Dean takes this belief to extremes. When his brother dies, and Dean failed to protect him like he promised his father he would, when his life’s meaning has been taken away, he trades his life for Sam’s. When the apocalypse starts, he takes the fate of the entire human race onto his shoulders. Not just because he’s told it rests there, but because that’s who he is.
One of the most poignant moments in the show is in the episode “Sam, Interrupted,” when Dean’s doctor in the psych ward asks how he can get up in the morning with that weight on him. He just does. And that’s why we love him so much.
Dean’s sense of self-worth has been twisted by this extreme loyalty. Family and all the people who will die if they don’t save them have become so important, Dean’s own worth has been diminished. He’s become secondary to everyone else, in his own eyes. This makes us want to show him how loved he is, how lovable. A hero who doesn’t take anything for himself? Who eschews relationships that could enrich his life because he doesn’t want to hurt the other person, something he considers inevitable? That loneliness is emotional crack to us. We love him, unconditionally and undemandingly. That’s the kind of love that heals, right?
I’m sure I’m not the only woman who has fantasized about being Dean’s support, the one who holds him up when his weight gets too heavy, who soothes and comforts. Who’s with me? :)
Can you think of other heroes, fictional or not, who are driven by loyalty? Every commenter goes into a random drawing for a $25 gift card to B&N. Even better (or more fun, anyway), all of the heroes you mention will be added to the showdown at the end of the month. (I confess, I’m rooting for Dean to win!)
Check out Fight or Flight, my March release from Carina Press.
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