Friday, March 11, 2011

The Heartbreak of Dean

This week’s trait is really several similar or related traits: loyalty/patriotism/dedication to “doing the right thing.” There’s a subtle difference between these and responsibility. Responsibility is a personal obligation, a sense of duty. Loyalty and patriotism run deeper and fiercer, I think.

Take Dean Winchester of Supernatural. This is a guy raised from the age of 4 on the idea that family is everything. Every choice he makes is based on that core value. He doggedly follows his father’s every order, dedicates himself to his father’s predication that the world needs them to hunt evil and protect everyone from monsters like the one that killed Dean’s mother.

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.

I guess that's what I do, I let down the people I love. I let dad down. And now, I guess I'm supposed to let you down, too. How can I? How am I supposed to live with that? What am I supposed to do, Sammy? ... What am I supposed to do?

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!)
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Norah Wilson said...

Oh, I knew this was coming! I've been sitting here looking at the news from Japan and feeling very emotional. Then I read this and it put me over the edge. Your analysis is right on, Natalie. Dean breaks my heart for all of those reasons.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Yeah, fictional heroes are pretty superficial in the face of what's happening today. But when we need a distraction, Dean's a damned good one. :)

Thanks for the compliment on my analysis!

Anonymous said...

That amount of loayalty shows the greatest capacity for love you can find. He feels so deeply for the entire human race that he puts their needs above his own and this is what makes him so iconic. And yeah, you're not the only one who wants to soothe his aching heart. *Swoon* :)

Norah Wilson said...

Yep, right there wanting to soothe that aching heart. ,-)

But I had another thought about the show. The writers are brilliant at taking these heroic strengths and turning them into the boys' biggest weaknesses. Diabolical.

Jody W. and Meankitty said...

Well if you INSIST that I take Dean, I guess I can. :)

My sister named her cats after the Winchester brothers, btw. Nonsequitor.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

We'll have to take turns! LOL

You're absolutely right, Norah. That's true of both brothers, actually. Making a strength into a flaw. That's part of why I love the writing on this show so much!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

This reminds me of one of your earlier heroes, John McClane. In Live Free or Die Hard, he's 'that guy', the one who does what has to be done because if he doesn't who will?
Dean does break my heart but no matter how cute he is, I wouldn't want to try and comfort him. Too many pschological demons living in that handsome head.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

You're right, they are similar. Dean takes it to a whole new level, though. :) John deals with what's in front of him. Dean goes searching for the next thing to defeat, the next person or family to save.

Jody W. and Meankitty said...

I commented on this and the comment appears to be gone. You TOTALLY deleted it, I know you did.

Megan Kelly said...

I love Dean and I'm glad to hear others appreciate him too. He's not just a bad boy, he's vulnerable BECAUSE of his strength of purpose. Doesn't hurt that he's portrayed by one hunky guy. :)

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

MK, I'm so sorry! I couldn't figure out why the hell your comments weren't showing up. I got the e-mails! Then I realized...they went into the spam filter. First comments ever to do that! :(

I love your sister's cats names. (Dean and Winnie, for those who don't know.) :)

Too, true, Megan, on both the vulnerability AND the hunkiness! Guh.

(I knew Dean would inspire the most comments this week. LOL)

kaybee said...

I can't believe I missed this post! Who doesn't love Dean? The journey that Dean has been on since Season 1 is just incredible. He's been through so much but you know he is still fiercely loyal to family (Sam, Bobby, even Cas).
It's so nice to see the brothers on the same page again. With Soulless!Sam, influenced-by-Ruby Sam, and demon-blood-drinking Sam being the Sam that we've seen for the past few seasons, it's really nice to see him just being there for again for Dean.

kaybee said...

Oh and other characters driven by loyalty? Samwise Gamge, Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games, and at least someone from BSG but I don't know who at the moment ;)

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I'm thrilled that Sam and Dean have become what they were in season 1, but much, much better. It's almost shocking what a difference there is between the first half of the season and the second, but I think it was all amazingly well done.

Excellent choices! Samwise is probably the most loyal character ever, and Katniss does come close. She sacrificed everything for her sister.

kaybee said...

Yeah Season 6 I think is one of those where it will be easier to watch on DVD knowing what Sam is and how good it feels seeing him with his soul again.

THG is my new favorite series and I love how loyal Katniss and Peeta are to each other. And Sam, well he's the best gardener you could ask for.