Vivisecting Supernatural- Is Wincest Really That Far-Fetched?

Until the advent of Destiel, Wincest- the pairing of Sam and Dean Winchester- was the most common ship in Supernatural by miles. It’s obvious why. Sam and Dean’s relationship has been the only real constant of the show’s decade run, and one of its many, many facets is some pretty screwy subtext.

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Personally? I don’t ship it. I do, however, think that the interpretation is totally valid- they’ve pushed the subtext as far as they can without forcing the issue. It simply isn’t the way I choose to see it. I’d rather interpret any romantic tropes or undertones as meaning that Sam and Dean’s relationship carries the same weight of trust and devotion as a romantic relationship, rather than interpret it as meaning that they’re banging. Though honestly I think it comes down to whether your squick about the incest factor outweighs your subtext reading/opinion of J2’s hotness. Hey, if they weren’t brothers I’d probably ship it myself. It isn’t like they could get each other pregnant.

(No, Omegaverse writers, that was not a challenge.)

But I certainly can’t blame anyone for seeing their relationship that way. I’m a listener of commentary tracks, and Kripke has openly acknowledged Sam and Dean’s subtext- ‘after all, two guys living so close together, how does your mind not eventually turn to that?’ Sera Gamble has actually referred to the show as ‘the epic love story of Sam and Dean’. Oh, Sera. Fanfics have been named for that quote. I could totally link you but I’d rather no-one get traumatised.

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Then there’s the individual moments scattered throughout. There are literally dozens of examples, but a stand-out one was in Season Two’s Hunted: Dean thinks Sam’s dead, Sam and Gordon beat the everliving shit out of each other, and once Sam’s won he staggers over to where Dean’s tied to a chair. As soon as he gets loose, Dean takes Sam’s face in his hands and pulls him up. It’s almost like the buildup scene to a kiss.

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Then we have the last few frames of A Very Supernatural Christmas, an episode which totally should have been sentimental and gushy and turned out a poignant, grisly, hilarious masterpiece. It’s Christmas, and Sam and Dean are sitting in a motel, and the camera pans out through the window and, well…

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The image is romantic as hell. (Lol, they’d know. (Okay, that really wasn’t funny.))

The patented Winchester face-grab is repeated throughout the series, but the other example I’ll cite is this recent one, in Season Ten’s The Things We Left Behind.

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Dean has just killed, what, six people? He’s surrounded by mutilated corpses. So what does Sam do? He grabs his face. Yeah, Sam, that’s a great idea.

Except that for the Winchesters, it is. This is what I mean about these romantic tropes; they would not think of what they’re doing as romantic. To them, face-grabbing and looking at each other like that and walking so close together they’re practically tripping over each other’s feet is totally normal and brotherly. It’s just that their definition of brotherly includes things that other peopleย might- though not necessarily-ย think of as romantic.

But Sex And Violence really broke the mould. The subtext is impossible to ignore. I’d say it’s even louder than that of Sherlock Season Three’s The Sign Of Three.

It’s Season Four; the angst over Dean’s stint in Hell and Sam’s entanglement with Ruby is slowly building, and the boys are hunting a siren, which is able to make itself into the perfect partner for any one victim.

With Dean, the siren becomes a younger brother figure. With Sam, the siren stays the same- a brother figure, and as the actor is both younger than JA and older than JP, it’s possible that the siren presented as an older brother to Sam. And the siren is supposed to represent the perfect partner for the victim in every way- as one victim says, ‘she was perfect. Everything I ever wanted’. As we see in a sex scene between the siren and one man, the sirens present as sexual partners each time. There are about a thousand and one ways the writers could have got the boys to vent their anger without making these sorts of parallels.

Draw your own conclusions if you dare.

Coupled together with gems like Sam doing the dirty with a doctor-shaped red herring, throwing his phone across the room after Dean gets a little too bossy, and shots like this:

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I really don’t need to go on, do I?

Then there’s the soulmates issue. In Dark Side Of The Moon, Sam and Dean do not share the same good memories, but these memories are re-enacted in the same place in Heaven. Implication: they share a Heaven. And as Ash says: ‘some people share. Special cases, you know. Like soulmates.’ Cue awkward moment of silence. You can practically see Sam and Dean processing it. Like, oh. OH.

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And then there came the end of Season Eight, where Sam was horribly ill, his body breaking down, and Dean refused to let him die to save the world. He basically vowed always to be there for Sam. ‘If you honestly think that there is anything I would put in front of you… it’s never been that way, man. Never.’ The fact that Sam is actually ill invokes the words ‘in sickness and in heath’- and then there’s the bandana that he wraps round Sam’s bleeding hand (an action that’s repeated in The Werther Project). And get this: the whole thing takes place in a church.

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You see what I mean about this whole subtext thing? And people thought Johnlock was bad.

There are episodes that I really should have cited here. Playthings is a major one, along with Reichenbach and Soul Survivor. Sequel material, perhaps? Oh well. It’s a meaty subject.

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83 thoughts on “Vivisecting Supernatural- Is Wincest Really That Far-Fetched?

  1. Actually I am a Wincest shipper, because the (sub) text is there and I am awesome at compartmentalization. The show is rife with such moments. But mostly I do try to keep in mind that the two of them have lived in each other’s back pocket for nearly three decades. They’ve got no secrets, everything else about their life is unusual and it makes sense that their displays of affection would be unusual to some people, as well. (I’ve been known to do that face palm thing to my nieces and nephews, for example. I did that to my sisters too but stopped when they got older. I am the oldest of five.)

    I think a lot of how people will see the show is predicated on whether or not they have siblings. I’ve said lots of times that people who are younger or older siblings will see the show through very different lenses than people who aren’t. It’s the reason why I had to have the subtext pointed out to me and didn’t see it until about the second season at all. A lot of the brothers behavior doesn’t look all that different from the way me and my brothers behaved as kids. (We’re a lot calmer now, in our forties๐Ÿ˜„)

    As the oldest sibling, Dean’s relationship to Sam is one of the main reasons the show captured me, right in the first season. I’ve spoken to other people over the years who have siblings or have very negative relationships with their brothers and sister and I think that greatly informs how people react to the show. For example, I’ve always been a Sam-girl, probably becasue I identify so much with Dean’s position as the protector of younger siblings, whose job is to try to drive you batshit.

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    • I think the point I’m trying to make is, sometimes it’s interesting to see what a person’s family dynamics are, especially after they’ve voiced certain opinions of the brothers you may not agree with. They maybe are only seein it through the lens of their home life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, definitely. And there’s nothing wrong with that- subtext is there to be read how you want to read it, after all, and I’m still on the fence about Johnlock- but most people do see things through the lens of their personal experiences.

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    • Yeah- and taking into account the world in which they live and the harsh lifestyle they lead, Sam and Dean are pretty much a unique case. They’re the show’s only constants, and it’s easy to see why they might latch onto each other in that way.
      And I didn’t really pay attention to the subtext the first time around- I had to do a rethink with my Wincest goggles on to be able to write this!
      I agree about different people with different family lives having different perspectives. I’m a teenager with three younger brothers, and I prefer to interpret the subtext in a relatively non-slashy way. Though I do think Sam and Dean will always be just a little bit in love with each other. In whatever way.
      And yeah, I’m a Sam girl, and I’ve been theorising that the reason a lot of people identify with Dean and sympathise with Sam is that we all have people we want to protect… but Sam largely joined in with the role of protector in S10, which could be responsible for the shift in perspective (idk about you, but I thought S10 was largely through Sam’s eyes, as opposed to S9, which was clearly seen through Dean’s).

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    • I too have siblings and can totally relate to the sibling emotions but not the physicality. We were never that physical growing up but I know that’s a family dynamic rather than typically sibling thing. I don’t so much identify with Dean as envy Sam him…

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  2. You hit two of my favorite things here – Sera Gamble and Winchester face grabbing. Also I like to imagine Sera and Sex And Violence writer Cathyrn Humphris getting really drunk together, coming up with these sexualized situations, and high fiving each other. “And then Dean’s siren is a little brother…” “And then he spits in Sam’s mouth…” “Ooh that’s kinky!”

    What I wouldn’t give to sit at a bar with these two writers.

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    • I love Sera Gamble’s writing- she wrote so many of my favourite Sam-centric episodes. Heart, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Born-Again Identity, The Man Who Knew Too Much… such a shame she left. I don’t think she was too great as showrunner- though season six is actually my favourite- but I do miss her episodes.
      And yeah, just them sitting round a table giggling as they inject their scripts with these filthy little details… the spitting thing was practically obscene.
      And I know, right? Same with Jeremy Carver or Robbie Thompson or Ben Edlund. (Since B.E left, Thompson seems to have taken over the writing of the crazy episodes, and is doing a great job.)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. There are several ships I can’t get behind and this is one of them, though mostly due to the incest part.
    I can see all the points you make, the touching, the (implied) intimacy and what not, but in my opinion do soul mates not have to be in love with each other (I also like to believe that loving someone and caring deeply for them is not the same as being in love with that someone, but that’s a different story).

    Aside from that does it make sense that they are considered soul mates and my guess is that Cain and Abel share a heaven as well – though if they are happy with that turn of events is on a completely different paper.
    I mean, they are basically two parts of the same everlasting fight (Cain/Abel, Michael/Lucifer) just through their blood line alone and this implies that there is more than just a brotherly bond and really something like the more essential connection you have in a soul mate. And they are kind of mirrors for each other with the morality shifts throughout the season, where either of them is on one occasion the good guy and in the next moment the evil guy.

    So, in short: Soul mates and deeply involved brothers – I can definitely see that. The other thing – not so much.

    P.S. I’d like to point out that if any of the above sentences doesn’t make sense, feel free to ask for an explanation, my mind is still a bit tired and I feel like I’ve made several mistakes, but just can’t find them at the moment…

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    • Yeah, the reason I don’t actually ship it is that I like the idea that you don’t have to be sexually or romantically attached to someone to be their soulmate. That said, the subtext is there. It’s the whole interpretation thing again, really.
      It is definitely interesting the way the morality shifts. Like, at one point Dean’s the angel vessel and Sam’s Lucifer’s vessel- one’s on the side of Heaven, the other on the side of Hell- yet Heaven is probably just as bad as Hell. And recently Sam was possessed by an angel and Dean became a demon, yet the question was begged as to which of them was worse- Dean, who tortured and killed because he was a predator and it was in his nature, or Sam, who did the same but in full possession of his morals.

      Liked by 1 person

    • No, you’re good.
      I can see people not shipping it because of the squick factor but I find that part fascinating. I also view Wincest, no matter how lightly it’s depicted, as a sign of their relationship gone horribly wrong somewhere and I’ve read a few fanfictions that address that angle.

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  4. Very interesting! For me, I always think it depends on how one person looks at it. I think that if people look long enough, they can find all sorts of theories (some valid and some not so much) hidden away in the Winchesters’ relationships. I also think the interpretation depends on whom you speak to and their feelings and connections with the things in their lives. For example, all I see between the brothers is brotherly, familial love. And I love seeing that. Brothers who would do anything for each other. And I think that part of reason why I will always see that and will always want to see that is because I don’t believe I have such familial closeness in my own family. Seeing the Winchesters’ love for each other, though flawed in many ways, is–for lack of a better word–nice for me to see ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Yeah- everyone sees things through the lens of their own social/family lives. My issue is that I always, always see subtext- it makes shipping really difficult, so I’m mostly neutral. Well, I have a weird thing for Sastiel. Idek why.
      By the way, and this is to everyone who’s commented here, it’s great that we’ve all been diplomatic and respected others’ interpretations and all.

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      • Lol, I try to be diplomatic because everyone has a right to their own opinions…as long as no one tries to shove their own opinions down anyone else’s throat, it’s all good haha. Also, I like being in a positive environment, which is so hard to do on the internet. I think what some people tend to forget is that we’re all here because we all love the same show ๐Ÿ™‚

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        • Yeah- though sometimes the way people talk it feels like we’re watching different shows. I’m not interested in trying to inflict anyone’s opinions on anyone else. Though there are some things that do make me angry, like the accusations of queerbaiting that I addressed a while back.

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  5. I think it largely depends on your personal definition of family. My family is close. We are huggers, touchers, hand holders–My sister and I are 56 and 44 respectively and sometimes we still hold hands. It’s not incestuous at all. It’s just us, at whatever moment, needing to be sure of the other one. You also have to factor in that Sam and Dean don’t have non-sibling BFFs. They are each other’s BFF.
    As for the subtext, people see what they want to see. None of the things you mentioned EVER occurred to me until I read this. Bandana as a ring? Sorry, no. They’re brothers. Granted, they are really hot brothers and it’s hard not to think about sex when you’re watching them, but it’s usually with ME, not each other…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Everything I said in this meta was a matter of perception- you don’t have to see the show in this way, and I certainly don’t, but some people do. And it is possible to. So you’re totally right, it is a matter of perception- and context. I have the curse of seeing subtext everywhere, which is why I’m ship-neutral.
      All I’m saying is that it is possible to read their relationship in this way- not that you should, or that you have to.
      Thanks for commenting ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Pingback: Anyone Got Any Ideas For Ship Metas? |

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