The Burden of Being Sammy
(A Parenthetical Discussion of Self Perception Versus Reality)
He’s kind of like the cute chick on The Munsters, only taller and with better hair. Or in Kripke world, he’s Luke Skywalker to Dean’s Han Solo in the far, far away of rural America as the two of them tool down Route 66 through infamous hives of scum and villainy in the coolest hovercraft ever.
He’s the holy grail, the vessel, the hero, the point. He’s clearly John’s favorite. He’s an emo bitch and a spoiled brat who throws selfish tantrums and stomps away in guy-like hissy fits. He’s the prodigal son, the rebel without a cause, the journey that matters, the poster child of him and all the children like him. He’s Captain Obvious and Geek Boy. He likes anemic pop crap and won’t shut his cake hole; he’s a pain-in-the-ass kid brother who’s too smart, always cautious, usually right and still manages to need saving on a regular basis. He’s a pudgy ten-year-old, the teen who left home in a stomp, the guy who fights with his dad because they’re too much alike to ever get along and the man who grieves the murder of his lover by developing a bit of an unholy thirst for vengeance. He’s the one with plans, dreams, hopes for the future. He’s the one looking for love, willing to show love, striving to be normal, wanting to fit in, bonded to his family, but also independent of his family.
He is Sammy; and he is Us.
Oh come on. Admit it. We all want to be Dean. But the truth of the matter is, we’re all much closer to being Sammy, aren’t we?
Yes, we’d love to say we’d fall on our swords for the sake of family. But if they told us we couldn’t move out of the house when we hit age; we’d still go, wouldn’t we? Yes, we’d all love to be preternaturally smooth and successful with the opposite sex. But really, aren’t most of us just a little self insecure and looking more for someone we like rather than just someone with qualifying equipment?
And yes, absolutely, every one of us would want to be Dean cool, wouldn’t we? Look Dean good in a leather jacket? Have a Dean swagger vibe that owns any room into which we walk? Be Dean bold and Dean rebellious in the face of all authority figures? Be Dean tortured to the roots of our very souls … something we’d hide with Dean wit and Dean stoic forbearance and just enough Dean attitude so everyone loves us Deanly because they can’t ever really touch us, we’re just that Dean special and that Dean aloof and that oh-so-Deanishly Dean?
But the truth of the world is never quite exactly the way we’d write it if we were Kripke and in charge of creating our own state of being.
The truth of who we are is Sammy. It’s Sammy sorta-smooth and kinda-smart but just a bit geeky for it. It’s Sammy in baggy clothes with an occasional opportunity to look really hot in nothing but a towel if the light hits us just right and if whoever is looking isn’t so singularly Dean-struck they don’t even freaking notice. It’s Sammy normally abnormal, Sammy I can fit in but I have to be nice and polite and work at it a bit. It’s Sammy "yes, sir" to the cops, and Sammy "are you sure we should be doing this?" to any overt breaking of the rules that holds the potential to get busted.
And most of all, it’s Sammy hurt us and we cry, Sammy cut us and we bleed, Sammy feel the love and we hug.
Give it up, girlfriends. We’re all Sammys, we just want to see ourselves as Deans.
And oh, the burden of being Sammy. The burden of being the center of the universe upon which every story ever told turns. The burden of being the fulcrum of your family to which the others must connect in order to make you a family. The burden of being the one who is always, at the very foundation of it, to blame for every tragedy that has ever befallen those you love.
Oh, wait … isn’t that Dean?
And herein lies the gold of self perception. And equally, the gold of a storyteller who tells his story not only in terms of self perception, but also in terms of who we really are.
Self perception first. From our perspective (the viewer perspective), we perceive these to be all things to be more truly said of Dean than of Sam. Why? Because they are all things said of self in the world view of self perception, and because we want to see ourselves as Dean instead of Sammy.
In this way, we see it oh so clearly: Every story is about Dean, no matter who it is really about (because our lives are about us, no matter who else might star in them on occasion). Sam and John can only connect through the midpoint of Dean for he is the glue who holds the family together (because we are all the most important cog in our own family dynamics, whether the rest of those yahoo relatives realize it or not). And Dean, in failing to save those he loves from inevitable tragedy, will always wrongfully blame himself for the pain they feel, even if he was only four years old and couldn’t possibly have saved his mother (because we all blame ourselves for the things that happen to those we love – for our failure to see it coming or our failure to be hero enough to stand in front of it when it arrives – even when we can see how wrongful that blame is in the logic of what actually happened).
But from the storyteller’s (external) perspective, is it Dean or is it Sam?
Ah, now there’s the rub. The storyteller is telling the hero’s (your) story. He’s just telling it in such a way as to allow you (the viewer) to experience yourself both as you are perceived by others (Sammy) and as how you aspire to be perceived by others (Dean). Or, perhaps more germanely, how you actually are (Sammy) and how you think you are (Dean) or wish you were (again, Dean).
So to adjust an aspirational self perception to a more accurate external perspective, every story is about Sammy (you) even though it really should be about Dean (not really you) because he’s way more cool and interesting and good looking than Sammy (the real you), mostly because he is too Dean to be anyone other than Dean (not really you).
Likewise, Dean (the way you want to be seen) and John (your family who knows you too well to fall for that crap; and who is, by the way, just like you even though neither one of you will admit it, because you both want to think you’re much more like Dean than that selfish, emo bitch Sammy) can only really connect through the midpoint of Sammy (the you they know, emo bitch that you’ve always been since the day you were born) for Sammy (you) is the glue who holds the family together (because you are the most important cog in your own family dynamics, whether the rest of those yahoo relatives realize it or not; all of them wanting to come off like a bunch of Deans, even though they are really just a bunch of Johns, which is just another way of saying they’re a bunch of Sammys).
And lastly, in failing to save those he (you) loves (John the family, Jess the love) from inevitable evisceration and ceiling pyrotechnics (loss, either of life or love, and the subsequent pain of that loss) by a Demon (events outside your control) either known (should have seen it coming) or unknown (should have been able to stop it when it arrived even if you didn’t see it coming), Sammy (you, again) will always rightfully (because the world turns around you, thus the self aspect of the concept selfish) blame himself (yourself) for the pain they (those you love, including yourself) feel, even if wasn’t him (you) who actually caused the tragedy (because, hello? event outside your control) so much as simply Sammy (you) being the reason the Demon (tragic events outside your control) came after his (your) family in the first place (because the world turns around you, and every story told in the context of your life is about you, no matter who else might star in them on occasion).
So self perception and external perspective: Who is the hero and who is the star? Logical assumption to the contrary, in Supernatural, they are not one and the same. The hero is who the story is about. In the case of Supernatural, that would be Sammy (you). But the star … ah, the star. The star is who the viewer perceives the story to be about. And in the case of Supernatural, that is almost universally Dean (not really you).
As Kipke says: Luke Skywalker to Han Solo.
So how can the hero not be the star? It’s not that hard when self perception and external perspective share the stage in individualist form to flesh the storyteller’s agenda to make statement on the difference between the way we want to see ourselves and the way we actually are.
As example, I give you Sam and Dean. I give you Luke and Han. I give you yourself and who you would like to be. One is life; one is larger than life; but both are storyteller turns on the subject of self perception versus external perspective. With this as the context for discussion, let’s look at Season One in terms of Sammy, love, and family; and how the burden of being Sammy is very much the burden of not being Dean.
On the subject of Sammy and love, let’s talk Jess.
By talking Dean. (Because you can’t talk Sammy without talking Dean.)
You know, Dean (not really you) would have been way cooler than to actually fall for Jess (love, as in the love of your life, not just a one night stand) in such a way that her loss could cripple him. That’s one of the whole points of Dean (not really you). He’s wounded by life. He’s emotionally distant because that’s the heroic way he deals with his pain. He lives the emo life inside, where it belongs; rather than outside, where it can embarrass him or make him vulnerable. And he does it because he is just that strong and just that stoic and just that much the hero (and just that much Not Really You).
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Dean (not really you) is the antithesis of Sammy (you) when it comes to the subject of love. Why? Because on no subject are our own self perceptions more reflective of our desire to be stronger (better, faster) than we actually are than when the subject of love is put to the table.
As an aspirational reflection of our desire to be strong, in control and above the emo bitchness that defines the very essence of our human nature, Dean (not really you) doesn’t really fall in love so much as he drifts in and out of lust (emotionally distant). Such is the life of the mythic hero (and the perception of self that prefers to be in control of love rather than controlled by it, and to leave rather than be left). Yet still, there is always hope (hope springs eternal, thus fanfic) the hero (you perceive yourself to be) will find true love (usually on a white steed from across a crowded room); and if he (not really you) did, he (not really you) would fall (in a manly, heroic way; though not incestuously or slashily so) in love.
This is not how Sam (you) loved Jess. To show the contrast; let’s walk Dean (not really you) a mile in Sammy’s (your) shoes on the road of Jess (love). Because again, to speak of Sammy (you), we must speak of Dean (not really you) and how the difference between these two perceptions-put-to-flesh-as-individuals plays to the storyteller’s agenda to speak to the differences between who we (the viewer) are and who we – rightfully or otherwise – aspire to be.
So for the sake of that contrast, if Dean (not really you) actually did fall in love with Jess (love, as in the love of your life, not just a one night stand), he (not really you) would do so in such a way that if she (love) did die (was lost), it wouldn’t cripple him. At least, not the way it would cripple Sammy (you).
Everyone knows Jess (love) could die (be lost) at any time (it’s happened before, when you were younger, through no fault of your own). Because to be perfectly honest (get a clue), although inarguably tragic to those involved, love (Jess) crashes and burns and bleeds from the ceiling (dies due to events beyond your control) every day of the world. All of which begs the wise viewer to realize that Sammy (you) being in Jess (love … get your mind out of the gutter) might die (be lost) because a Demon (events beyond your control) targets her (love) for death (loss) for no other reason than being with Sammy (you, because every story is all about you, no matter who else stars in them on occasion). So this is a life fact of which both Sam (you) and Dean (not really you) are aware; but it is a life fact (love hurts) only one of them (you or not really you) will heed (emotionally available versus emotional unavailable).
We all aspire to learn from the lessons of love, but few of us really do.
Heeding the warning of the impermanent nature of love (he’s older, wiser, cooler and wounded by the world enough to know), Dean (not really you) would be smart enough (having already experienced this at least once, and having learned from that experience) to not invest himself emotionally (love, as compared to lust) to such a degree that losing Jess (love) would put him to his knees (make him cry like a baby in front of the girl he is trying to impress). Sammy (you) on the other hand – being the selfish (real), emo bitch (human as compared to heroic) that he is (you are) – does fall for Jess (love) hook, line and sinker (emotionally committed to the nines). So when she (love) dies (is lost), as so often happens (life sucks), he’s (you are) crippled by it.
We all aspire to be savvy about the dangers of love, but few of us really are. We aspire to control love rather than let love control us, but we seldom do.
Dean (not really you) would have seen it coming. Dean (not really you) would have either walked away from Jess (love) to keep from getting her (again, love) killed (losing her), or he (not really you) would have saved her (love) because Dean (not really you) is just that strong, cool and heroic a guy. And because he (not really you) would have been willing to do this (punk out) in order to save (not lose) Jess (love), if she (love) dies (is lost) anyway, even though Dean (not really you) would no doubt blame himself for that loss (because he’s wounded by life, and he suffers those wounds in silence, locking his pain inside where no one else will see it, even if they know it must be there because he’s emotionally distant, not emotionally absent), it would be a wrongful blame (just a hero being heroically tragic), because Dean did everything right (he’s Dean, Not Really You).
He (not really you) was slick and witty and heroic and strong and incredibly hot and just the right mix of vulnerability and invulnerability (he was Dean). Because Dean (not really you) was all these things and more; it follows that if he (not really you) lost Jess (love), it would be the Demon’s (events beyond your control’s) fault. Yes, he (not really you) would likely take the blame because he’s the hero (as compared to human) and heroes (and children) blame themselves for failures beyond their capacity to prevent. But while Dean (not really you) would blame himself, he (not really you) wouldn’t let Jess’s (love’s) death (loss) break him, because Dean (not really you) would never let Jess (love) get to him that way (emotionally distant, anyone?). Dean’s (not really you) stronger (emotionally unavailable) than that. Better (emotionally unavailable) than that. Cooler (emotionally unavailable) than that.
He’s Dean (who you wish you could be).
He’s not Sammy (who you really are).
On the other hand, Sammy (you) totally deserves the blame (illogical guilt) he (you) takes as his own for Jess’s (love’s) death (loss) for a variety of reasons, all of which are self imposed (guilt) and none of which are valid (Guilt with a capital G).
First and foremost, Sammy deserves the blame (guilt) because he (you) should have seen it coming (it’s happened before, dammit!). Sammy should have walked away (punked out) from Jess (love) to save her (can’t lose what you don’t have). But he (you) was too much of a selfish (real), emo bitch (human) to do that, justifying (reasoning) his selfishness (emotional needs) on the basis that it (losing love) having happened once already in his life (life) doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen every time (logic, faith, emotional availability). What a selfish (real), emo bitch (human) Sammy is (you are) to take such a foolish (faith-based) risk (get back on the horse that threw you) with Jess’s (love) life and his (your) heart (heart). So Sammy (you) should have seen it coming (the fact that it could happen), and he (you) should have been willing to walk away (punk out) based on the fact that it (losing love) has happened to him (you) in the past (life) so it might happen to him (you) again in the future (life).
We don’t learn not to risk love by getting our hearts broken. We learn to try again and hope for a different result. It’s called faith in the future, and it is one of the fundamental foundations of human nature.
Secondly, Sammy deserves the blame (guilt) because he lied to Jess (love). He wasn’t completely truthful (human nature) about everything he is (human nature) and everything that has ever happened to him (human nature) in his past (life). He (you) didn’t warn Jess (love) that she could die (be lost) because he’s (you’ve) had that happen (losing love) before (life). Sammy (you) didn’t save her (love) because he (you) isn’t Dean (who you wish you were, how you would like to see yourself as being) enough to walk away from (punk out on) Jess (love) just because something bad (life) might (might, could, maybe, perhaps) happen.
While we may aspire to learn to avoid risking the kind of pain losing love brings by being strong enough to avoid the emotional entanglements that physical intimacy breeds, by being emotionally distant enough to get what we need from the physical intimacy alone, we can’t really do that. To love and be loved requires risking pain and loss. Anything less is just sex.
And lastly, Sammy deserves the blame (guilt) because he (you) needed Jess (love). He (you) needed her (love) more than he should have (emo bitch that you are). And because the Demon (events beyond your control) are after Sammy (you), not Jess (love) because every story told is all about Sammy (you) even if other people star in them on occasion.
On an essential human level, in the real world rather than the theoretical world of poets and romance novels, love is about what we get, not what we give. And even in the giving, love is about what we get from the giving. Losing love is about what we lose getting, not what we lose giving.
So Jess (love) only died (was lost) because the Demon (events beyond your control) was after Sammy (you). And Sammy (you), being the selfish (real) emo-bitch (human) that he is, wasn’t Dean (not really you) enough to walk away (punk out) when he should have (before you became emotionally entangled). So he (you) deserves the blame (guilt). And he’s (you are) emo bitch (human) enough to show his pain (feel) all over the place (visibly) instead of bearing it (hiding it) in silence (heroically) like Dean (not really you) would if he (who you want to be seen as) was in Sammy’s (who you are) place (loving and losing as compared to refusing to love so you won’t lose).
Safety is in emotional distance. Love is in emotional risk. We aspire to be safe. We invariably fail at being safe in failing to resist the urge to risk. Emo bitches that all humans are, we fail at being strong enough to walk away from emotional risk for our own good, or for the good of others.
On the subject of love, we most often aspire to be Dean: in control, mitigating risk, managing collateral damage. We most often are, however, Sam: out of control, neck deep in risk taken in faith of greater reward, and vulnerable to the full agony of every wound inflicted by love lost, by Jess put to flame by the demon of events beyond our control.
On the subject of Sammy and family, let’s talk John.
Again, by talking Dean. (yada, yada, yada, no Sammy without Dean, yada.)
This one thing we take to be self-evident: Dean (not really you) loves John (the family) without question. He follows John’s (the family’s) directives without argument, and always puts John’s (the family’s) needs above any need or desire Dean (not really you) might have or wish to have. In return, John (the family) takes Dean (not really you) for granted, an untenable situation Dean (not really you) bears in long-suffering silence, a wound whose pain he (not really you) will never show (emotionally distant).
We aspire to be self sacrificing and heroic to a degree that the needs of those we love alway come before our own. Very few of us actually are either that self sacrificing or heroic, be the stakes life and death or just who gets the extra cookie.
Sammy (you), on the other hand, is clearly John’s (the family’s) favorite. And yet Sammy (you) is a bit of a selfish (real), emo bitch (human) rebel (individual), especially compared to Dean (self-sacrificial not really you). Sammy (you) puts what he (you) wants at least equal to, if not above, what John (the family) wants. Beyond that, Sammy (you) categorically refuses to follow John’s (the family’s) directives blindly, although he (you) will go along with John’s (the family) plan if he (you) agree with it (get something out of it, too) and John (the family) doesn’t treat him (you) like a child (member of lesser standing).
All of which is not to say that Sammy (you) loves John (the family) any less than Dean (not really you) does. In fact, all evidence in play suggests Sammy loves John (the family) fiercely and is willing to sacrifice and die for John (the family) if necessary. That being said, he (you) still won’t sublimate his desires or identity to John’s (the family) control, because he (you) is still primarily an individual (you) first and John’s son (a member of the family) second, as he (you) should be. Furthermore, Sammy (you) doesn’t exist only as an extension of John (the family), nor will he toe the line John (the family) consistently tries to pressure him (you) into toeing not because it is best for Sammy (you), but rather because John (the family) is all about John (the family), even if he (the family) does love his sons (all the members of the family).
It also bears pointing out that, in contrast to Dean (not really you), if John (the family) presumes upon Sammy’s (your) individuality, or if John (the family) presumes to take Sammy’s (your) commitment to John (the family) for granted, Sammy (you) rails at the heavens (emo bitch that you are), shouts his protest (selfish individual that you are), and tells John (the family) exactly where he (again, the family) can shove his bull hockey (lack of appreciation for sacrifices made) and how far up it should go (what a rebel).
And Sammy does this because he (you) is an individual. He (you) is someone with hopes and dreams and a future (normal) of his own, not only hopes and dreams and a future that revolves only around John (the family). Yes, Sammy (you) is John’s son (a member of the family); but he (you) is not only John’s son (a member of the family).
Family is our identity, but it is not our only identity. Though we may aspire to (and even perceive ourselves to) put the needs and/or wants of our families (or others we love) before our own, the reality of human nature is that we are individuals first, and members of a group second. What the group wants or needs may harmonize with what we, as individuals, want or need; but it rarely supercedes those wants or needs except in the most atypical of circumstances (Dean’s going to die and Sammy can save him) or the most extreme cases of an imbalance of need (Dean is starving to death and Sammy just wants the last cookie).
But even as an individual, fiercely independent and determined to be his own person (again, normal); Sammy (you) and John (the family) are so much alike in so many ways that everyone but he (you) and John (the family) can see the resemblance as clear as day. Which, of course, is why Sammy (you) and John (the family) fight like cats and dogs, usually within minutes of finding each other again and having a happy reunion full of hugs and professions of undying loyalty, fidelity and love, love, love.
Love doesn’t mean compatibility. We aspire to dovetail perfectly with those we love, working together like well-oiled machines. Far more often though, we dovetail with those we love like oil and water to the end of enormous conflict and/or a fine vinaigrette dressing. But that doesn’t mean we love them any less, or don’t miss them when they aren’t making us crazy with how much they make us crazy.
All that touchy-feely (emotionally available), chick-flicky (emotionally available), huggy crap (emotionally available, expressing feelings), of course, isn’t something Dean (not really you) would indulge. He’s too cool (emotionally unavailable). He’s too strong (emotionally unavailable). He’s too Dean (not really you.)
Sure, there’s always a hug there for John (family) in a quick, guy-hug kind of way (I love you, man … can I have your beer?); as well as an obvious allegiance (love) for John (the family) that Dean (not really you) is more than willing to express/show (even tough guys love their daddies). And beyond that, Dean’s (not really you’s) love for John (the family) actually supercedes all else (not really you’s individuality) in how obviously Dean (not really you) defines himself as John’s son (a member of the family) first and an individual second.
But even so (being Daddy’s boy instead of your own man), Dean (not really you) wouldn’t get all emo bitch (human) about that emotion all the time (emotionally unavailable). He (not really you) wouldn’t fret (actively) about whether or not John (the family) loves him. He (not really you) would never think John (the family) would turn away from (abandon) him, or not want to see (stop loving) him. Yes, those are his (not really you’s) greatest fears; but he won’t indulge them (show them) because he is too strong (emotionally unavailable). He is too cool (emotionally unavailable). He is too Dean (not really you).
To the contrast, Sammy (you) will actively fret (emotionally available) over whether or not John loves him (emo bitch that you are), wants to see him (petulant grudge holding bitch that you are), or is angry with him (Daddy’s boy that you are, even while being your own man). But unlike Dean (not really you), Sammy (you) won’t fear those things to unnatural (emotionally constipating) degree. To the contrary, despite all his (your) apparent emo bitchness (human insecurity) on the subject of John (the family), Sammy (you) is quite confident (normal) that as his father (blood of your blood), John (the family) will always love him (you), even if John (the family) is mad at him (petulant grudge holding bitches that they are), and a real pain in the ass (too much like you to ever not piss you off) when y’all get together on holidays.
We aspire to be the way we want our families to see us when we are with them. Invariably, they see us exactly as we are anyway. Thanksgiving is particularly good for both hugs and fistfights, regardless of what level of emotional unavailability you aspire to maintain right up until you ring the doorbell.
But despite Dean’s (not really you’s) self sacrificial (abnormal) loyalty and obedience to (dependence on) John (the family), and despite Sammy’s (your) more selfish (real), emo bitch (human) antagonism (unrelenting individualism) when it comes to John (the family); Sammy (you) is clearly John’s (the family’s) favorite. But Dean (not really you) doesn’t resent it (because he’s the self sacrificing hero). In fact, Dean (not really you) takes great pride and satisfaction in seeing how much John (the family) loves Sammy (you). And while this might smack (to the uninitiated) of self sacrifice on Dean’s (not really you’s) part, it is actually Dean’s (not really you’s) true and deep understanding that, no matter how different they (you and your family) may look on the outside (to others), it is really John (the family) and Sammy (you) who are just alike (cut from the same bolt of genetic cloth, as it t’were).
Regardless of what we aspire to be, we can usually see who we really are if we stop to look into the eyes of those who love us enough to know us as we are. And to prefer that reality over the more heroic and/or cooler individual to which we might aspire to be. Even if the other guy does drive a ’67 Chevy Impala.
Because all overt surface detail (clonish similarities) to the contrary, Dean (not really you) and John (the family) only LOOK alike. And they do (look alike) because John (the family), like Sammy (you), wants to see himself as something he (the family) really isn’t: Dean (not really you). Cool, witty, heroic, self sacrificing, wounded to the soul yet still emotionally distant Dean (again, not really you. And not really them either).
So John (the family) is no more Dean (not really you) than Sammy (you) is. In fact, truth be told, John (the family) is also a bit of a selfish (real), emo bitch (human) who puts his own (the family’s) needs above Dean’s (not really you) and Sammy’s (yours) by doing things like trying to sacrifice himself (shoot me in the heart, son!) for a freaking cause (it’s more important than me, it’s more important than anything), on the altar of Mary’s (love) and Jess’s (love) deaths (losses) … deaths (losses) at the hand of a Demon (events beyond your control, beyond their control); but for which John (the family) inexplicably (but you understand it, don’t you?) blames himself (because every story told is all about the family even if other people star in them on occasion) the same way Sammy (you) blames himself (because every story told is all about you even if other people star in them on occasion) for those same deaths (losses) at the hand of a Demon (events beyond your control).
People are actually very much alike in how they really are. Likewise self perception is invariably aspirational to very similar states of heroic being. We call those aspirational states of being archetypes. We also call them stars. We occasionally call them Dean.
Yeah. Sammy (you) and John (the family) are two peas in a pod. And Dean (not really you) is actually – despite surface similarities (the way both you and your family want to see themselves, but not the way either you nor your family actually is) to the contrary – the odd man out, if only in the fact that he (not really you) isn’t the selfish (real) emo bitch (human) he would have to be to qualify as that third pea in the Sammy (you selfish, emo bitch you) and John (those selfish emo bitches, too) peapod instead of the Sammy-wants-to-be-Dean, John-wants-to-be-Dean, Dean-is-Dean-but-isn’t-really-real peapod.
Which, you know, three Deans in a peapod is every fangirls fantasy; but that ain’t really the way real life works, is it (only fanfic works that way)?
In real life, the heroes are never the cool, witty, selfless, swaggering, smooth, ridiculously handsome, rebellious, emotionally-distant, stoic, strong, wounded to the soul but suffering it all in silence with only an occasional tear shed to tell the tale guys. Rather, they are invariably sorta-smooth but still a bit geeky dorks with floppy hair, dressed in somewhat baggy clothes with an occasional opportunity to look really hot in just a towel if the light hits them just right, smart, nice, mostly respectful, more-or-less law abiding, selfish, emo bitches who cry when they’re hurt, bleed when they’re cut and get all chick-flicky when they really, really, really need to get or give a hug.
Dean is an aspirational state of being. He’s not really you.
In real life, the heroes often need their asses saved by someone else. They usually fight with those they love, and they are wrong as much as they are right in those fights. The almost always have just enough fumble with the opposite sex to make them accessible. And without fail – without freaking fail – they put what they need and/or want above what others need and/or want the same way all other real human beings do; they just can, and will, rise above that failing of Human Nature when the need to be a hero calls them to the task of sacrificing themselves for the good of someone else.
Sammy is a selfish, emo bitch; which means he’s real and human; both when he’s shooting Dean in the chest with rocksalt and when he’s using himself as a human shield between relative strangers and a wendigo; both when he’s in a nose-to-nose shouting match with John and when he’s shooting John in the leg instead of the head even though the headshot is the only way to kill the Demon who murdered Mary and Jess.
And he is really you.
To the point of it all, this: Real heroes are just selfish, emo bitches like the rest of us, on a journey, doing the best they can to overcome their own flaws and failings, trying to survive their losses and mitigate the damage done by events beyond their control to the end of maybe finding a Jess (or a Mary) along the way to keep them warm on cold nights and have their backs when the chips are down.
Sammy is one of those guys. That’s the burden of being Sammy: Being real.
And not being Dean.
Dean is who we want to be; Sammy is who we are. Dean is our self perception; Sammy is our self-reality. Dean is a storyteller’s hero myth; Sammy is the reality about which every story is told, even if other people star in them on occasion to the perception that it’s all about the Dean, when it’s really all about the burden of being Sammy.