both Winchesters it became crucial to base their decisions on their own conclusions now, their own experiences.  The childhood wounds of invalidation and the notion of not-being-good-enough that still burned in their souls, needed to heal at least to some extend. From what we know and judging from their confusion still arising when the memory of dad comes up, as well as their continuing guilt issues – those wounds have not yet healed, but seem to be closing.
 
Parents fail. They make mistakes, sometimes horrific ones. But let us assume that most parents strive to do what’s best for their children, and they base their decisions on what they consider to be right in the moment they need to make any decision.
No one is able (unless they are, of course, psychic) to see in advance how their choices will turn out. Creating options for the ones closest to you might well be the most difficult task there is.
 
John tried his best. He relied on his skills as a commanding officer (a corporal) and the training that had helped him to survive one of the most dreadful wars ever fought. He thought what he did was right to prepare his sons for any kind of fight that might await them. He helped them develop morality, a conscience and compassion. But he also provided them, and especially his oldest son, with blows to their self-esteem that will need many years, maybe even a life-time, of work.
 
In the end, when all is said and done, I believe, it is more important how we remember our parents.

Comments  

Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2009-12-15 01:32
WOW Jas...Great article. Yes...Dean had little to no childhood...but thanks to him, Sam did. Dean did grow up fast, and support both his family members, but that was his personality.

I think John saw a lot of Mary in Dean that's why he leaned on Dean as much as he did. True, it was too bad John didn't acknowledge that sooner for Dean...But really would it have mattered? Dean still would have loved his family unconditionally.

Dean saw two sides of John...somethin g Sam never did. As you said, we can imagine a very warm and loving father in John before Mary died. He would have been very supportive of Dean which is why Dean came to idolize his dad so much. Then John became the man Sam knew. Dean never forgot the loving father, the one he learned to idolize and look up too, and Sam only knew the bitter one. John was right…Dean is someone to be very proud of. It’s too bad, Sam never saw the John Dean did. Would have made life much easier for both boys, but wasn’t in Azazel’s plan.

I think it very admirable how much Dean idolized his father, however misguided it seems at time, because it attested to the fact that John really was a good man. Had the family remained intact, I think John would have been a good man for both boys to look up too.

I like to think in the end, Sam did sort of see the real John... But who knows.

And yes…in Scarecrow, Dean and indeed Sam agreed, way back then, that Sam had to live his own life… an idea I’m sure Dean had given to Sam many times before. Sam could leave at any time...and has more than once. That’s why Sam could leave to go to college, Dean gave him the confidence to do so. WOW Jas...Great article. Yes...Dean had little to no childhood...but thanks to him, Sam did. Dean did grow up fast, and support both his family members, but that was his personality. I think John saw a lot of Mary in Dean that's why he leaned on Dean as much as he did. True, it was too bad John didn't acknowledge that sooner for Dean...But really would it have mattered? Dean still would have loved his family unconditionally.

Dean saw two sides of John...somethin g Sam never did. As you said, we can imagine a very warm and loving father in John before Mary died. He would have been very supportive of Dean which is why Dean came to idolize his dad so much. Then John became the man Sam knew. Dean never forgot the loving father, the one he learned to idolize and look up too, and Sam only knew the bitter one. John was right…Dean is someone to be very proud of. It’s too bad, Sam never saw the John Dean did. Would have made life much easier for both boys, but wasn’t in Azazel’s plan.

I think it very admirable how much Dean idolized his father, however misguided it seems at time, because it attested to the fact that John really was a good man. Had the family remained intact, I think John would have been a good man for both boys to look up too.

I like to think in the end, Sam did sort of see the real John... But who knows.

And yes…in Scarecrow, Dean and indeed Sam agreed, way back then, that Sam had to live his own life… an idea I’m sure Dean had given to Sam many times before. Sam could leave at any time...and has more than once. That’s why Sam could leave to go to college, Dean gave him the confidence to do so. I think Dean stayed with John because he knew dad needed him too.
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-15 10:40
Holy shit, this was bloody lovely.

I think Mary, in her own way, did what any parent would do and tried to protect her family and, after her death, John vowed to not make the same 'mistake,' (how many of us would have kept our mouth shut, too?) and let their children in on what's really going on, though again, like any parent, he doesn't tell them everything until he realizes that it's absolutely necessary (with some successful cajoling from his sons), for he knows he likely doesn't have much longer on this earth.

In a way, that's Mary and John's legacy bequeathed to their children, not merely the cunning and the skills, but their humanity. With a side of fucked-up, of course.

Oh, right before "The Family Grows," the text turns from white to black. Quite possibly it's just my computer.
trina
# trina 2009-12-15 10:55
Great article, but I have to disagree with one point (or, as you said, hypothesis). I thought it had been pretty well established, if not said out loud, that Dean sided with his Dad in regards to Sam going to college. I just don't think he encouraged him to go. From Sam's POV Dean never disagreed with his father. Dean was very much about "the family business" and he wanted Sam to be a part of that.

In regards to Sam and John being very much alike, in "In the Beginning" we met a John, who despite being a well-trained marine who had been to war, retained an almost innocent optimism. That reminded me of season 1 and 2 Sam. In John's case, it was Mary's death that changed him. For Sam, the cracks started to show with Dean's deal , while Dean's actual death blew apart what was left. We then are left with Season 4 Sam who can give Adam the "no connections" speech and tells Jimmy that one of his options is suicide.
Ardeospina
# Ardeospina 2009-12-15 21:03
Wow, really cool article, Jasminka. I love it when you do these deep analysis articles because you point out things I never even think about and never would because I don't have the training you do. And I love your idea that Dean was the one who gave Sam the confidence to leave for Stanford. Love it! Keep up the great work!
Suze
# Suze 2009-12-16 05:55
I know there's a lot to be said for Big John and lots of reasons for him to have behaved as he did and as a parent I should have more sympathy with his goings-on but I can't stand him. I feel like growling every time he shows up ...
vana naine
# vana naine 2009-12-16 09:49
John is the character I like to dislike. Actually I'm able to see his reasons and humanity and to feel for him, but as I'm not a big fan of military, I dislike his methods and priorities in life equally.
(JDM is wonderful actor, tho.)

I have to admit that sometimes I get tired of brothers daddy-issues in Supernatural, because they (or at least Dean) seem to have at least same amount of mommy-issues (making his mother a saint in one's mind for 20 years will do that) that show handles rather lightly. I mean - why is Dean so clearly unable to have long-term relationship with a woman etc? Mary is Virgin Mary and Holy Mother of God for them, still, in spite of her deal and everything.
Of course, show has dealt with mommy-issues also, but when problems with father are reminded practically all the time, problems with mother (- or the lack of the mother) are stand-alone matter. Now you see them - now you don't.
Hypothesis: this stuff that some fans are complaining about, the lack of powerful women in myth-arc - maybe it is silent way to remind us those mommy-problems?
You know, in Winchester's world women actually ARE either victims, sex-objects or evil creatures.
Sam had normal relationship with normal woman, but it was long time ago and she became a victim then. Pretty much all the women in Dean's life have fallen in one of those categories. No wonder he saw Ruby as an evil creature so clearly.
Sam, on the other hand, is too trusting, looking for his mother in every female he meets.
Probably because brothers never had a woman constantly in their lives, they cannot connect with them normally. And maybe they will never be able to connect with them normally.

Sorry, got carried away. Daddy-issues always bring out my love for mothers as non-saints =)

This article is once again very clear, logical and well-written. Thank you!
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-16 10:38
Man, all the John hate. I loved the character. As a dad, would I have made the exact same choices he did? Perhaps not, but 1)I'm not his shoes facing things on a daily basis that want to kill you bloody and 2)I'm far from a military man.

As for the issue of women, the fact that there wasn't a strong female role model is certainly a large part of ongoing difficulties, but there have been strong women that have done the give-and-take with them. Technically, victims? Sure, but the entire civilian population technically is.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-16 18:44
Sablegreen, Randal, trina, Ardeospina, Suze and vava naine, wow, what interesting comments. Thank you for taking the time to look at my piece here and comment in such an elaborate manner. I guess we all are pretty busy these days (well, I am, I might be generalizing).

Sablegreen, it’s indeed sad that Sam never met Papa Winchester before Azazel decided to pin Mary to his nursery’s ceiling. I hope for Dean that he has some memories of that time, when everything seemed alright and life was looking good. The difference between the John we meet in those first scenes of the pilot and the hunter we encounter later is striking. The destruction of this family (hell, of any family) always moves me to the core – so many great traits they had (brains, beauty, balls, brawn, forgive me, I’m a sucker for alliterations) went into hunting and revenge. It’s a blessing, though, that Sam and Dean managed to come out as essentially good men, despite all the darkness that keeps crossing their path (and their souls).

Randal, thanks so much, I agree, protection of their family was the first item of Mary’s and John’s to-do-list. The way they tried to do it was not really the best path, but then again, how should they have known. I haven’t seen a crystal ball in their bags…
I guess, I would have issues with John, if he was a real guy, as I sometimes feel reminded of the relationship I had with my mother. We both are/were (how do you say that when one part of the pair is no longer here?) very passionate people, and, well, I’ve said that before, we hardly made prisoners when we fought, not unlike Sam and John.
It would be easy to declare him a total failure as a father, but you’re right – you cannot judge a man (or woman) if you’re not in their shoes. Well, I seem to be a person who doesn’t choose the easy path. I’m trying to see what John did for the brothers, not only what he failed to do. I hope that came across. Perhaps it’s a psycho-thing, you know the whole half-full vs. half-empty glass idea.

Trina, you’re right, it was said that Dean reproached Sam for leaving the family business. However, judging from Dean’s nature and his love for his brother, he surely would not have tried to force Sam to stay with the family if Sam was going to be unhappy; he would have urged Sam to pursue his own life, even though it hurt Dean.

Ardeospina, what a beautiful pen-name. I’m happy you find so much in my writing. I guess my job does have its perks, and I’m glad to be able to bring some of my experience across and actually touch someone. Thanks.

Suze, there’s nothing wrong with not being able to stand John. I guess some people love him, some don’t. That’s okay, really. Some people like me, others don’t like me. So what… It’s also human.

Vava naine, the theme of sons having problems with their mother being anything else but a saint is old, and it occurs in many stories and plays – take Hamlet, for instance, he isn’t able to deal with his mother’s new marriage (and sexuality). And I guess Freud would have some fun watching this show. It’s not essential, though, for a man to have lived with a woman (in this case a mother) to be able to have a relationship with one.

I disagree with your assumption that all women here were ‘victims, sex-object or evil creatures’ – there are others as well. I wouldn’t classify Pamela as victim, neither Ellen and Jo. And there were Sarah and Madison (she had to die, but she was never a victim, here, if anything, she was a survivor. But survivors die, too), and also Cassie, Missouri. Strong women.

As I said, thanks so much for commenting. Take care, Jas
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-17 12:41
Jas, the brothers, even Dean, theoretically his biggest fan, knows he was flawed; said so himself TO Sam and to his shadow self in dream. But given the circumstances, he did alright. He taught them to survive in this shithole of a Supernatural world, and I can't think of anything more loving. There's a reason Mary didn't tell any of them.

And you're right, passionate people are going to butt heads and those that aren't on that level might be rubbed the wrong way. If we were all the same, yikes.
Suze
# Suze 2009-12-17 13:57
I don't dislike Big J because he said nasty things to poor ickle Sammy-poos, I dislike him because he's a grumpy, obsessive, humourless control freak, but you're right, that doesn't make him a bad person as such.
Anyway, I enjoy disliking him. It does me good to have a few hate figures about the place. If you love all your heroes unconditionally it all gets a bit sickly. Not that we have much truck with unconditional love in the SPN fanverse, spending hours of our cruelly finite lives pulling them to pieces ...

Jas, you missed one ... There's glass half empty, glass half full and my personal favorite ... Glass too small.
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-17 15:30
Oh no, don't get me wrong, I'm not defending John as the exemplar of all things good and proper when it comes to parenting, merely that I understand why he did what he did. Believe me, I'd much rather do shots with Dean.

I've got my share of hate. 8-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-17 15:41
Randal, yes, John did what he considered to be right. He loved his sons, he loved his wife... he just should have perhaps made that fact a bit clearer once in a while. I think it’s easy to understand why he did what he did and not agreeing with his position. Once does not exclude the other. How often do I deal with a person whose motives I understand, but would not approve in my private life…. Don’t worry, we all know that John was not the poster-boy for ‘Parenthood’.

I don’t have kids, yet, but I notice how protective I am with people I love, especially the kids of friends. When I’ll have kids of my own, should fate grant me some, I guess I’ll become just a lioness as I’ve seen other mothers (and my own) be. When we love someone, I guess there is hardly any limit to what we might do to protect them, isn’t there?
And, well, as for the passionate butting of heads – isn’t it great that you can actually be at each others’ throats and love each other just as much.., as sick as that might sound, really…
Best, Jas
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-17 15:43
Suze, crazy gal, I love you! Never shut up. Might a glass be too big, also?

:lol: :lol: :lol:, Jas
Suze
# Suze 2009-12-17 19:02
Nah ... Just some left for later! ;-) ( actually, scratch that as it's gross and makes me sound like a total alkie ... )
Ardeospina
# Ardeospina 2009-12-17 23:07
@ Jasminka:

You're welcome! As a fledgling writer myself, I know how great it is to get positive feedback when someone appreciates your work, so I'm not shy about piping up with the kudos! Your work, and all the writers on this site, for that matter, is greatly appreciated!

And thanks for the pen-name comment. I started using this handle years ago and grabbed it from two words in a Latin dictionary. That was before I learned Latin, though, so I thought it meant one thing when it means something totally different, but hey, it's mine now! That's probably more than you wanted to know, though. ;-)
Karen
# Karen 2009-12-17 23:59
Hi Jasminka
A great article.
Definitely a intriguing and a soul searching topic.
John Winchester definitely wouldn’t make father of the year in my books. But I don’t hate him either. I feel bad for him
It’s a hell of a way to find out that a supernatural world exist.
Unfortunately he let his grief and obsession take over his better judgment.
I believe his military background helped aswell.
As soon as he became aware of the truth, he had declared war on this unknown entity.
This had become a mission and it wasn’t going end until he found the enemy and killed it.

As for Adam having John being a real father to him. I don’t believe John had a choice.
Where John had become Sam and Deans only parent and made all the decisions.
Adam had his Mother who was the sole guardian. She called all the shots and made all the decisions. I don’t believe she knew the truth about John’s livelihood. So John had to act and do things like a real father. I’m not denying that John enjoyed the opportunity, but I’m sure he must of felt guilty. After all he had admitted to both sons that he made mistakes and I believe he was sincere.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-18 09:05
Karen, Ardeospina and Suze – hey, thanks!!

Karen, I, too, believe that John was genuinely sorry for his mistakes. I guess at the time he made his decisions he believed he had no other choice. Thank you for your appreciative words.

Ardeospina, ramble on as much as you like. This site gets even richer when we hear the occasional personal story. We are indeed a colorful bunch here.

Suze, okay it is scratched.

Blessed be everyone, Jas
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-20 17:23
Ooops, ThatChickLiz, there you go – you read an article over and over and still something escapes you… thanks for noticing that typo! And - thank you. Jas
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-21 11:46
Well, Alice, it happens to the best of us
8-);jas
Dany
# Dany 2009-12-30 07:50
Wonderful article Jas! Loved your point of view about John.

I never have any doubts that John loved his sons, but when it came to be a parent his skills sucked big time! while grieving for Mary and finding out the true about the supernatural world he let his military self take over (don't really know how conscious that choice was) and completely forgot that he had two little sons (who had lost their mother and where too young to understand why or how that happened) to take care and to live for and not soldiers to train. And it "only" took him the realization that Dean was going to die and a deal with the demon that ruin his family life to realize that. One should wonder if things would be different is he had realized that earlier.

Anyway, I'm not John's big fan but I admit that in the middle of all the bad choices and wrong things he has done he must have done something good because Dean and Sam turn out to be such an amazing young men!