“Why? I’m better now.”
“I know,” she says easily. “But I think we need to figure out why you picked Dean. What is it about him that makes you want to be him?”
He starts cracking his knuckles. He’s waiting for the day she tells him not to do it, that it’s bad for his joints, but she never says anything.
“I don’t think I’m him anymore. I know who I am. I’m me. I’m Jensen.”
“And I’m glad for it. But it’s important that you understand why you latched on to him. If we can take it apart and uncover it all, you won’t need him anymore. Remember what I said about therapy at the start?”
He shifts in his seat. “Yeah.” She had said it was like a rain barrel, and while things looked clean on the surface there was always sludge and grime that you had to stir up, clean out, and then you’d really have clean water instead of just the illusion of clean water.
“So, tell me. Tell me about Dean Winchester.”
By some laws of fandom, and in some cases, incest is inevitable.
A certain TV show premiered in September of 2005 with two main characters. For three years, these two brothers were the only constant characters. The writers made a paltry effort with attractive females that existed for half an episode and were immediately killed off, but it was clear from the beginning that the only relationship the brothers would forever keep was the one between themselves. And so, the fandom followed the path that the writers had unknowingly created: the brothers’ relationship was meant to be, and in more than a brotherly sense. The writers were shocked. The readers of this blog post, perhaps, are also shocked.
But in retrospect, from a cultural studies professor’s viewpoint, there is nothing to be shocked about. With a little understanding of a fandom‘s collective mind, one can see a pattern in the way thousand of ships are created. So I present my hypothesis on the operation of relationships within Internet societies:
By the Attention Shipping Hypothesis, there exists a character, no-screen-time < interaction(character) < already-canonically-shipped, such that interaction(character) is compatible with interaction(other character). Since interaction(character) = personality type A and interaction(character) = personality type B, and personality type A is compatible with personality type B, character and other character will be written in close context.
Which is to say that the more time two characters interact or are otherwise seen as compatible, the more likely they are to be shipped together. In most cases, this requires that the characters have met each other, and are not already being paired together by the writers. This is because the relationships formed by the authors themselves are frequently seen as OOC or uninteresting. There therefore exists a certain rebellious incentive to create a new ship – and although the average fandom-made ship is unlikely to ever be made canon, the excitement of conspiracy in relationships almost makes up for it. This way of writing occasionally makes for interesting or especially unnerving ships, as relationships theorized over the internet are subject to very little scrutiny, especially from more morally-inclined parties. And by this hypothesis, the brothers Sam and Dean were destined to be together, to form the ship Wincest.
Such is the stance, in an existential sense, that the author of Folie a Deux takes. The brothers have found themselves in another (considering their lifestyles) inevitable problem: they are confined in a mental asylum, tricked into believing that they are not themselves, but the actors that play them.
That is one view the reader can choose.
The other is that the actors of the show have gone so deep into their characters, and been so damaged by the characters’ experiences, they can no longer reemerge. Far from character bleed, the character have bled out long ago, and only a straitjacket-bound husk remains.
Our protagonist is unknown. The author skillfully manipulates pronouns to imply an ambiguous identity. Our (and his) options are Jensen the actor, or Dean the supernatural warrior. The character’s identity is what he chooses – he decides he is, and he is. But Jensen/Dean is having a very difficult time choosing, trapped in a tug of war of identity as people try to help him, caught in between taking medicine to fix Jensen, or palming them to fix Dean. The story mocks canon in a strange sense, using the implausible scenarios, abused female stereotypes, and stretches of the imagination to create a sense of doubt in the characters of their own lives.
The reader may choose a side, but neither option is really better than its companion. No matter which scenario is true, something is messed up. Between the two realities – character turned actor and actor turned character – the relationship between the two people still exists. Whoever is real, they still lust. Jensen/Dean therefore does not only have to choose between actor and fighter, but between a sexual relationship with his coworker, or with his brother.
There is as much happiness and angst in this story as you could expect within the walls of an asylum, but there is more smut than you’d think a straitjacket would allow. This story is not a pleasant read. It is as morally gray as the colors of its show. Nevertheless, the ideas illustrated in those grayscale tones are fascinating, and the battles of conscience required to finish the tale are worth it in every way.
Overall Rating: ++++
Read it here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/204331
Comment below with your thoughts on the use of asylums in stories, the risks of writing disturbing material in public places, or simply with which identity you chose.