Here’s the promised rant! It goes on for thirty years! The season 6 as i can’t unsee it because i rewatched it at a weird point in life!
Step one: if you have shipping goggles on, take them off. If you have a big sentiment towards Cas’s perspective in 6.20, for now, leave it at the door. It belongs in the trashcan, I hope you know that.
Welcome to season 6 and the gender-coded horror aka all the things that were done to Dean because he just wouldn’t stay in the kitchen.
Season 6 in its entirety stronger than any other season placed Dean into the role of a woman. It’s a thing since day one in spn, but s6 was all about it. Dean’s horror in that season strongly resembles stories about women being abused and belittled because they are believed to be less than men; simply because they aren’t men [and know jack shit]. Their feelings don’t matter, neither does their consent, not really, which the season’s vaguely threatening “can’t or won’t?” encompasses very well [women don’t get to say “no” or “can’t” and keep it. It will get dissected and disrespected. Which is also Dean’s story].
Re-watching season 6 I felt like I was watching Rosemary’s Baby but simply without the baby??? Everyone there is either lying to Dean or gaslighting him or both, all the while he’s being repeatedly told everything that has been done to him, everything that hurt him, everything that took his choice away, was done to him for his own good or for the greater good vaguely including his own (or not) . And maybe he should shut the fuck up and drink a cocktail [or, according to Cas, some more whiskey].
This pattern stars in the very beginning of the season where Dean is being told that an important truth regarding Sam was hidden from him on purpose because Bobby Sam and Cas knew better what’s best for Dean and they treated Dean’s arguments as emotional and unreasonable. Dean fucking spent an entire year suffering from grief after losing his brother whom due to abuse and brainwashing Dean couldn’t help but see as his own child (which is something that season 12 canonically confirmed). Like with Ro’s baby being declared dead at first but hey I digress, scratch that.
Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of his choice being taken away from him, since right away he gets guilt-tripped back into the hunting life and all the things that were supposed to be so good for him he got endlessly ridiculed for. Soulless Sam even drags Dean’s entire life when Dean chooses to stay with Lisa. Dean doesn’t know Sam doesn’t have a soul. He’s just supposed to take the abuse from the guy who pushed him into the domestic life in the first place and consider it normal.
Dean is also being called soft and too feminine, too weak to be treated as an equal decision making party in the hunting arrangement. He’s ranked below Gwen, only woman in the group, the lowest ranking member before Dean came.
Also very interesting that throughout the season Dean is heavily connected with taking care of children, bonding with them, and feeling for them deeply [Ben, 6.02, 6.03, 6.19], which again is something he gets criticized for every single time.
The criticism however doesn’t end there and an extremely important example is where Dean begins voicing his concern regarding Sam and his behavior. Even though Dean knows Sam best, Bobby insists that Dean is being paranoid. Even after Sam literally served Dean to the vampire, he gets ordered to stop being so weak and get dressed into a more reason-based professional approach to the problem and he’s supposed to put his trauma aside, basically he’s being told to man up. Because he’s being emotional. And probably wrong and hysterical.
Of course it’s no surprise that the game-changing moment for Dean too puts him in a woman’s position within the narrative. While sexual assault isn’t a problem only women experience, statistically and, especially in the media, this is the sort of violence that women are in a larger threat of facing than men. What’s more to it, what happens on screen in the episode only shows the girls being lured into a trap and forcefully changed. And all of this has extremely sexual connotations. Being unwillingly turned into a vampire and the forced feeding with a vampire’s blood is a blatant metaphor of rape. In Dean’s case the sexual undertone of the assault was heavily accentuated even in dialogue.
But not just there. In the episode Dean takes the vampire book and refers to its cover [the vampire watching the girl sleep] as “rapey”. He’s uncomfortable with the whole thing. The act of staring at an unaware sleeping woman is presented as a monster vs woman thing to do, as an assault. When Dean gets turned, he watches Lisa sleep before she startles awake [6.05]. Lucky, the dog-skinwalker, watches his “love”/unaware owner sleep, then crawls into her bed [6.08]. Castiel, despite of knowing the sigils were literally meant to be a restraining order, enters Dean’s room, watches him sleep. Tries to convert him . The same episode also brings up all the times Dean, completely unaware, was being watched by him. Just like the girl from the book cover was, just like Maddie was.
No surprise Cas takes the creepy cake because he resonates with the disturbing theme perhaps the most, showing through how in season 6 Dean’s relationship with Cas played out. Or, to be more specific, how Castiel’s relationship with Dean played out (and there is a difference).
The thing of the biggest import here, before I begin, is that power imbalance, the difference of species. The angelic mindset in the Angels versus Humans dynamics, which is rooted in the same arguments men use to establish their dominance over women and to later excuse it: according to Angels (and technically supernatural beings in general), humans are weaker, too emotional, definitely dumber, less experienced, less competent.
And what they deserve, at best, is patronizing treatment showing them where is their place, because they’re too fragile and too stupid to make decisions for themselves. Not worthy taking a meaningful position in a war, but at the same time they’re extremely valuable due to their souls, which to an extent kind of reminds me of how women are often seen as valuable only because they are capable of childbirth, which is an ability unique to them in the same way having a soul is something that angels just lack, so they use humans for that.
Castiel might say he values humans as his equals, but even if he believes that, his actions don’t reflect it [5.18 for example, pick ANY episode from s6]. The thinking is so ingrained into him like patriarchal perspective is in men’s heads by default. Castiel’s and Dean’s relationship in season 6 is solely gender coded in this regard. Castiel simply isn’t capable of seeing Dean as his equal because he’s, according to Cas, weaker, less experienced, too biased by his flawed - or castiel’s actual words - “crippling” - human perspective, therefore he should be put away from the fighting for his own good. No matter the cost, no matter Dean’s judgment on the matter, no matter his choice. Safety is priority, right? Early in s6 Dean, desperate, tries to protect Lisa and Ben like that too, but he understands, he backs off. They reach balance.
But when the narrative puts Dean in Lisa’s place? The only thing he’s allowed to do is to perform some basic tasks that are completely unrelated to what’s happening on the Big Front and only when Cas sees it fit, and only how he sees it fit. Dean, as long as it is for Castiel to decide, doesn’t even have to know what he’s doing. In fact, in the original plan it was supposed to go along the lines of: Manly Men (angels) Fight Wars To Protect Women (Dean) because they’re capable and strong and cunning and rational, while Women (Dean) Stay At Home And Rake The God Damn Leaves. What they do is keep the fire going for the Victorious Soldier when He returns from War and if they don’t get that, they’re just dumb because their human little brains are too small to comprehend the stakes. So they don’t get a vote. They’re supposed to trust blindly. Men (angels) know better. And all of it of course is because Men (Castiel) love Them (Dean) so much and They’re willing to do everything and anything to protect those poor, brittle things (favorite pets?).
The list of anything and everything includes: lying about everything all the time directly into Dean’s face despite of the crushing emotional pain Dean was in. And I don’t even mean burning Crowley’s bones-lying, but every single time Dean has voiced his worry that something is wrong with Sam. What Castiel does is to placate Dean, reassure him that he doesn’t know what happens but he’s so sorry and he’ll try to find out! Aids and encourages Dean’s alcoholism just to make him docile, while lying to him actively, by the way [6.06]. And when that stops being an option and Dean is determined to return the soul to Sam, Castiel suddenly stops being so understanding and sweet. Like a flip of a switch. He guilt trips and indirectly threatens Dean before he follows through [6.10] and after placing Sam’s soul back in its place [6.12]. And of course it has nothing to do with actual worry over Sam’s wellbeing.
Cas pulled Sam out of the cage and didn’t bother to check on him for over a year, even though soulless!sam prayed to him repeatedly. Not to mention that he later broke Sam’s wall without blinking, so he did the exact thing he “warned” Dean about and by “warned” I mean that he made sure Dean would know the blame, if anything happens to Sam, is going to be his. The point of the whole show of concern was to keep Dean busy and technically powerless because together, alive and kicking, the Winchesters, while extremely dysfunctional and codependent, make a much bigger threat for the supernatural because it’s so much harder to keep the game going when suddenly both of the brothers are asking questions and Dean is no longer being pulled down, preoccupied and controlled by T-1000. Dean is much more compliant when he has no support and when he has no moves to make, which Castiel knows.
So yes, maybe Castiel didn’t pull out Sam soulless on purpose but it is no accident that he was so determined to keep him that way regardless of how much it cost Dean, whom, of course, he loves so fucking much.
And when you are an angel loving a man/mother figure so much you are also going to hurt the child just to force him to accept his position and stand down. And later tell him that he had it coming because he didn’t listen and didn’t do what he’s told (if the babysitter is slapped, she’s clearly done something wrong). All of it in the name of freedom, of course.
While attempting to emotionally manipulate Dean into supporting his cause and agreeing that what Castiel is doing is right, Cas invokes values like caring, protecting, being a family - which are in our society values mostly associated with women. Even the Superman metaphor presents Dean as Lois Lane (which Dean knows, so he throws that hot ball away as fast as he can). Throughout the entire 6.20 Dean is shown as and approached to as the delicate hurt wife that can’t believe she’s being cheated on, so everyone’s just being soft and protectional on her, poor thing, which starts in 6.19.
And fuck lemme tell you a thing about 6.19, buckle the fuck up. The episode very telling in the context of this gender-based abuse reading. It’s because both Bobby and Sam immediately understood that something is wrong about Cas while Dean couldn’t. And, the way see it, it’s not the problem of Dean trusting Cas more and blindly because he’s in love with him and stuff, no. At least not mostly. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that technically in the presence of both (especially soulless) Sam and Bobby Cas didn’t put that much effort into playing soft concern and caring thing as he did during the brief encounters he had with Dean alone. Sure Cas determined when he made it clear to Dean that driving the boys to their uncle is not something they have the time for, but there is a difference between the way he spoke about it in Dean’s presence, to Dean directly, and the comments he made when only Bobby was there to hear them. Here, compare for yourself:
CAS: Dean, can I have a word? We need to find Eve now.
DEAN: Yeah. Go. Me and Sam just gotta make a milk run.
CAS: We need your help here.
DEAN: Hold your water. We’ll be back in a few.
CAS: Dean, Dean. Millions of lives are at stake here, not just two. Stay focused.
DEAN: Are you kidding?
CAS: there’s a greater purpose here.
DEAN: you know what, I-I’m getting a little sick and tired of the greater purposes, okay? I think what I’d like to do now is save a couple of kids. If you don’t mind. We’ll catch up.
Now, same problem, but with no Dean to hear it. I heavily advise you to dig 6.19 out and watch if not both scenes at least this one because the way Misha delivers his lines here is vital. I know just the words to describe that for you, but hear that for yourselves:
BOBBY: They won’t take long.
CAS: They might find more orphans along the way.
BOBBY: Oh, don’t get cute.
CAS: Right. Pardon me for highlighting their crippling and dangerous empathetic response with “sarcasm”. It was a bad idea, letting them go.
Now, a bit on both [I still insist you should go watch that scene i’m begging you]:
First scene? Castiel approaches Dean gently, asks for a permission to talk in private, gives him space. He speaks to him super softly. I threw up softly. Dean doesn’t notice the demand in the demand at all, so he just goes ok, you do you, I do me i don’t get it??? So Cas goes into the emotional territory [always works, don’t it], still soft.
Now dean gets it, but doesn’t budge. So bigger ammo goes off. And don’t even get me started on “Dean, Dean,” and how throughout the show only the villains do the variations of repeating Dean’s name to address him. The delivery slightly differed here but
It was followed by an order that was all the way patronizing. Only Castiel’s eyes reflect the irritation, his voice doesn’t - even though as scene with bobby makes clear - he’s pissed as shit. On dean specifically. He does say “they” but note that sam hasn’t spoken once on the whole issue? It’s dean who he was talking to.
He thinks Dean is crippled for being empathetic and bound to children and he isn’t rational enough to understand the stakes. Let it sink in. now think about it in the context of being a gender [species] issue. Let it sink deeper.
Something in Dean’s words, that thrown in “if you don’t mind” - that’s totally subjective but it kind of makes me think of this women-specific way of speaking from many decades before. Like 40s-50s wife thing? That implied asking for permission woven into their lexicons? Dean is, of course, bitter here, but still, you ever hear a man use that construction? I haven’t. Feel free to discard this point it’s just me trying to work with leftovers of my linguistic training and it’s subjective and i’m in no way saying that line went like that on purpose, ok? It just Bothers me on some crawling under my skin level.
“Letting” someone do something is Bad Idea - says dude who slaughters in the name of Choice and Freedom. Oops.
And a bonus: Eve lured Dean into her trap, relying on his maternal side. Then, she tried to reach him using Mary. The whole thing being a mother to a mother talk because as a “mother” you should get my feelings.
Another bonus because you probably didn’t dig 6.19 out. That wasn’t an impersonal, rationalish vaguely grumpy sarcasm. That was soft, belittling, ridiculing contempt, the exact one you will meet again in 7.01! I wonder why!!
say bye bye to 6.19, we’re going elsewhere now. Still within the realm of season 6 fucking with Dean’s agency, gendering his problems, and somewhat within the realm of Castiel’s soon to be kingdom.
All that talk about making sacrifices for Dean’s good [because of dean/for dean, mind you] and preserving free will? Oh man, that was to not even convince God [who was blogging about cats at the time], but to make himself feel good and justified in what he’s doing.
And if he really meant what he said by “i’m doing this for you, i’m doing this because of you”, that’s because Dean is his prized possession. Spoils of war from apocalypse no. 1 [5.18 anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Entitlement?]. His trophy wife.
And no one can lay a hand on Dean and hurt him [michael, raphael, balthazar, atropos, crowley, demons] or even insult him [rachel]. Except of him, of course [ignoring him for a year, not even to say sam isn’t dead, grabbing and slicing Dean’s arm without asking and warning, guilt tripping him as hard as it gets re: Sam, agreeing to put him in harm’s way during crowley-related errands, keeping the lisa blackmail going due to convenience, re-making Dean’s reality and life without his consent BUT when that didn’t pan out, making him keep the knowledge just because he wanted to? Um, yikes? And of course hurting sam to get specifically to dean?]
CAS: I’ve earned that, Dean. [6.21]