Man, Anon. This is going to get…impassioned.
First lemme get this out of the way: yes, he tried his best. Let no one claim he did not love his sons fiercely and thoroughly. Let it never be said that he wasn’t willing to make sacrifice after sacrifice for his boys. He had a lot going against him and dealt with it the only way he could figure how. He was not a completely bad man and I don’t consider him a villain, and I really don’t like it one bit when fans reduce him to some completely heartless asshole who didn’t care about his boys. (And gods know JDM and Matt Cohen are just fantastic actors.)
His best was not good enough.
He fucked. Up. His. Sons’. Lives. Permanently.
Fucked them up so hard they’ve both been around for lifetimes, thanks to their time in Hell, and they’re still carrying John’s baggage around.
Now we can sit here all day going back and forth about how destiny shafted the entire Campbell-Winchester line and he could have done X instead of Y and Z might still have happened but I’m not gonna. Instead I’m gonna give you some straight shit as a problem child raised in an abusive environment whose parents also did the best they could, sacrificed much, dealt with everything stacked against us the only ways they knew how. Yeah, they had the best intentions, yeah, they love me, yet here I am a grown-ass adult who’s irrevocably ruined in body, head, and heart because INTENT ISN’T A MAGIC FUCKING BAND-AID.
When I tell you that John Winchester enrages me like no other non-villain fictional character ever has (to the best of my memory), it’s because I can’t hate him completely; because he reminds me so much of my own mother, and the indelible scars he left on Sam and Dean remind me so much of my own.
So yeah, he sold himself to aeternal damnation at the hands of the very demon he’d spent half his life hunting & training his sons to hunt to save Dean’s life. I have mixed feelings about that act but I think we can give up any pretense of expecting this family to do the sane thing. He died so Dean could live, and that’s admirable as fuck. My appreciation for this act is somewhat soured by the fact that his last words were literally to tell the son he’d sold his soul to save – the one he’d moulded into a borderline, codependent, drug-addicted, self-loathing, deeply-closeted wreck of a man who never had the chance to be a child because John turned him into a soldier instead – not to be unafraid, nor to make sure they finished the job, nor that he loved him, but that IF HE FAILED TO SAVE HIS LITTLE BROTHER HE WOULD HAVE TO KILL HIM
WHICH IS BASICALLY A COMBINATION OF EVERYTHING DEAN FEARS MOST IN THE WORLD
JESUS CHRIST ON A PRETZEL
*stomps around spewing flame*
He took rampant advantage of Dean’s trauma over the loss of his mother and the hero-worship attachment he made to John himself to systematically strip away the boy’s sense of self-worth outside TAKE CARE OF SAMMY to the point that Dean never forgave himself for defying orders That One Time when he was TWELVE YEARS OLD.
He taught his boys that womanising, lying, cheating, swindling, and drinking constantly were Good Things, Manly Things. He showed them that alcoholism and murder are the best coping methods available and that being paranoid & isolated are requirements. He lauded a small child’s aim with a gun as sign of BEING A BORN KILLER, and was UPSET that his
younger middle son did not display the same “KILLER INSTINCT” at the same age.
He put his quest for revenge above his sons’ futures to the point that Dean – DEAN, WHO IS FUCKING BRILLIANT AND WELL-READ AND CREATIVE AND LEARNS SO QUICKLY – GAVE UP ON HIMSELF ACADEMICALLY AND IN HIS MID-THIRTIES AFTER LITERALLY SAVING THE WORLD MULTIPLE TIMES STILL THINKS HE’S NOTHING MORE THAN CANNON FODDER.
He withheld praise so thoroughly that Dean was able to tell that he’d been possessed by a demon because John would never have said he was proud of him in spite of a failure.
He denied Dean a childhood, forcing him to fill the role of mother-figure for Sam when he was far too young for such responsibility, and thanks to the rest of John’s lovely childrearing techniques Dean doesn’t even think he DESERVED a childhood.
He was physically abusive to his sons, especially when drunk. Stanners GTFO, the evidence is all right there, though I’ll be goddamned if I’m gonna go hunting for it at four in the morning. Just take the word of someone who’s spent more years in abusive relationships than many Tumblr users have been alive, alright? Like a battered housewife Dean still can’t bring himself to admit John’s tyranny aloud to anyone else.
His attitude convinced Sam that he wasn’t loved as much because the kid didn’t follow orders with unquestioning desperation like Dean did. He let Sam grow up thinking he was a freak and an outcast everywhere because he wanted a normal life.
He held Dean back from school when the boy was so fucking excited to start in favour of chasing fucking poltergeists and treated Sam like a kinslayer for wanting to go to college–
(–Christ. Okay. John Winchester was codependent, too. A lot clicked into place just now. If you ignore the rest of my outraged raving and take nothing else away, hang onto that one. I’m not wrong.)
He clung and clung and clung to those boys until he crushed them, and then lobbed them as far away as he could in the name of “keeping them safe” from the thing he’d been rearing them to fight to the point that he let them wonder if he was even alive still and ignored them begging for help when one or the other was literally dying.
John taught his boys that the only real way to show love is to die for someone. That’s noble in theory but in practise it just leaves more wreckage and guilt in its wake. It set them up to oh you know START THE END OF THE WORLD, nbd.
Oh, oh, and let’s not forget how he occasionally ran off to have his own ~*NORMAL LIFE*~ with a woman he didn’t marry and a son he didn’t really support, but oh hey, he’d shuck Sam & Dean off on friends (including another high-functioning alcoholic) to go TAKE HIS YOUNGEST SON TO BALLGAMES FOR HIS BIRTHDAY. Like that was remotely fucking fair to his second family, either, leaving Kate Milligan a single mother of a child who didn’t meet his father til he was fuckin’ twelve, and then showing up again sporadically like he’s entitled to a place in their lives.
I just, I can’t
this topic makes me so very tired and angry that I keep forgetting what I’m trying to say so I’m gonna wrap up by saying
I do feel that I owe my mother forgiveness even through all the baggage and the scars, but I owe John Winchester nothing of the sort.