More Daddy Issues and ‘What About Teh Gays?’
This piece is a response to a Tumblr post that said that Dean was feminized, “symbolically castrated,” by being the nurturer and caregiver in the family, and that made him fear women and intimacy. The post also talked about how every homosexual relationship in the series was shown as a joke or in a negative light. Below is my response, which is also a bit of companion piece to the Daddy Issues post about Sam and Dean.
I really have to take issue with the assertion that Dean is ‘symbolically castrated’ and feminized by taking on the role of nurturer in the family because it suggests that it is both unnatural and damaging to a boy’s sexual development (which plays right into the patriarchal position). Is Dean put in a position of servitude? Sure, in every way. He is John’s foot soldier.
“Dean was Sam’s mother and John’s wife/servant. Dean was forced to fill the void his mother’s loss left, which made it impossible for him to mourn, but also created, in his mind, a connection between females and servitude due to the submissive position he’d been placed in.”
This assumes that Dean understands and associates himself with being ‘the mom’ which I’m not convinced of. I think a much bigger influence here is Dean’s hero worship of John the uber macho, Marine who I’m sure drilled into the boys all those old saws about boys being tough, not crying, not showing emotion, etc. If you look at Dean as an adult he is very much like John. He has the same way of dealing with emotion — push it down and drink. When he’s angry with Sam, he punches him, and we can’t forget his mimicking John when he tells Sam that if he walks out the door, not to come back. He associates so strongly with John that he wears his jacket, listens to his music, and drives his car.
I don’t think that Sam always treated John like a hated stepfather. In eps where we see Sam as a kid, he loved his dad and wanted to have him around, but he saw early on that John wasn’t a dependable father and resented it. Sam’s behavior as a teenager was completely natural. He tried to separate from his parental figures to become an independent individual. Dean didn’t. Dean remained tied to his dad. Even when he went off hunting on his own, he continued taking orders. Rather than feminized, I see Dean as still being in a childlike position. I don’t think Sam is saying, ‘You aren’t my dad.’ I think he’s saying that John doesn’t deserve his unquestioning obedience, and he doesn’t think he deserves Dean’s either. Sam sees himself and Dean as adults who deserve to be let in on the truth, but Dean remains the obedient child, the good soldier.
Dean’s relationship with his dad certainly stunts his emotional growth. Dean lost his mom, and he’s so afraid of losing his father that he will do anything – even risk his relationship with Sam and his own life to please his father. John remains completely oblivious to the damage he does to Dean through the constant unwarranted criticism. I think he actually respects Sam more for having some rebellion in him.
But here’s my conundrum the above argument. It argues that Sam can show affection because he was raised by Dean, but Dean can’t because he was raised by John. This seems to ignore the fact that Dean had to have been affectionate with Sam in order for Sam to be affectionate. I do think he was affectionate with Sam, and his natural instinct is for him to continue that. However, it’s that lesson that John taught about how real men behave that makes him hold back and causes him to make gay jokes, etc. There are too many ways to enumerate that John twisted Dean’s nature and fucked him up. This is just one.
I don’t think that Dean is ‘disgusted’ by gay people. His reaction to the gay couple that RP him and Sam is one of surprise certainly, but if there’s any distaste I think it is more because two gay guys are pretending to be him and his brother than because they are gay. Does he make gay jokes? Yes. Does he use put feminine put downs against his little brother? Yes. Unfortunately, it’s pretty common for brothers to torment one another that way. Even when confronted by a dom bear, The Chief, in Criss Angel is a Douchebag, Dean’s reaction is more one of surprise than disgust as is his reaction when the vampire calls him ‘pretty.’
[Now I do think that Dean’s appearance plays into his discomfort in these situations. This is completely head canon, but I think Dean was ‘pretty’ as a teen, and that affected both how John and other boys/men treated him. He’s worked twice as hard to be tough because he didn’t look tough. Imagine being the new kid and school and looking like that. (Sorry, I don’t buy the Brock Kelly look. To me, Dean looked like teenaged Jensen.)]
And I just don’t see that Dean has a fear of women and intimacy. He obviously likes women and makes at least two attempts at serious relationships with them, but let’s face it, his lifestyle doesn’t really lend itself to long-term relationships. When he tells Cassie about his life, she thinks he’s crazy, and by the time Sam presses him to go to Lisa, it’s really too late. He hooks up at every opportunity to apparent success but doesn’t have much opportunity for ‘intimacy.’ Sam fairs no better, but that’s a whole other post.
I’m not going to go deeply into the Destiel issue. The show established that outsiders frequently view Sam and Dean as a gay couple. Initially, that was done to show their unnaturally close relationship and became fan service. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but the Destiel moments are nothing more than that to me. What I usually see in Dean’s interactions with Castiel is either bafflement or annoyance, sometimes even anger. I just don’t see the sexual tension on Dean’s part. Is Cas in love with Dean? Perhaps. Is it sexual? I think Cas has shown pretty clearly that he doesn’t even get what that is. That Dean treats him like a child when he gets a hard on is actually appropriate, for god’s sake.
Furthermore, Dean was established as a heterosexual character, and it would strange to suddenly have him at 32, come out as gay. For me what keeps him and Cas apart is that Dean is straight and Cas is freaking clueless. He’s a non-sexual being in a sexually responsive human body. He is a child when it comes to sex, and the more I think about it the more squicked I actually am about them having sex — more than I would be by him and Sam having sex because at least Sam is a consenting adult on the issue. And much as I like Wincest, I know it will not happen. Not because the writers are homophobic, but because Sam and Dean are both straight.
I don’t see the humorous moments in The Real Ghostbusters as homophobic nor do I in some of the other moments that have been cited by some fans. Sometimes the humor actually works to undercut homophobia, I think. Of course, it’s a matter of interpretation, and where some people may see the scene poking fun at homophobia, as I do, other’s may see the scene as supporting homophobia.