October 29th, 2010

im a sex object

Looking at Dean Winchester: the gaze in Supernatural

As is often the case in Supernatural, something struck me in this week’s Supernatural, which when I picked at the thread, seemed to reveal a pattern throughput the whole show. I was struck how Dean is presented as both the owner and the object of the gaze within the show.

This “Twlight-esque” image is on the front of one of the vampire books Dean finds.

Look at this. Watching her sleep, how is that not rape-y

Dean encapsulates in this statement the concept of the male gaze. In film, women are typically the objects, rather than the possessors, of the gaze. Basically the gaze = looking + power. But hey I was drunk the day we studied feminist film theory in my agricultural science course, so here let talking dinosaurs explain it for you.

The reason this image disturbs us is because the power of the gaze here (active male watching an unconscious vulnerable woman) conveys his total power over her. It’s an image fitting of a crime or horror novel. Yet here (and in Twilight) this image is meant to represent what is presented as romantic love in the text.

Later Dean finds himself re-enacting the scene with Lisa, but he is conscious this signals his devolution into evil – again acknowledging the power inherent in the gaze.

However in the same episode, Dean is also the object of the gaze - most significantly as Sam stands and watches Dean get attacked and infected. Sam is in the position ofa power here s he watches and chooses not to intervene. We also have the vampire Boris looking Dean over and announcing “You’re pretty.”

Dean most often owns the gaze. When we first meet him, he ogles Jess’s boobs in her smurf shirt, and throughout the series Dean is the one in the position of power when he looks at women, or on monsters. But regularly interspersed through the series, we get a shift from Dean as the subject to Dean as the object.

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