ashkiryn: (adorable dean winchester)
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Chapter One:

It Began with a Hook Man, with a Brief Stop Over Into Playthings, and References to Something Wicked (and the lovely parenting skills of one John Winchester).

Spoiler Warning: The following meta assumes the reader has knowledge of Supernatural canon up to the current season (8), with specific attention paid to the episodes "Hook Man", "Playthings", and "Something Wicked".

(Look at me, being all professional and shit.)


Unoriginal cut is unoriginal. But anyway.


So, a few weeks ago, I was having a discussion with my friends Kathy and Conrad about how excited I was that Supernatural was pretty much openly acknowledging Dean Winchester as bisexual, or at the very least strongly hinting that he was finally coming out of his bisexual closet (amongst other closets, to be sure). Kathy, having watched most of the show, but not being quite as avid a fan as I am, questioned how shoe-horned in this bisexuality was, and how far back in the seasons the show writers started dropping hints towards a, shall we say, alternate interpretation of Dean’s seemingly clear sexuality. I reassured her that hints towards Dean’s (repressed) bisexuality are not new to just the current season (8), but that they’ve been around since the beginning of the character’s conception—Dean Winchester being, after all, based on the bisexual Dean Moriarty from the novel On the Road (and the novel in general being a huge inspiration for creator Eric Kripke). Big hints were definitely dropped in season 2, specifically the episode “Playthings”, I told her.

Early indeed. But it niggled at me somewhat, that I couldn’t think of any instances in season 1, or that no one else in the wide Supernatural meta community had mined the beginning season for hints of repressed bisexuality in Dean, especially in meta that was written entirely about Dean’s sexuality. I let it go and not really bother me, because after all, the show isn’t about Dean the Repressed Bisexual, or the Dean the Super Totes Straight Guy—this show is about Dean and Sam and their complicated relationship, and ultimately is a rumination on what family means, with a bit of free will vs. destiny thrown in as well.

Which, really, is part of why Dean Winchester is a perfect character to be a queer icon in the first place—his character isn’t defined by his sexuality into being the Token Gay. Instead, it’s a part of what makes him who he is, an experience that shapes him—but he isn’t defined by it. Queer sexuality in Dean Winchester would just be a part and parcel in the whole package of his painfully real and human characterization, which is what queer representation is all about. For queer people to see themselves as just being people in popular media, a subversion of a stereotype instead of an avalanche of pigeonholes.

But I resolved in the back of my mind to pay attention and keep an eye out as I went through and re-watched the series, starting of course in season 1.

And lo and behold, I came upon 1x7, “Hook Man”, which included a scene that made me sit up a little and go, “Huh.”

Alright, now this episode is mostly forgettable to me, and so it seems, to most other people as well. Understandable enough—it’s not “Pilot” and captivating our attention, it isn’t “Dead in the Water” and the beginning of Dean being adorable with all children ever, or “Faith” that makes people fawn all over it in hindsight, or the plot heavy ones like “Salvation” and “Devil’s Trap”, or our first introduction to the “wee!chesters” like in “Something Wicked”, or episodes with infamous character introductions like “Scarecrow” (for Meg) or “Hell House” (the Ghostfacers)…hell, it isn’t even a lore/world-building episode like “Phantom Traveler” was for demons. It sure as fuck isn’t remembered as feeding our angsty Winchester feels like “Asylum” is. No, “Hook Man” is the quintessential ‘filler’ episode, and honestly, that’s why a scene like the one I noticed works in it so well, because this is the episode where we take a breather and stop to smell the roses that is our Winchester boys’ character developments.

You know, the little things. The episode is mostly Sam-centric, and we get to spend some time seeing how he copes with the first love interest he’s had since Jessica, as well as spending time on the first college campus he’s been on since Stanford (and interestingly, right after an episode featuring Sam’s Stanford friends).

So, let me describe the Scene to you. Dean and Sam are investigating this college frat boy’s unusual death, and naturally begin their investigation by going to said frat boy’s fraternity house to question his frat brothers/roommates. Guy outside the house is working on a car, Dean approaches and engages by saying, “Nice wheels.” Guy assesses them, prompting the cover aliases of Dean and Sam being new frat brothers in town, looking for a place to stay. Cut to a scene inside the house with the president of the fraternity, prepping for a football game or rally of some kind in front of a mirror, smearing on blue face paint and stuff. He’s shirtless, and requests that Dean paint his back. Dean pauses for a moment, then deflects, saying that Sam’s the artist; Sam bitchfaces Dean, and stiffly follows along with his brother’s directive and paints the guy’s back as they question him about the victim. They learn the victim was dating “hot” Lori Sorenson, a reverend’s daughter, and then the Winchesters skedaddle.

Okay. So, let’s take a step back and examine this a bit, shall we?

See, it peaked my attention, but I wasn’t really sure if this scene could really count as a hint towards Dean’s repressed bisexuality and internalized self-homophobia/effemiphobia. I mean, it violates some guys’ Man Codes or whatever for guys to touch other guys, especially straight guys, and especially while shirtless.

Right?

Hmm. Until you look a bit deeper.

This location is pretty much established right from the get-go as a fraternity. Masculine dudebro things are going on all over the place—guys are fixing cars outside, football and sport prep and what’s basically war paint is going on inside, they’re discussing smokin’ hot chicks. It’s (stereo)typical, and our society’s ingrained Heterosexism informs us that the frat members are all probably straight, and in good heterosexist fashion, will assume that everyone else is too.

So therefore, in this completely masculine dudebro environment, with another couple of dudebros accepted into the brotherhood, it’s perfectly okay for the president to ask Dean to slather blue paint onto the bare skin of his back. We’re all bros here, man, and nobody’s going to think anything of it.

Except Dean, uncomfortable, does what he always does when he’s uncomfortable with something hitting too close to home, and deflects onto Sam.

But wait. Why is Dean uncomfortable? Heterosexism, the most probable guiding and operating system here, dictates that we’re all straight guys, and there’s nothing wrong with a straight guy putting war paint onto other straight guy’s back. Therefore, straight guy!Dean has nothing to worry about, because this is a perfectly masculine tradition going on here.

But Dean’s still uncomfortable, and if anything, makes himself the odd one out by not participating in the dudebro rituals going on. So what’s going on with Dean?

Let’s take a moment to think ahead a bit, to “Playthings” and the most egregious example of Dean’s behavior here in “Hook Man”, and what basically became the Batman signal flashing in the sky for people who engage in reading queer subtext. In “Playthings”, in response to Dean’s complaints about being perceived as gay, Sam tells Dean that Dean is “pretty butch”, and “People probably think you’re overcompensating,” to which Dean reacts with real, legit fear. And then he gets back at Sam by making a vehement deal about Sam having a doll collection, in what’s basically a desperate attempt to reassert his own masculinity to himself and deflect the gay stereotypes onto Sam instead.

Because that’s what Dean does. When something hits too close to home for him, Dean lashes out. When people try to pry into his emotional state, he deflects the conversation onto them instead. And by virtue of basically living in Dean’s pocket, the person that gets the brunt of these lashings out and deflections is, of course, Sam.

Back to “Hook Man”. As I’ve pointed out, if Dean was as straight as he clearly wants to be, he would have had no problem painting that guy’s back—certainly the guy in question didn’t think it was a weird thing to ask (and again, heterosexism teaches us that people are straight until proven gay). It would have just been a bro helping a bro out. No big deal.

But it is a big deal to Dean. It’s actually something that really freaks Dean out, and so he deflects it onto Sam instead. Sam, who makes a face but goes along with it, just as he will do in “Playthings” and pretending to have a doll collection.

Putting the “repressed bisexual” lens over it makes this scene make a whole lot more sense. Because I don’t think Dean is homophobic at all—at least, not when it comes to other people. Live well and prosper, he might say. But when it’s applied to himself? I think Dean is very, very afraid of being gay, feminine, or weak—which, according to his father’s hyper-masculine world-view, are all synonyms of each other. If Dean is bisexual, he represses the ever-living fuck out of it, because there’s an extremely good chance that John is homophobic—this is regarded as fact if you accept a queer reading of Dean’s character. I mean, Dean represses so much of his own personality, desires, dreams, opinions, and emotions, all in a desperate attempt to please his father, to be the man he thinks his father wants him to be. Why would his sexuality be any different?

And let’s recall that the idea of failing John is traumatically etched into Dean’s psyche: “Something Wicked” shows us that Dean basically absorbed the message, “Obey me absolutely or else your brother will die.” And Dean has taken that completely to heart.

So of course, if you’re Dean Winchester and you’re repressing even the most faint and remote attraction to guys so far into the closet that you’ve basically imploded Narnia and caused a grade-A apocalypse, you probably wouldn’t take any chances. You wouldn’t even feel safe touching another guy in this dudebro environment even when given permission by the guy in question. After all, what if they can tell? Maybe you’re not necessarily attracted to this guy, but what if, what if, what if? What if you don’t touch and paint him like a straight guy’s supposed to? What if you seem even remotely gay? What would Sam think?

Trust me. When you’re afraid of people judging you, and you have low self-esteem, and acknowledge in the darkest recesses of your mind that maybe there is indeed something they should judge you for, that kind of paranoid fear and anxiety is lethal. You’re literally afraid almost to the point of irrationality, utterly paranoid that everyone is watching you, and everyone can tell just from looking at you what you’re so desperately trying to keep hidden and not even think about.

And as is Dean’s wont, he sidesteps away from that getting anymore under his armor than it already has, and deflects his uncomfortable situation onto Sam.

Hindsight, of course, grants much clearer vision in seeing this scene for what it is. But if someone asks me again when the earliest hints of the possibility of Dean’s being a repressed bisexual happened? I’m going to point them to “Hook Man”.






Alrighty then, that's a wrap for now. I may post more "chapters" of these as I come across them in my re-watch, who knows. *shrugs*

Date: 2016-11-03 11:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sarah wilson (from livejournal.com)
Totally makes sense now that I think about it. I remember being in my sewing classes in like tenth grade or so and having one of the girls ask me to help them with a fitting or something and just feeling so uncomfortable. Like i just want to help you hem your skirt, not thinking along any sexual lines at all, you're not even my type, but what if I touch you and you just know. I was so afraid to be around other girls because girls especially are so open with touching each other. "Help me zip up my dress." "Hold still, there's an eyelash on your cheek." What if some girl asked me to help her in a way that involved even the most innocent touching, and she could sense it, and was freaked out that I had touched her. I lived this fear, and I didn't even notice it in Dean the first time around.

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December 2015

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