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Heavy Meta Poisoning
Supernatural is truth
John Meta - The Benders 
21st-Aug-2006 07:48 pm
Once Upon A Time - Orphan Hugging
Raising a Family of Hunters - John in The Benders

As with the majority of episodes in Season One, John does not physically appear in this episode. However, his presence is still felt.

There are obvious parallels in this episode between the Benders and the Winchesters. Here we have two families that hunt as a family, shun society, can defend their family against anyone or anything, and are a group of very efficient killers. Now, the difference is that the Benders hunt humans where as the Winchesters hunt the supernatural, but it is still a nice parallel.

Both John Winchester and Pa Bender brought their children up in the “family tradition” of hunting. They armed their children with the skills they would need to defeat their enemies. The difference between them is a moral one. John Winchester raised his children to fight evil and to save the lives of those who did not understand what could be waiting for them in the dark. Pa Bender raised his children to hunt humans for pleasure and as a sport to prove that they were the above the laws of society. So although the manner in which the fathers raised their children was similar, the message behind what they taught was not.

The Benders also confirms once again that John put the responsibility of taking care of Sam on Dean’s shoulders. Dean confesses to the Sheriff in the car that he has always felt responsible for Sam. He admits that ever since the fire that killed Mary, it has been his job to look out for Sam. You can easily trace this back to John becoming so obsessed and immersed in Mary’s death and his revenge, that he pushed the responsibility of raising Sam onto Dean.

Although John raised his boys to be an effective hunting team, he also raised them quite differently. Dean is the oldest, he is the leader. It is Dean‘s responsibility to take care of Sam and to be his fathers second in command. Sam is the youngest, he is the follower. Sam was not an equal in their hunting lifestyle. By focusing on Dean taking care of Sam, and not on Sam taking care of himself, John forced his sons into roles that they still play today.

Dean’s panic when Sam first disappears is his reaction to his failure. He has let his father down because he has not succeeded in his #1 job - the protection of Sam. So Dean begins to search for his brother the way his father taught him. He is methodical, he checks every angle, he works every clue. This case is more important than any other because the victim he is working to save is his brother, but he tries for a clinical detachment in order to focus on the task at hand.

And for Sam’s part, he also fulfills the role John has molded him to. He actively tries to free himself using his training, but he also is comfortable in the knowledge that Dean is coming for him. Sam is never without backup, and John trained his boys to work as a team. That’s what they’re doing here. Both trying their best to find their way back to one another.

As an episode, The Benders could have spent a little more time focusing on the surface similarities between the two families. There was a lot of great material there that was a bit lost in the "we don't kill humans" black and white debate.
Comments 
22nd-Aug-2006 02:48 am (UTC)
I'm gonna say that this is very deep and well thought-out, and then say that I agree and disagree.

I agree about John placing the responsibility of Sam on Dean's shoulders. Those words always break my heart, because they convey just how much responsibily Dean felt and at such an early age.

I don't think that Benders were necessarily "defending" themselves against anything. The Winchesters help folks all the time, make things better, kill things that would only destroy. The Benders were indiscriminate in their killing, and it wasn't to help anyone. However, you are right that they could defend themselves against anything.
22nd-Aug-2006 03:03 am (UTC)
"I don't think that Benders were necessarily "defending" themselves against anything. The Winchesters help folks all the time, make things better, kill things that would only destroy. The Benders were indiscriminate in their killing, and it wasn't to help anyone. However, you are right that they could defend themselves against anything."

I can see your point, but I was just trying to make a broader generalization on the similarities between the Benders and the Winchesters. When the Winchesters attack the Benders, the Benders are able to fight back. They are defending themselves from the outside threat.

And you're right, the Benders were ruthless in their killing of humans, which makes what they were doing immoral. The Winchesters are also ruthless in the killing of spirits and other supernatural beings - but they kill for the protection of humanity. That's the main difference between the two families - one is fighting to save and help people; the other is fighting for entertainment.
22nd-Aug-2006 03:06 am (UTC)
That's so true. In that sense, you could also use the Benders defending themselves with a quote from "Hell House" where Sam wondered about things existing only because they believed in them. I still love the meta.
22nd-Aug-2006 03:12 am (UTC)
Thanks. You had a good point. :)
22nd-Aug-2006 12:35 pm (UTC)
Very interesting how this episode played on the mirror theme on two different levels, Kathleen-Dean and the Benders-the Winchesters. And I gotta say even if the Benders weren`t evil, the Winchesters would have the edge due to personal hygiene and hotness.

You can easily trace this back to John becoming so obsessed and immersed in Mary’s death and his revenge, that he pushed the responsibility of raising Sam onto Dean.

Absolutely how I see this dynamic too.

Sam is never without backup, and John trained his boys to work as a team. That’s what they’re doing here. Both trying their best to find their way back to one another.

That`s an interesting observation because if these tables had been turned I`m sure Dean wouldn`t have seen it this way. Not that Sam wouldn`t come for him but Dean is very much thinking he has to take care of himself and can`t wait/count for/on back-up primarily.
For Sam, that`s truly litte brother-worship and very much an effect of how they they were raised.

And John has taught both boys some moves. And not to freak out under such circumstances. I mean most of us would have probably reacted like the guy in the other cage, squeal like a pig kind of trouble. :)
22nd-Aug-2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
"And I gotta say even if the Benders weren`t evil, the Winchesters would have the edge due to personal hygiene and hotness."

Hee!! I second that!! :)

"That`s an interesting observation because if these tables had been turned I`m sure Dean wouldn`t have seen it this way. Not that Sam wouldn`t come for him but Dean is very much thinking he has to take care of himself and can`t wait/count for/on back-up primarily. For Sam, that`s truly litte brother-worship and very much an effect of how they they were raised."

That's what I found really interesting about his episode. If you look at say, Scarecrow, Dean is in no way expecting Sam to come for him. Granted, there are other circumstances at work there, but in essence we have the same "one brother is in peril the other must rescue him" situation. But Dean is the oldest, he was brought up to take care of others, not to be taken care of. So with that in mind, his reaction there makes perfect sense.

Where as Sam, while locked in the cage, is very calm. I think a lot of that comes from his training on how to react in a crisis, but a lot of it is also his absolute faith that Dean will find him. He's the youngest, he's used to being taken care of. I love how their reactions to a similar situation reinforce the difference in how they were raised.

And John has taught both boys some moves. And not to freak out under such circumstances. I mean most of us would have probably reacted like the guy in the other cage, squeal like a pig kind of trouble. :)

Oh, absolutely. *L*
22nd-Aug-2006 03:50 pm (UTC)
This was very well written, and well thought out. My tiny disagreement is that while I do think Dean did a great deal of the raising of Sam, I think it was in many ways his idea, rather then John's insistence. Obviously John relied on Dean to be Sam's other parent, but I do think he did his best to raise both his sons even amid the chaos of their lives. I think Dean's inherent personality comes into play as to his level of feelings regarding taking care of Sam. I think he likes mothering Sam because it makes him feel important, and needed, and loved. Sam is capable of taking care of himself, he did so for four years at school. I think that even if Sam said he didn't need Dean to take care of him, and John said Dean was free of his commitment to do so, Dean would still do it, because it defines the side of him that is not a hunter. Dean's feelings for his brother is the only way he can really convey love. I love the Winchester men so much, their complexity, and intensity and camaraderie, there is nothing else like it.

P.S. Completely off point, but every time I see that scene of Sam in the cage and the other guy panicking about being "Ned Beattied", and Sam scoffs, cracks me up.
22nd-Aug-2006 04:02 pm (UTC)
I think you're probably right - John might have planted the seed of "take care of your brother" in Dean's head, but Dean kind of took it to a whole other level. :) So why I think that Dean's devotion to taking care of his brother was started by John, you're right in thinking that it has now become a task that Dean completely owns.

Dean's feelings for his brother is the only way he can really convey love. I love the Winchester men so much, their complexity, and intensity and camaraderie, there is nothing else like it.

Absolutely. Oh, ABSOLUTELY.

"P.S. Completely off point, but every time I see that scene of Sam in the cage and the other guy panicking about being "Ned Beattied", and Sam scoffs, cracks me up."

See, I always want to put silly things like this in my meta's but since this site is "heavy" meta's I usually don't. *L* But you're right, there are a lot of little, funny moments in this episode.
22nd-Aug-2006 05:43 pm (UTC)
Of course, I love the serious nature of these discussions, the show is well worth all the attention we give it. Silly and serious. It's an incredible experience for the mind and heart.

I so want the missing line in The Benders to be: "Don't worry about being Ned Bettied, dude, my brother and I love it!" Or something like that. *crawls back into Perv-ville*
22nd-Aug-2006 05:50 pm (UTC)
"Of course, I love the serious nature of these discussions, the show is well worth all the attention we give it."

But it drives me nuts sometimes, like with this meta. John isn't even in this episode, so there I am grasping at straws trying to write something thoughtful when all I really want to say is that the part where Dean finds Sam in the cage and they hug each other with their eyes? Is hot. *L*

"I so want the missing line in The Benders to be: "Don't worry about being Ned Bettied, dude, my brother and I love it!" Or something like that. *crawls back into Perv-ville*"

*L* I love Perv-ville, it's where all the cool kids hang out. :)
22nd-Aug-2006 05:53 pm (UTC)
the part where Dean finds Sam in the cage and they hug each other with their eyes? Is hot. *L*

AGREED! OMG, the way his fingers curl around the cage, wanting to touch Sam, make sure he's okay...*has pleasant day dreams*

And you did awesome, because John, whether seen or not, is a huge omni-present part of everything. He is God on this show.
22nd-Aug-2006 05:59 pm (UTC)
"AGREED! OMG, the way his fingers curl around the cage, wanting to touch Sam, make sure he's okay...*has pleasant day dreams*"

SQUEE!! Yes. And they way they just eyefuck stare at one another!! *happy sigh*

"And you did awesome, because John, whether seen or not, is a huge omni-present part of everything."

Thanks. John is hard for me to write about, so when I get it right, that makes me happy. :)
22nd-Aug-2006 06:03 pm (UTC)
Sam and Dean, or Jared and Jensen by default, spending a lovely amount of time eyefucking each other on this show. There should be more of it. Much more.
23rd-Aug-2006 01:30 pm (UTC)
Are you dissing the name, girl!?

*snerk*

Seriously, lines like that amuse the hell out of me, mostly because they remind us that this isn't some sort of bizarre, time-warped, period piece horror movie. Comments about the latest shows and movies... *snerk* I can see Dean watching Alone in the Dark in a movie theater and just sort of... laughing his ass off.

Crap. Now there must be fic. Crap.
23rd-Aug-2006 02:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, there must be fic. *L*

I LIKE that we take this show seriously. A lot of people are just into this fandom for the pretty, and that's fine, but I love that we get down to the meat of the show and dig around trying to make connections and meta our little hearts out. :)
24th-Aug-2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
This show helped me rediscover my inner-meta :)

I'm all with the serious analytical discussion a lot, but I keep getting distracted. Like I'm talking about character motivation and foreshadowing and...*Dean takes his shirt off*...I...what?...where was I? Oh, yeah, character motivation and foreshadowing.

Someone has an lj icon like that, it's hilarious.
25th-Aug-2006 03:14 pm (UTC)
Like I'm talking about character motivation and foreshadowing and...*Dean takes his shirt off*...I...what?...where was I? Oh, yeah, character motivation and foreshadowing.

Ha!! I know!! It's like, "Dean, put your shirt back on!! I'm trying to do an in-depth character study on the role birth order plays in the series and you're just distracting me!!" *L*
22nd-Aug-2006 09:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah but I think that comes from Dean being parentified by John at such a young age permenently. Sure NOW he'd have a hard time with it but if John had not put the responsibility on him like that in the first place and not only kept it there but took advantage of it on a whole other level(like leaving a 9 year old 'in charge' for 3 days alone in a motel, and not for the first time either) that wouldn't be the case. Unfortunately some parents do that, it's not unheard of after death or divorce for the remaining parent to what is called 'parentify' one of their children, usually whoever is oldest. That child essentially becomes a caretaker, physical and/or emotional, of the parent and/or of other siblings and lose much of their own very necessary childhood in the process. It's ingrained in Dean now but John could have stopped it, most of it anyway, if he'd not parentified Dean to such an extent.
23rd-Aug-2006 03:25 pm (UTC)
In other circumstances, yes, I'd agree, that John would have to step up more and not leave Dean in charge of Sammy so much, because that's not ideal. And hell, Sammy should have had some kind of mother figure as well in his life, I'm not sure I understand why Missouri didn't play a bigger part in their young life since John trusted her. However, given the circumstances of the Winchesters, I'm not seeing John had a lot of options. I have to give him credit for all the lives he did save while leaving Dean in charge of Sammy, it's not like a lot of people are stepping up to do that kind of dangerous, thankless work. I realize that some of this probably comes from the position of liking Papa Winchester, thinking he is a good and noble man who did the best he could with what he had to work with, and the fact that lousy childhoods come in all shapes and sizes, and could have been much, much worse for the boys. In the end, also, taking care of Sam defines Dean now. It is the barrier between being a man, and being a hunter. Sam is his humanity in a lot of ways. Dean could be a serious, psycho killing machine, following the straight path of us and them, with regard for no one, because he is so cut off from everyone else in the world except Sam and John. And while he respects and loves John, it's not the same as his feelings for Sam.
24th-Aug-2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
[Sorry, reposted to fix the close italics tag]
Dean’s panic when Sam first disappears is his reaction to his failure. He has let his father down because he has not succeeded in his #1 job - the protection of Sam. So Dean begins to search for his brother the way his father taught him. He is methodical, he checks every angle, he works every clue. This case is more important than any other because the victim he is working to save is his brother, but he tries for a clinical detachment in order to focus on the task at hand.

That's exactly it. I hadn't thought through this aspect of it that clearly, beyond noticing Dean's panic generally, but I think that's what he's doing. This is his worst nightmare, and the clue-following helps him hold it together. And I guess he would view Sam's disappearance as Dean *letting* Sam disappear and failing to look after him.
25th-Aug-2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
[Sorry, reposted to fix the close italics tag]

Hee! I do that all the time. *L* Both the posting and the fixing. :)

And I guess he would view Sam's disappearance as Dean *letting* Sam disappear and failing to look after him.

I think that is exactly it. Sam didn't get kidnapped, Dean let his guard down and let Sam get kidnapped. Because I first thought that Dean's panic was a little OOC - Sam's a big boy, he can take care of himself. But when you look beyond the panic and understand where it is coming from and how Dean's mind works, then it begins to take on a deeper meaning.

I've always wondered what it would have been like if Sam and Dean had quarreled right before Sam's disappearance. If Dean would have immediately thought kidnapped* or if he would have first thought he left me.
25th-Aug-2006 03:09 pm (UTC)
*head desk*

And I did the italics thing too. *L*

The last line should have been:

If Dean would have immediately thought kidnapped or if he would have first thought he left me.
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