When I first heard that line, on the Director’s Cut, I winced. I didn’t like this use of gay in a pejorative way. On the other hand, I also felt strongly it was exactly the sort of thing Dean would say to Sam.
Previous gay references between the boys have been fun, and appropriate – they’ve come from outsiders who assume to attractive young men ostensibly buying a house or renting a room together might be gay. Who wouldn’t?
But in this context, ‘gay’ doesn’t refer to sexuality per se. Dean is not saying it because he thinks that because Sam knows about fairy tales it implies he likes buttsex. Gay in this context means weak and effeminate. Now as far as slurs and insults go against gays go it’s pretty mild, and I have used it myself (although more in a sense of something being OTT camp). I know much of fandom just thought “hehe, Dean called Sam gay”. But it would be unacceptable to have a racial or religious insult in this way – as usual misogyny and homophobia slip by (welcome to the patriarchy!)
Dean could have used as an alternative. “Are you an eight year old girl?” – well that wouldn’t work in this episode, given it is all about how powerful and violent an eight year old girl can be. What about “Dude, you gotta stop watching the Disney channel?”
So I started thinking about the choice of this particular insult and what it says about Dean, and why I thought it was in character for him to say it. Because we often insult or belittle things that touch a chord in us.
Dean constructs an identity of hyper-masculinity - the muscle car, the cock rock, the leather jacket, the weapons. No chick flick moments. He likes horror movies, Westerns, war movies (well except for that inexplicable familiarity with Pretty in Pink). He lives in an almost exclusively male world.
Yet he is not misogynistic towards women. He treats women – whether they are the victims of monsters or the monsters themselves – the same way he treats men. He doesn’t think women can’t look after themselves, or fight. He was explicit about this with Jo – it wasn’t her gender that made her unsuitable for hunting in his eyes, but her inexperience. He has a healthy desire for women, which is always expressed with playful delight.
Dean lost the primary woman in his life – who represented the female for him – when Mary was killed when he was four. I think Dean, probably following John’s lead – has subconsciously acted to eliminate everything female, and feminine, from his own identity. (In Jungian terms, his anima). Doing this was probably a way for him and John to survive the overwhelming grief he felt at the loss of his mother. They had to live without her, so they did so in all senses.
Looking back to WIAWSNB, where we saw that Dean’s ultimate wish was to have Mary alive and in his life - and yet he ultimately chose to cut himself off even from that internalised version of his mother.
I’m sure Mary would’ve read fairy tales to Dean. By putting down an interest in fairy tales, Dean is seeking to deny that it is something he valued; something he lost that still pains him. I even wonder if Dean read fairy tales to Sam, and that on some level he is angry that Sam got something that Dean lost. Not just the fairy tales, but that Sam has not had to cut off from those things the way Dean has.
Dude, could you be anymore gay?In conclusion: entirely in character comment for Dean. But note to writers, in future please keep the gay references confined to references to porn and implications about buttsecks.