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Supernatural is truth
The John Winchester Parenting Handbook. :p 
30th-Jul-2006 11:47 am
TDW Angelica: smile!
On John Winchester and Parenting
Why I, Ellipsis Black, do not actually believe that John Winchester is a bad father.


I have been re-watching certain episodes of Supernatural, I have been struggling around my feelings about John Winchester. The consensus (correct me if I'm wrong) about John Winchester is that he is a Bad Father, even among the apologists and John-lovers. In fact, I even went along with this myself, because certainly the vibe one gets from the final arc ("Dead Man's Blood" through to "Devil's Trap") is not a positive one. Then, through a discussion with wickedtruth on one of her fics, I realised that the issues I was having reconciling my views on John was not between my liking him as a character and his being a bad father, but that my liking him as a character was based on his being a good father (well at least, a decent one), and this was being contradicted by my active rationalisation of his character. I have no problems with liking characters who are bad parents or who have other faults; I write them myself, and tend to lean towards the flawed characters in general. And I'm not arguing that John isn't broken: I think he is more broken than either of his sons, to be honest, but that is a view based on speculation not canon, and so I'll leave it aside.

Read More--warning, this is LONG... but also divided by sub-heading! :DCollapse )
Comments 
31st-Jul-2006 01:31 am (UTC)
I think This is a very interesting topic of discussin. I think John adores his boys. I still think he is a sucky father.

On the first part, yes, we see Sammy has no problem with yelling at his father, and that is always a good sign. And he's upset about his argument with Jhn before he left, but parents oppinions always matter, so that is not surprising. But what about Dean? he seems downright skittish around John. He never asks for anything, and John doen't seem to offer either. And John might have told Dean he nedded him, but I think it's a lot more probablr that John was the parent in the house, that he had to somehow handle his brother and father, and he sees his father as such a mess that he would never leave. You can feel as you father/mother's child and parent at the same time.

John Winchester treats Dean and Sam like soldiers in his war on the Demon instead of like his sons

On the colt thing, that just shows that John loves his children, and would never want to hurt them. But Sam got into Stanford and he didn't want him to go. He doesn't want his children to die, but that doesn't mean he wants a better life for them. It sort of... and inmediate thing.

On the .45 thing, I think there are two possibilities. Either John didn't believe there was anything in Sam's closet and he gave him the .45 so he'll shut up about it (or feel safer), when he could have very well explained Sammy there was nothing there instead of leaving a loaded gun on his boy's night table, or he did think there was something there. If he did, well, he didn't salt the closet, he didn't stay with Sammy and he didn't get Sammy out of there to deal with it himself, he gave his 9 year old a loaded gun and hoped the kid shot straight in the darkness and shaking with fear, killing the thing before it got to him and not shooting himself in the process. The odds weren't with Sammy on this one.

On the next quote, I don't think that John is lying. I think he wants to keep his boys safe. But he also wants them to live the life he chose for them, which is not so great, and pointedly refuses to let them have a choice on the matter. That's not very daddy like. Or rather, it is, but the "don't you ever come back" isn't, nor is the "I need you". That's very manipulative. Also, the fact that he didn't see that one comming just goes to show how much he communicates with his children on daily basis. Meaning, nil'.

And yes, he lets Dean run his own gigs, but he's 26. And he does try to keep his boys out of the fight with the demon. He also doesn't return the boy's calls. Is it possible that they were a secondary concern? they are out of inmediate danger and out of mind. And yes, the military has a vertical line of command. But they are not the military. And just because John realizes his faults as a father diesn't mean he will/can change them.

John Winchester constantly puts his sons in danger Well, he did teach them how to use guns since they were way too young to actually hold them properly or take the backlash of a shot well. He might have wanted to protect them. He also was trimming them to hunt, and hunting is dangerous. Also, have you felt the backlash of major-prey hunting weapons? It's brutal.

31st-Jul-2006 01:32 am (UTC)
John Winchester is emotionally repressed and inaccessible.
There's Dean's "no chick flick moments". And John didn't know Sam had applied to collegue until he was leaving. And he has obviosly no idea of Dean's abandonment trauma. And he doesn't answer his children's phone calls. And he refuses to answer any questions his boys have about his motivations, his modus operandi, his plans or his orders. he has his moments, but those are few and far between.

He went off the rails after Mary died and everything else was subsumed in his quest for revenge
He left them in crappy motels, and had other hunters babysit when they were close by. But if he didn't have the money for a decent hotel, then he probably didn't for a babysitter. I'm betting he didn't cook meals for them for when he was gone. And there was a feeling that him being gone longer than he said he would was a common acorence. He spent his kids collegue funds on money, not clothing or books or anything else they needed. And Sam passing with good grades does not mean he went to school often at all, because there's a thing that are exams the state takes to know if you learned enough to pass the grade. He dumps a lot on Dean in the form of his baby brother and doesn't seem to care enough to stop. And he didn't seem to be so crazy about Sam going to collegue. My guess is he spent the collegue money because he had no intention of sending them to collegue.


I think that John did a lot of things right. I also belive that he broke the kids in too soon, and that Dean is VERY screwed up, and the reason that Sammy is not is because Dean played parent, not because of John. John is a good guy, and he loves his children. unfortunately, being a good parent means putting your children first, always and no matter what. Love is not enough to make you a good parent. You need a lot of will to sacrificve yourself and what you want too, and that includes hunting the shit that hurt you.
31st-Jul-2006 03:42 am (UTC)
As I said, I believe the rules changed.

Given the choice between arming your small children so that they can defend themselves against the danger you perceive all around them, and not arming them because they are young, John, understandbly, chose the former. A .45 isn't a large weapon, and I've handled one. There's a kick, but it's not unmanageable. Even, I venture to say, for a nine-year-old (not ideal, of course). We don't know whether John did anything else in that instance, we only know that Sam was struck enough by the occasion to use it as an example of how screwed up their childhood was. We also don't know when he started letting the kids handle the big guns. Being ex-military, I doubt he would have given them anything he knew they couldn't handle, because that wouldn't only be bad parenting, that would be being a bad commanding officer.

The reason that the military has a heirarchical command system is because the business of the military is life-or-death. The buck has to stop somewhere. There has to be someone who will be deferred to in dangerous situations, because "he who hesitates is lost," and in most cases ANY action is better than no action. Hunting is the same. There is no time more inappropriate than the middle of a fight to argue about policy, and as the most experienced hunter, it is only logical that John would want to be leading the mission. I'm sorry, but to me it makes perfect sense. When they're out of the life-or-death situations (as when they're in the hotel at the end of DMB), John has shown hismelf willing to take on the boys' arguments and change his plans accordingly.

You can't say he refused to let Dean have a choice in the matter, because we just don't know how or when or why Dean's decision to hunt fuill-time came about. Before or after Sammy left? As a reuslt of a fight? After a discussion with John, or was it resolved within Dean? We know he had other dreams, and we know he gave them up because (he perceived) Dad needed him. We also know that he enjoys hunting, and that he doesn't wish to reclaim the innocence of not knowing what's out there.

There's obviously a happy medium with the needing thing too. Because on the one hand, if Dean really believed John needed him, he wouldn't be struggling with abandonment issues from John (from Sam, maybe). If Sam had said "I'm going to college" and John had said, "Ok yeah, sure son. Give us a call sometime, right?" That would probably have been pretty much as traumatic as what John actually did.

We had John's rationale for not wanting Sam to go to Stanford. He was scared that Sam wouldn't be safe there, as well as, presumably, hurt that Sam wanted to leave, and this seems to have come up out of the blue. He also said that he wanted Sam to go to school about halfway through "Salvation." The issue before was that it wasn't safe for Sam to go to school (though Sam sees Stanford as a safe life)--turns out John was right, since the Demon got Jessica pretty good; once the Demon is dead, by implication, it WILL be safe for Sam to go to school. Again, John is acting in accordance with the kill-Demon-so-boys-can-be-safe motivation.

As for the emotionally repressed thing, my brother, who is a perfectly functional teenager, has a "no chick flick moments" policy too. As do several of my male friends (though not in so many words). That's pretty much a male thing, not a Winchester thing. Even if it were a Dean thing, we are given, in the series, three other people who leave him. Mary, Sam, and Cassie (twice). If he avoids "chick flick moments" because he's afraid that emotional sharing will make him more vulnerable to people who will only leave him later, well duh, with Sam, he's got pretty good reason to fear that.

TBC ;)
31st-Jul-2006 03:44 am (UTC)
Do we know, actually, the time frame for the whole college debacle? How long did Sam sit on his acceptance before he told John? Did he not tell John until after he'd accepted? Did he tell John he'd applied anywhere? Did he blindside Dean with it as well? Did he tell them days before class started, as a fait accompli? All these circimstances, which afaik we don't have canon on, make a tremendous difference to this argument. I won't say that John's telling him not to come back was acceptable in any of these cases, but I think the circumstances really make a big difference.

Why the heck SHOULD he have any idea of Dean's abandonment trauma, or that Sammy wants to go to college? Everyone has a whole slew of personal stuff that they don't spill out everywhere for everyone, and parents are often the people we image-manage to the most. Unless you're expecting John to have powers of ESP, it's hardly the sort of thing that would come up. How many "good parents" have been completely blindsided by something their child announces they want to do?

He does answer questions about his MO etc. In DMB, after he and Sam have their argument, the next day he says "you boys really want to know about the colt?" and he tells them. That's not refusing to tell them anything. And it's not a rare moment among many. In "Shadow" Dean suggests they have to split up, not John, and they do. At the end of DMB (as I said), John changes his plans because the boys prove to him they can handle it.

I don't think he spent the college money because he wasn't planning on their going to college. I think he spent it on ammo because he thought that keeping them ALIVE to reach the age where they might go to college was more important than hoarding money and getting them killed because he ran out of bullets. Which, fair enough.

I don't think Dean is very screwed up, either. I think he has his issues (he's hardly the only kid in the world with an abandonment complex because one of his parents died), but I think he's fairly functional for all that. He likes his job, he loves his family, and he manages, somehow, to have a good time when one presents itself. Despite living in a cruel and frightening world, we get no sense that he feels overwhelmed by anything except threats to his family. A lot of people in the "real" world turn out worse with less reason.
31st-Jul-2006 02:10 pm (UTC)
Do we know, actually, the time frame for the whole college debacle? Well, not exactly, but we can make a few educated guesses. If John didn't want Sammy to go to Stanford, it's because he didn't want him to go away. So he probably didn't want him to go to any collegue at all. If Sam had told him he was applying/that he wanted to apply, John would have refused right away. I'm not so certain about this one, but I think Sam told John directly he had been accepted on Stanford with a full scholarship. My guess is, he accepted and didn't tell John until the last possible minute. But that's just a guess. I do know that by the time they had their big fight, sam had decided to take Stanford's offer. As for Dean, well, I really don't know.

There are many good parents that have been blindsided, true. But Sam must have brought it up at some point, when he was little, and chances are that he tested the waters more than once. I alredy talked about the Dean issue, but John should have asked Sam. There's a "what will you do with your life?" conversation missing here, and maybe John did ask, but Sam didn't tell. Either way, that doesn't speak very well of their father and son bond.

On the motives thing, you are right. The boys had to push him, but he did give in. One has the right to resist a little when questioned.

And if he needed money for ammo, there where other places he could get it from. He could even not hunt for a few days if he didn't have the money for ammo. The danger his children were i was not so inmediate that he nedded to put everything else second, and the fact that he did says a lot about him. If he had plans for his sons to go to collegue, he could have hunted a little less and worked a little more. Or spent the money on things for his children, because if they lived then as they do in the first season, then they were a step away from living in a trailer. The thing is, John gives me an overall impression of being very shortsighted.

And lastly, on the Dean issue, you are pretty much right. I still think he's pretty damaged, but he enjoys his life, and that's more than many people can say.
31st-Jul-2006 01:48 pm (UTC)
Wow, I just looked up on my comment. It's been a while since I've seen that amount of typos. Sorry ><

We don't know whether John did anything else in that instance, we only know that Sam was struck enough by the occasion to use it as an example of how screwed up their childhood was Well, if Sam was so struck by it, then it was probably the thing that stuck. If his daddy had given him a .45 and then stayed with him or gotten him out of the room, then he wouldn't have been so resentful.

We also don't know when he started letting the kids handle the big guns But I suppose that if the boys needed to kill something it would be a lot safer to hand them a big gun. That way, if it's like it dies, and if it's big it dies too. I've never payed attention to the guns the boys use, but my guess is that they are the big ass kind.

The reason that the military has a heirarchical command system is because the business of the military is life-or-death Absolutely. The vertical chain of command s vital when it comes to hunting, I very much agree with that. But sometimes John takes it a little too far, and usses it when it's not necesary, aven when they are nowhere near danger. It might be habit, something he doen't realize he does, but he still does it. My mom is an ex-military, and she's quite the overbearing bitch half of the time. And I love my mother :)

I think Dean never saw the possibility of not hunting as something to be seriously considered. He hunts, the end. But I do agree: he loves his job. Blowing stuff up always makes his day better X)

On Dean's abandonment issues: well, he hides it pretty well now that he's 26. We didn't even notice until a demon brought it to our attention. But Dean was not always 26, this goes way back, and it's your job, as a parent to notice. To pay attention to what they are doing, how they are doing it. I can sniff my younger brother and sister feeling upset(I played a big role on raising them) from a mile away. If John had kept a steady link and closeness to them since they were little, he would have known, he would be able to read his children's feelings and actions like they were open books. he raised them, he's supposed to know their deffense mechanisms, and he should be able to get his children to pour out anything he wants to know with a good push. How could he possibly not notice Dean's feeling down? Specially when he was so little and transparent?

And on the Stanford thing. Well, he was ultimately right. but that chapter is just confusing. Why did Dean come back? Why did the demon chose to attack at that moment. Was it triggered by Dean going over, as revenge for John being hot on his heel? Or was it just something it was supposed to happen? That chapter brings about many questions.
31st-Jul-2006 02:07 pm (UTC)
Lol, no worries, my spacebar just broke, so I am typo central.

re: the guns, the boys use a range of guns. Shotguns for the rocksalt, but other than that, Glock handguns most of the time (i saw a discussion of this on spn_possession). I think Daddy Winchester, like any gun instructor, would have started small and worked big, that said, we know he had Dean armed with a shotgun in "Something Wicked."

We also know from "Skin" that Dean considers the ability to carry a handgun as a perk of the job. o_O

I don't think John is such a bossy boots as we think he is. In absentia, yes, he orders them around. When faced with two grown sons disagreeing with him, he folds with surprisingly little rancour several times in DMB and the early bits of Salvation. Yes, he's overbearing, but not to the point of sheer obnoxiousness.

We actually found out about Dean's abandonment issues via the Shapeshifter in "Skin," and then it was touched on again, I believe, in "Route 666". And, heh, I didn't have half as difficult a childhood as Dean did (in fact, from parental perspective I had a very good childhood), and my parents not only can't read me, but they can never get anything out of me, either, and haven't been able to since I was... ten, I think. I think John's probably decent at reading Dean via the whole hunting buddies thing, but probably not as good at reading emotions that don't directly relate to the hunt. But I don't think it's John's fault if he can't read Dean; Sammy can't either, and if anyone should know Dean better than John, it's Sammy whom he practically raised (yes, my tendency is to make Sam The Bad Winchester, because goddamnit, why must everything be about him? Why are his issues plot points, whilst Dean's are comedy fodder? Why is John's mishandling of Sam so much more significant than his mishandling [yes, i can admit it] of Dean? Whyyyyyyy~ Why does John get all the blame for Dean's abandonment complex when Sam was the one who really left? But I digress).

Yeah, the Jess burnination connection is really weird. Doesn't fit the other victims at all, and currently just serves to confirm that Everything Really Is About Sam. And why did Dean come back? We may never know. Why did he ask Sammy in the first place? Slightly easier to divine, but he was obviously expecting Sam to drop everything and pick up the life again; odd, given the givens.
31st-Jul-2006 02:55 pm (UTC)
Yes, I hate how everything's about Sam. Or how Sam makes everything about him too. Yes, he's on a shit storm, but Dean is right along beside him and we don't hear him whining. Ha braces himself and cracks jokes all the way through. Yes, Sam, you had a bad time., but haven't we all at some point of our lives? Shit just... happens.

He probably started little and worked to big, I agree. He probably cut of the handle of more than a few gunshots to shorten them and make them boy sized, too (My dad's done it ^^UU Mom was unhappy). and probably he got them the biggest, meanest shotguns he could find. Before he knew exactly what it took to kill this or that, he made sure and got a gun that could kill it all. If I were him, I'd probably'd have handed them a bazzoka.

God, I love Dean. He can be such a jerk ^_^

On his overbearing-ness, it's probably just military inercia (I have no idea if I spelled that one right). He's obnoxious, and then he remembers he doesn't need to be a becomes a normal person again.

But Dean's abandonment issues started when he was four. If you can't get your four year old to tell you what's wrong (or if you can't guess there's something wrong after what he saw), well... And we should consider I'm on the other side of the world, the side that usually spits out when the parents push, so my take on their realtionship as a family might be very different from yours. And yes, Sammy is the less broken oneof all three of them, and he just keeps moaning about everything in his life. He should look around him and be fucking grateful. So he didn't get a picket fence. Deal.

Yes, the first chapter was wery weird. It's immposible to know what put things in motion. I think the scripwriters didn't pay that much attention to it, and we will never know more.
12th-Aug-2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Dean coming back in the pilot, there's a 30 second clip that was cut fron the episode floating around. (No links atm, sorry.) But basically, Dean drove away, and looked at his watch. It had stopped, so he turned around. I don't know why it was cut out, because it makes the entire scene much more understandable, but there it is. :)
16th-Aug-2006 01:54 pm (UTC)
They probably didn't know how popular the show was going to get. But yes, now we know why Dean turned back, and that's half the mistery solved. Thanks for telling me!
19th-Aug-2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
Wow, that was really detailed. Thanks so much for this great analysis of a great character. I love your writing style and couldn't agree more with you. He did the best he could and the boys turned out just fine.
21st-Nov-2013 12:10 am (UTC)
I'm really glad you took the time to examine this character (like you, I believe that John was ultimately a good father despite the mistakes he made along the way, and did the best he could for his kids under the circumstances). Thanks for posting this. :)
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