Vivisecting Supernatural- ‘Don’t Make Me Use My Mom Voice’

If you look at Sam and Dean wearing your codependency goggles, it’s not difficult to see a motherly dynamic in some scenes, when Dean fusses over Sam. This was most evident near the end of Season Eight, thanks to Sam’s trial sickness, but it can be traced back to early seasons too.

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It’s not exactly difficult to see why Dean might get mother-hennish toward Sam. Dean clearly idolised their own mother- judging by Dark Side Of The Moon and What Is And What Should Never Be- and having only her and his father’s (and perhaps Bobby’s) examples to follow, growing up cut off from other hunters as they did, it’s not surprising that Dean would have become a weird amalgamation of his father’s and his mother’s behaviour.
Although out of the brothers it’s Sam who Dean is constantly poking fun at- about the food he eats, about his hair, his masculinity- it’s Dean who, macho as he undeniably is, also fulfils stereotypically feminine roles. When the boys move into the Bunker in Season Eight, it’s Dean who bustles around making burgers and cleaning.

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And it’s pretty clear that Sam needs this sort of looking-after; Trial sickness quite aside, when Dean’s gone at the beginning of Season Ten, he looks like absolute shit. Even when Sam left Dean to go to Stanford, he had Jess- who bore some startling similarities to Dean. Then of course there’s the memorable events of Playthings. Face-grabbing, anyone?

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Perhaps this is why many of the women they meet take on motherly attitudes towards Dean in particular- because they recognise that Sam already has a mother figure in Dean, but that there is no-one to mother Dean in turn. Ellen, Missouri, Lisa… the exception here would be Jody, who clearly has the stronger bond with Sam- even telling him ‘don’t make me use my mom voice’ in Time After Time After Time.

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However, Time After Time After Time was one of the few episodes where Sam and Dean were parted, and Sam was one mother figure short- hence, Jody. Meanwhile, over in 1944, Dean had acquired himself a Bobby-esque mother figure of his own.

It’s clear that other characters agree that Sam and Dean really need someone to look after them, but the reasons are different for each brother. Sam is often a very open character- sometimes you just want to tell him to put his frickin’ heart away before a ghoul comes along and eats it or something- I mean, he’s 6″4 and when he cries he looks about nine years old.

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Dean, on the other hand, tries so hard to be the tough guy, and he is, they both are- but sometimes something cracks his defences and he gets this lost little boy look. It very rarely happens, and notably, one of these occasions is around their mother. It’s as if Dean’s emotional side stopped developing after she died, and sometimes he just reverts back to being four years old and just having seen his mother burn up on the ceiling.

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Guys. You’re so damaged. Go talk to Jody or something. Better yet, talk to each other! Everyone loves some codependent brother feels.

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53 thoughts on “Vivisecting Supernatural- ‘Don’t Make Me Use My Mom Voice’

  1. Even though I hated the Sassy Strong Black Woman/Magical Negro stereotype, Loretta Divine really sold that character and more than made up for it by having this hilarious Mom dynamic with Dean, while doting on Sam.

    I found the Jodi/Sam dynamic surprising. I enjoyed it because I wasnt expecting that to happen, at all.

    Dean picking on Sam is just that whole “salt in the sugar” dynamic, I liked in the first few seasons. And it was those motherly qualities that made me start liking Dean a little more, as I hated him most of the first season.

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    • The stereotype was irritating, and probably a reason why she never returned, but Loretta Divine really elevated it above the clichΓ©. Thank God for good casting, or that could have been dreadful, well-written as the part was.
      Same about the Jody/Sam thing. It kinda crept up on me and now it’s one of my favourite things about this show- Sam obviously internalises so much, so it’s great for there to be someone who will be strict with him and MAKE him ditch the whole suffer-in-silence thing.
      On Dean- I disliked him in the Pilot, but JA plays him with this tinge of vulnerability- being scared of flying, etc- that really opened up the character for me. But yes, it was the motherly stuff that made me like him. The end of s8 is just gorgeous. He’s actually draping blankets over Sam. It’s adorable.

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  2. Great post! The show is so rich in personality dynamics, which is likely why it’s lasted so long. I can’t wait to read the rest of your Supernatural (and other) thoughts. Keep up the great analysis!

    Yep, Sam is an ugly cryer, Dean a pretty one. Although Sam got in a One Perfect Tear/Pretty Cry moment at the end of the episode with Bobby (can’t remember its title right now) this season.

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    • Sam had all the OPT moments this season- he had one in Brother’s Keeper as well! JP is one of a very few actors who always makes me cry when he cries. Idk. Frickin’ sad.
      Thanks a lot, very flattered πŸ™‚ Always great to meet a fellow fan.

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  3. Dean’s mother henning is a strange mixture of feminine and masculine, right? His claustrophobic concern, the face and hair petting and cajoling like a mother combined with the manhandling and “suck it up” attitude of a father. This reminds me of that scene in BUABS episode when he first discovers Sam in the motel room. Dean sees his bloody shirt and is immediately flustered, running his hands over his chest and sides. Invasive reaction and aggressive questioning and all I could think during my first watch of that scene (before we knew what happened) was, no wonder Sam ran away to college, to get some space from Dean’s mother hen on steriods.

    Jody is my favorite mom figure on the show, and I find it surprising that she is also one of the more consistent characters as well (except for making her a romantic interest for Bobby in S7, was this necessary for either one of those characters?) And Jody is the mom Sam doesn’t know he needs. Like you said, Sam’s needs are met by Dean. When Dean isn’t there, there is a hole. Time After Time After Time is a great example as well as Rock And A Hard Place. She supports Sam in a way that he is familiar with, researching and interviewing and joking. I found it interesting when she tries to expand on this role by talking with him, he looks distinctly uncomfortable. Sam is the one who wants Dean to talk with him yet when someone else engages him, he shuts up like a clam. She is so patient and understanding of why he is that way.

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    • I totally agree with your thoughts on Dean’s mother henning- on the one hand you can see why Sam found that claustrophobic, but notice how when Dean’s the one leaving Sam just can not handle it. He goes crazy trying to get Dean back, citing I Know What You Did Last Summer, Mystery Spot, and the first three episodes of s10.
      I love Jody! And Donna! We need the Jody and Donna show. I agree the Jody/Bobby thing felt superfluous- glad they didn’t take that any further.
      I really liked Rock And A Hard Place- anything with Jody/Sam interaction, and I actually quite liked Dean’s stand with the chastity group worker, though I’m sure that’s a controversial opinion.
      And yes, it’s strange how Sam does that. Never really noticed that before. Ah, they’re so damaged… πŸ˜‰ Why do you think he does that?

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      • Maybe because he was raised to never trust anyone but Dean and John? I also think it goes back to not having a female mother figure (ok, that looks really odd when I write it out that way). Think about hIs female relationships which fall along a spectrum of non existent/awkward/dream-like. His longest lasting female relationships were not built to last: Jess (born in the safe cocoon of college, would their relationship have survived in the real world if she lived?) and Amelia (tow people running away from life).

        Sam is such a sweet, loyal character that you want him to be in a relationship. Honestly, I don’t see it ever happening because he is so damaged.

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        • Sam was basically born into this crazy cultlike family- really it’s amazing that he got out and went to Stanford.
          And his relationships have all gone so, so wrong… Madison (I love Heart), Ruby was manipulating him…
          Note that ever since Sarah died at the end of s8 he’s not had a single relationship. I hope he has a love interest in s11- one who doesn’t die. Poor guy.

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  4. I think what ‘Dean’ and ‘Jensen’ share in common, personality wise, is emotional intelligence. They always know what other people need from them. But coupled with that is this inability to know how to ‘take’ what they need from others, which I think is another quality they both share. So Dean might need things; he might need mothering, he might need someone to ask him if he’s alright; but he doesn’t know how to ask for it, or even take it when its offered. He’s so socialised to be the one to ‘fix it’ that he doesn’t know how to say ‘fix me’. The upside though of this is that unlike Sam he doesn’t have the luxury of self-deception. He can’t tell himself stories about ‘everything is going to be alright’ when all evidence is pointing at the opposite of that. He’s the safety net. He doesn’t have a safety net.

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    • Hey there- nice to hear from you again!
      I absolutely agree about Dean not knowing how to take what he needs- know less about JA so I’ll trust you on that one.
      Dean basically spends so much time trying to stop the world going over the edge that he forgets to stop himself.
      //He’s the safety net. He doesn’t have a safety net.// Absolutely. That’s what made the Demon arc so horrifying. And why it’s so awful for Sam when he dies.

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      • True. I saw that in JA when JP opted to go home and rest and he went to Australia. He was talking about how tired JP was and someone asked him how HE was doing and he almost broke down, but he didn’t. He just said he’d be glad to go home and rest. Also Mrs Tran (can’t remember her real name) said he’s very emotionally intelligent and is always aware of what other people need on set.

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        • Also, like to point out, that this is often the dynamic between older and younger siblings. I like to view the show and the brother’s relationship through this lens and that really is how a lot of older brothers and sisters behave.
          In my family, I’m the oldest. My job is to make sure my younger siblings are okay and fix any relationship troubles to come up. It is NOT their job to worry after me and I don’t like it when they do, although they’re well within their rights to Do so. Apparently JA and JP have developed a similar habit.

          There really does seem to be the “fix it” dynamic at work in Dean.

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          • Yeah, I’m the older sister of three brothers- the oldest is ten, the youngest four- and while me and my ten-year-old brother are totally evil to each other, I do end up doing the mom thing.
            And I’m sorry, but JA and JP literally have the cutest friendship. And I mean that with total respect for their personal space.
            And yes. There really, really does.

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    • “He’s so socialised to be the one to β€˜fix it’ that he doesn’t know how to say β€˜fix me’. ”

      So true. It’s one of the great tragedies of Dean’s character, and why I feel so fiercely protective of him that I get angry at characters who hurt him, neglect him or don’t appreciate him enough. He awakens my maternal instincts and I’m a born Mama Bear lol

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  5. I agree they should hug it out and be more honest with one another! They keep so many secrets, hold so much inside that the concern in part stems from a lack of communication (as well as the other reasons you’ve pointed out above). If they worked on their communication, were honest and shared things more, they would both be better for it. Their job makes settling down difficult. But I really want that for both of them πŸ˜€

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