Obsessing on Supernatural: As Promised, My Theory on Winchester Preference
As most of you know, I’m a little on the obsessive side, particularly when it comes to Supernatural. So, it shouldn’t be a really huge surprise that I’ve spent waaaay too much time thinking about this idea and this show. (Have to do something when I’m not writing!)
That being said, my only examples are from my own family (which I describe below), so I’m interested to hear your take on things as well! (By the way, there are spoilers through Season 5 but no Season 6 stuff in this blog post, just so you know.) And if you’re not a Supernatural fan, please feel free to skip this entry. You’re not going to miss anything Alona and Will related, I promise! 🙂
I’m a relative newcomer to the Supernatural fandom, but it doesn’t take long to see that people are very passionate about the show in general and also, usually, about one brother over the other.
To be clear, I’m not talking about which Winchester is more attractive–frankly, they’re both hot enough to cause corneal damage if you look at them for too long. 🙂 It’s not even always about who you agree with in whatever argument they’re currently having. I can often understand where my non-preferred Winchester is coming from, even as I hate what he’s saying/doing. I can also see it when my preferred Winchester is f*cking up big time, but it doesn’t change how I feel about him.
I believe brother preference is, at its core, about sympathy/empathy for that character rather than right or wrong or even logic. When the brothers are lashing out at each other, whether with words or fists or both (like when Dean uses John’s words on Sam, “If you walk out that door, don’t ever come back.” ACK!), who does your heart break for? Who do you want to hug and say, “It’ll be okay?”
That’s what I’m interested in. Both are flawed people–hell, that’s probably one of the reasons we love them so much. They are so broken and we want to fix them, or help them as they try to fix whatever is wrong themselves. One is not more broken than the other. They are just broken in different ways.
But we still make our choice. We ally ourselves with Sam or Dean, in a manner, I think, that has nothing to do with whether they’re right or wrong or even if we, in that given situation, would make the same choice.
Why? My pet theory is that it has something to do with birth order (whether you’re the oldest, youngest, middle or only child). Which makes sense to me as this show is way more about family than it is about vampires, werewolves, and wendigos. But I don’t think it’s birth order operating in the way one might expect. (A quick summary from Wikipedia on the theory behind birth order for those who aren’t familiar.)
I’ll explain, but first, a little background…
I started contemplating all of this because of conversations with my younger sister, who incidentally is the one who introduced me to Supernatural. As with anything–books, tv, movies–we view the Winchester family through the lens of our own life experience. I’m the oldest of three. I have a brother who is almost four years younger, and my sister is thirteen years younger than I am.
The key relationship in this case is the one I have with my sister. People who meet one of us first and then the other are shocked at how similar we are, even with the huge age gap. There are physical similarities, of course–our parents can’t tell us apart on the phone–but I’m told it’s more in mannerisms, how we express ourselves, and even our opinions. We finish each other’s sentences or say things at the same time ALL the time. She chose the same college I did, even the same major. NOT because I did those things, but just because we are very much alike. This is a little surprising to most people, even our parents, given that she was only four when I left for college.
But when she was little, she was often left in my care (hello, thirteen year old in the family is cheap labor–free babysitting). I changed diapers, gave baths, fed her jars of Gerber baby food, and put her to bed. I taught her how to tie her shoes, and I’m the one who witnessed her first steps (she was trying to reach me as I was dancing around the room to a Paula Abdul video–yes, it was 1989.)
I didn’t mind being responsible for her. It was fun to teach her stuff, usually the things she wasn’t supposed to know. She could identify Madonna and Janet Jackson on the radio (again, 1989!) when she was, like, two. Most kids were listening to Barney tapes. In another classic example, she asked my mom what a prostitute was, after I’d watched Pretty Woman (my favorite movie at the time) with her in the room. I’d thought she was too young to understand. (And yes, I got in trouble, but it was funny to see my mom try to answer that one.)
As she got older, though, I figured out I had to back off on being responsible for her or she was going to hate me. She already had parents; she needed a sister. So, instead of asking her about whether she’d gotten her homework done, I asked if there were any cute boys in her class. 🙂
Now, as a college senior, she is a completely awesome person, one of my best friends, and someone I am proud to know.
I promise, I’m bringing this back around to Supernatural right now…
When I finally got into Supernatural (this is one where she beat me to the punch in being a fan), we started talking about it. It became very clear, almost instantly, that despite our similarities in so many other areas, we were on opposite sides of the Winchester fence. 🙂 And, like so many other fans, we are fiercely loyal to our brother of choice and unable to understand WHY the other doesn’t agree.
And I think it surprised us both. Not simply because we don’t agree–that can and does happen, though not often (we are both Ryan Atwood girls all the way, for example)–but more because of WHICH brother we each prefer.
I’m the oldest with the youngest left in my care. I’m not the rebel. I’m the one trying to keep the parents happy, if I can. Who does that sound like?
Yeah…except I’m 100% in Sam Winchester’s court, every single time.
And my sister? The youngest, the one who is, in my opinion, braver than me, more likely to strike out on her own? She favors Dean. All the way.
This completely befuddled us, until I started really thinking about it.
I like Dean. I do. He’s funny, sarcastic, and painfully aware of his responsibilities to his family and the world. That being said, I find myself angry with his character. A LOT.
Have you ever had to watch someone make mistakes you’ve made? I can see Dean driving Sam away. I cringe when he’s yelling at Sam for one of his many instances of poor judgment. Dean’s often so focused on that parental-like, “I’m responsible for you” aspect that he can’t see Sam as a person, as someone who is trying so hard with impossible standards as his guide.
My sister, on the other hand, is completely exasperated by Sam’s stupid mistakes. And she doesn’t blame Dean in the least for getting angry with him, even when Sam’s intentions are good.
So, I wonder then if I identify with Dean too much to be comfortable with him. I wonder if oldest children see their own flaws (as they perceive them) in Dean and youngest see theirs in Sam.
In other words, the role we play in our own family affects how we relate to this fictional one. Perhaps we judge the brother in our role more harshly because we have been there. I can’t be on Dean’s side because, gah, I’ve made those mistakes or similar ones. I want him to be smarter or better than me. With Sam, I don’t have that issue. I can view him with sympathy and without that same kind of prejudice.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments. Tell me your Winchester of choice and whether you’re a oldest, youngest, middle or only. (For the record, I’m guessing only children will resemble oldests in their brother choice. Not sure about middles.)
And yes, I know. I think about this way too much. 🙂