Hi! So this has been bugging me for awhile but do you think dean hides parts of his personality from Sam? Like for example when he geeks over things he would look at Sam and shut his mouth(Sin City?) and when he sings all out of love I think? Or with Donnie and the cake things? Like he wants to do this stuff but he feels like Sam wouldn't approve or something so he becomes this macho man again? Sorry for this horrible worded question, i just wanted to know if I'm the only one who feels this way!
Yeah, that feels like a pretty fundamental part of Dean’s personality - not just that he has a load of extra layers but that he keeps them from Sam as best he can. You’re far from the only one to think that!
What gets me is that Sam is present for a great deal of these instances but never seems to put it all together properly - he still reacts in surprise when Dean willingly betrays his surface layer in front of him. :P
There was a lot of discussion of this over season 10 because the most regular plot thread was Dean’s unravelling personality and, increasingly, Sam’s fears about that as the driving force to the end of season awfulness… I’ll never find easy links because it was a season-long discussion and it’s all thrown into my gargantuan Dean tag or my episode tags which run to like 20 pages of posts on average by this point, but after pretty much every episode the meta community would tear into what happened with Dean’s yo-yoing characterisation and usually how Sam related to it. (I’m tagging this swiftie!Dean and Dean vs cake if you want to go through those tags on my blog for the best examples from season 10 :P)
10x09 stands out in my memory not so much for general Dean characterisation, but because of the discussion of the story that they told Cas about Dean going to that club and getting drugged, and how Sam seemed to have a completely different idea of the emotional tone of the story because of their respective ages at the time. To stay in depressing John Winchester territory, in Bad Boys in season 9, Dean describes how Sam never found out about him going to Sonny’s as “the story became the story” - whatever John said at the time to explain why Dean dropped off the radar ended up being what Sam thought was true literally until the subject came up by chance in season 9 so he could otherwise have never found out. Jumping way back, in the Christmas episode in season 3 we see where tiny Dean eventually tells baby Sam (okay they were like 8 and 12 or something :P) about monsters being real, which is the most obvious example of keeping an aspect of their life hidden from Sam for years and years.
Generally Dean seems to hide the bigger stuff from Sam, to protect him physically (from monsters) or emotionally (from how terrible it was growing up hunting monsters) and that’s just spiralled on as his mindset through their whole lives, where Dean has a sort of duty, as he feels, to protect Sam from everything: within that is the sense that his hyper masculine surface layer is that of the protective big brother, and so cracks in that aren’t just revealing his own weakness (which, in his head, would extend to random things that are girly or sissy or whatever and betray that tough shell like music choice or food or, uh, certain delicate items of clothing, not just serious emotional stuff - basically anything that would generically be deemed unmanly by more judgemental society) but actively threatening Sam just because his shell is his role as a protector, not just for his own personal feelings, and so if it cracks it might not be strong enough or what is required to protect Sam. (I’m not saying this actually has any use in protecting Sam, just that this seems to be how Dean knows to do it and how he copes when Sam needs protecting - by giving over his very self to this role.)
He also has to let Sam know that he is the tough protector who can be trusted to look after him and keep him alive as an ongoing life-long hang up from their childhood and so it’s more important that Sam knows he’s this tough guy, and so Dean screens his own behaviour in front of Sam probably more than anyone except for he would have with John. A great deal of this also, aside from the more obvious comments literally about needing to protect him, comes across in projecting his own insecurities on Sam - all those times he’s teased him for being girly. It sort of is meant, I guess from Dean’s POV, to suggest he is more manly than all that and to sort of assert himself as tougher than Sam blah blah… My mental image of Dean in a lot of situations is him as a bird with the feathers all puffed up hopping around a bigger bird which is completely uninterested in paying any mind to his display of pretending to be the bigger bird. :P
This is also related to how we get the general impression Dean often will act more normally away from Sam or towards other people, and often why there seems to be a focus on Dean bonding with other characters more than Sam - new characters with fresh dynamics show Dean acting differently from how he would with Sam and let us see him in different light and frequently more relaxed moods. There are multiple points in the show where Dean is stressed from looking after Sam during particular spikes in Sam-related issues where Dean will crack open around someone else, even if it’s just, say, skipping out for a drink and getting some other form of human interaction away from Sam so that he can express how stressed he is, as he would never tell Sam that looking after him is a burden.
When it comes to opening up to Sam, though… Those gifsets with parallels where Dean is telling Sam to shut up/get in the car/shut up and get in the car when confronted with past love interests/”CasDean” are funny as a surface comparison, but Dean’s using the same reaction to Sam about women he was canonically romantically connected to where there wouldn’t technically be anything interesting to deny: even when there’s understandable emotion in the situation, he’ll chase Sam off from talking about it, and while we point out Dean is the greatest source of chick flick moments on the show, he is still the one always policing if they have emotional conversations where he can, and making big decisions to unload emotional things. For example, I recently watched Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, and Dean spends the entire episode (plus the preceding stretch of season 2) being clawed up by the probability of John’s deal, but even when Sam confronts him for being emotionally erratic in the middle of the episode he won’t talk it through. It’s only at the very end when they’re miles down the road (and in a different set of clothes so it could honestly be days later :P) he abruptly pulls over at a scenic spot on the side of the road to open up with his suspicions that he was brought back from the dead at the cost of John’s life. He only goes further to admit it was probably a demon deal in Crossroads Blues - again, they both had obviously contemplated the eventuality, but Dean would not discuss it until the case got overwhelming with the idea and it had to be discussed.
But Dean can also be a nerd upfront to Sam, when things seem less stressful. For example of two of his grander nerdy moments, he enjoyed dressing up and embracing being a dork in front of Sam in both Frontierland and LARP and the Real Girl, and, all things considered, mid season 6 and 8 were some of their less stressful times where nothing was actively wrong with Sam (he had the wall up against his hell visions and his soul back at that point in season 6, and the foreshadowing for the end of season 6 was only starting to sneak in around the edges and not yet something they had a great deal of cause to worry about. The LARP episode is in a pretty quiet stretch of plot right before they find the bunker and a few episodes away from Sam taking up the trials). In these cases goofing off and indulging his own interests and pleasures wasn’t dangerous or destabilising their power dynamic, which in times of stress, is much more emphasised as they go into a sort of survival mode of relating to each other, and they were acting more like normal brothers. Also from my rewatch, Hell House is the most dorky of dorky brother episodes, and comes right after Shadow, a stressful John-related episode but after which they voluntarily stop looking for him, and they’re sort of on vacation at that point, waiting for his say-so to rejoin the main plot, and so they get a goofy episode where they’re not emotionally beholden to the main plot in the same way on season 1′s much smaller scale, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence it’s one of the few times they really just screw around acting like completely normal brothers who just happen to get tangled up in paranormal happenings.
Apparently I have a lot to say on this. :P
But yeah, all the little instances through the show where Dean gets excited by something or likes someone because they capture his nerdy interest or any number of things, Sam is usually right there, and Dean will check his reaction against him every time, even if it’s just a subtle glance. Even the Taylor Swift thing I borrowed a gif for up there, Dean glances over at Sam first, and then clearly decides to carry on listening to Shake It Off despite Sam’s presence, making an active decision to embrace it in relation to Sam’s presence.