Proceedings of The 2nd International Conference on Gender Studies and Sexuality
Even in Bed I Pose. Deconstructing Dean Winchester
The sixth season of Supernatural (CW, 2005-2020) opens with Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) lying in bed next to the woman he’s been living with for more than a year. It is a scene of soulless domestic bliss, the overture of a tour de force which will see a further deconstruction of the show’s hero, particularly his gender and sexuality. Although showrunner Sera Gamble (2011-2012) was accused of feminizing Dean and thus humiliating him repeatedly throughout her run and despite the internet proliferating with jokes about Kripke’s male power fantasy, the show itself has always had the same pattern. From the pilot episode (2005), Dean Winchester is presented as a swaggering hero in a leather jacket, who listens to classic rock, eats fast food, drinks beer, and drives a “rottweiler of a muscle car” (Kripke, 2004). Within the narrative, however, these details are used to highlight the character’s posing: Dean Winchester plays a part deliberately designed by himself in order to appease his father. His masculinity and heterosexuality, therefore, are nothing but a mask and the gothic elements of the show are a way to analyze the performance. Staggering and poignant moments of the character’s truest self are presented in a series of episodes, but those moments cannot last while the character hunts, i.e. he remains trapped in inescapable family dynamics. The aim of this paper, therefore, is to analyze the first seasons of Supernatural paying attention to Kripke’s “bricolage” (Wright, 2016) in order to trace the deconstruction of gender within the show. It will reference both gender studies and queer studies as well as literary criticism of mid-century American literature from which Kripke’s Supernatural borrows a lot and, rather than looking at all three hundred and twenty-seven episodes, it will focus on episodes that engage with Dean’s performance the most such as Skin (1.06) or Live Free or Twihard (6.5). More particularly, it will focus on those elements that may come off as typical for toxic masculinity, but whose origins stem from a very specific cultural movement from which the show cannot be detached: the post-war homosexual archetype and white blue-collar masculinity.
keywords: supernatural, masculinity, gender studies, sexuality.