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SPN "Heart": mini-meta on PRS scene (family roles)
the arch of the eyebrows gives it away
Hi, everybody!

I've never committed meta in public before. Hmmm. And of course I'd pick not the shattering scene but the funny scene. Spoilers only for "Heart." Anyway, the Paper, Rock, and Scissors from "Heart" is obviously supposed to be a little bit of comic relief, and judging by the ep reactions I read, it worked. Even simply as comic relief, though, it does more work than that, being comic relief we don't know we're going to need until the end of the ep. But I think there's more to it than that.

(Let me just say that it is a brilliantly humorous bit. These two badass guys play a children's game with serious "game faces" - Dean's "stick it to ya" face in particular when he throws was killing me. As does his frustrated grunt/"God!" when he loses again.)

Sam mocks Dean for consistently picking the same option - "Dean, always with the scissors." What both of them ignore - or perhaps just don't realize - is that Sam necessarily picks the same option all of the time too (rock, to crush the scissors). Which, fine, Sam likes to win and either Dean hasn't caught on or holds on to hope that one glorious day Sam will throw paper and scissors will reign supreme. But getting back to the nearly inevitable outcome of the game - Dean stays consistent. He fills a role, just as he does throughout their lives. Dean is always the good son, good brother, good soldier. Whatever Sam does, however he behaves, is always - given the nature of family dynamics, sibling dynamics in particular - going to be read in reaction to that. Sam can fall in line (be just like Dean) or he can rebel (be unlike Dean). Of course Sam is a good son, good brother, and good soldier. But read in tandem with Dean, he comes up short, at least in his own estimation. Being the younger sibling means that Sam always has to consider Dean's actions before taking his own, just as he does playing PRS.

There's a whole other meta somewhere in there about Dean's steadiness providing the comfort zone for Sam to play - Sam can form outside relationships, can study hard, can go off to Stanford because Dean's unswerving commitment to family has given him the freedom to explore all of these options - but I think that's too much for me.

So, what do you think? Also, I'm a little curious about how everyone played this game. We hid our fists behind our backs and chanted, "Paper, rock, and scissors, SHOOT!" and on "shoot" we brought our hands to the front. And I have a feeling Sam would be in for a rude awakening if he ever competed in the World Championships - unless he used his special powers.

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This is a very nifty meta. Honest, I hadn't given the rock-paper-scissors scene much thought, beyond adoring it, knowing right then and there I needed a usericon of it, and how it's one of those sibling things they've done their whole lives. But you've got me seeing there's more going on with it than I thought.

There's something comforting about that scene, even more in retrospect once we know how dark the end is, the familiarity of it. It's not so much a game to them as a ritual, maybe. Since they know each other's patterns that well. But if you ask me, Dean threw that game so Sam could hang out with the hot chick.

We hid our fists behind our backs and chanted, "Paper, rock, and scissors, SHOOT!" and on "shoot"

That's exactly how we played it.

P.S. you might want to add a cut tag, to protect those who are late seeing the ep, even though rock paper scissors isn't a plot detail.

Thanks! I agree that a great deal of the scene's charm comes from its familiarity - not just to us, but also, to them; the boys have clearly been playing PRS all their lives.

I don't know if I buy that Dean threw the game, though. He really does look frustrated, and given his remarkable lack of subtlety later with the fist in the air, I'd have a hard time believing that the grunt was entirely to fool Sam.

(And I figured no cut tag was necessary, since the scene was up at the CW site a week before the ep even aired. But thanks!)

We usually played it pretty much like they were playing it. One hand out flat, other hand bouncing on the flat hand once, twice, third time you throw your choice.

Of course, the last time I played it with any regularity was when I still played live action role playing games. We, err, used it to settle various game-related actions.

Huh. I thought the fist bumping was a particularly macho way to play it, a Winchester spin on things. Very interesting, thanks!

I think it's very true that Dean's conformity allows Sam to rebel, because everything he does is measured against Dean, but also, he always has the security of knowing that if his rebellion falls flat, Dean will be there to pick up the pieces. For example, he runs in Hunted, but as soon as he's in danger, the first thing he does is call Dean.

We never used RPS for choosing - it was always odds and evens, best of three. God, I haven't done that in years.

Odds and evens! Yes!

And yes, to your larger point. Whatever Sam does, he always has a place with Dean; that takes a lot of the pressure off having to find or make one of his own. Of course, Sam is driven to do that anyway, but he does always have a safety net.

It is interesting what you say that Sam necessarily picks the same option also, in order to win. Sam is competitive, and wants to win. I think this is just his personality, but it does fit with the younger sibling dynamic. You are right, Sam's actions react to Dean's. If he knows Dean picks the same option he can either win with Rock or throw it with Paper - and Sam doesn't have the personality to throw it.

I am interested as to whether you think Dean deliberately threw it the second time, knowing Sam will pick Rock again. I partly think yes he did, but then I think there is that mentality - he'll think I'll change my mind so I won't, I'll stay the same.

Being the younger sibling means that Sam always has to consider Dean's actions before taking his own, just as he does playing PRS.
This is interesting - and yes I believe it's true - especially as we see a lot of their behaviour being Dean reacting to Sam, as you say Dean's steadiness providing the comfort zone for Sam to play - Dean does what he does for his family. Sam left when Sam wanted to leave, Dean would have shot Madison for him, allowing Sam that decision.

I am interested as to what other things they've used Rock Paper Scissors to decide. There's some fun fic in there somewhere!

I am interested in what everyone called it - I say 'Rock Paper Scissors' in that order, ha ha. We hid our fists behind our backs too, the boys played it a very funny way I thought!

Sam is definitely not going to lose on purpose - not now, not ever.

I don't think Dean threw the second game. At that point, the stakes were not that high, and though Dean obviously wants Sam to spend time with a hot chick, he hasn't exactly been getting a lot of play himself, especially given the fact that he's now a fugitive from the FBI. I just think he has some weird allegiance to scissors, couldn't bring himself to throw anything else.

Go forth and fic!

I don't think Dean threw it either - I was surprised to see that suggested somewhere...it's an interesting theory but as you say, why would he. We're not in Provenance territory anymore, he doesn't need to help Sam in that way... there is a tendency to make Dean into a Saint I think, and he ain't - he wants to get some too. :)

I might, er, be ficcing. I'm thinking about it anyway (more teen boys). I'm not sure about it but yeah.. your discussion has inspired me.

and if I DO finish it and you were free to look at it that'd be grand and I'd need your gmail addy again, but if you are busy that's cool...might come to nothing anyways.

Anyway. 1, 2, 3...DRAW~!

Frankly, until Madison pulled her little underwear trick, I wasn't really sure that she was interested in Sam; there was no sign (as there definitely was with Sarah) that she'd picked either brother to focus on before that, so I can't believe that Dean would have thrown the game.

Will email you about the rest.

Really interesting insights! I think you've got a great handle on the power dynamics there. When Dean threw scissors for the second time though, I figured he was simply over-thinking things, predicting that Sam would predict he'd throw something else since he'd just pointed to the fact that Dean always throws scissors, and dean might think, that if Sam thinks he's going to throw rock now instead of scissors, then Sam would throw paper. And scissors cut paper, so he should really just throw scissors again! Get it?

But seriously, I look back on that whole rock, paper, scissors scene now as being very fatalistic. I felt like the whole ep was just a long set up for him to be placed in a position where Sam felt as though he had no choice but to shoot Madison. And the corner Sam is backed into is fundamentally determined by the outcome of that game, which to me is really quite depressing. It sort of feeds into the whole "you can't change your destiny" line of thought. Sam was fated and destined to win that game. And that really kinda sucks.

Anyway, that's what it made me think about.

Sam was fated and destined to win that game. And that really kinda sucks.

Only because Sam is too competitive to allow himself to lose. Sam has a choice, he had a choice in that game.

Saying he could allow himself to lose implies he knew for certain Dean was going to throw scissors. I'm not too sure about that. I think he took a risk.

And even if it was a win/lose choice, he had no idea what the implications of that choice would be, right?

Wahh! I hate these probability riddles! That's why I don't gamble! ;)

I agree with you that he took a risk, but he probably knows Dean well enough to know Dean will go Scissors again...like Dean knew that Sam would be uncomfortably Sat on the sofa...

I love your insight that Sam was destined to lose the game tho' and so have to do that deed at the end. It's a sort of rite of passage that as a hunter Sam would have to go through at some point - although Dean would HAPPILY shield Sam from it as long as he can - Sam has to 'grow up' and not let Dean at some point,like he did here.

That's how I saw their tears at the end. My friend watched it with me last night, and pointed out that both boys were probably upset at the end cause this mirrors what Dean may have to do to Sam at some point, at I must say, I hadn't really seen that, so upset was I for the Sam/Madison situation....

sorry, I have rambled on at you i speak!

Anyway interesting discussion innie, to the point where I have now asked my flist what other games they played! :)

Thank you very much! I like your "reverse psychology" read on why Dean might have thrown scissors the second time, but I honestly believe it's even simpler than that - that he just has a weird allegiance to scissors and can't bring himself to throw anything else. I really don't think he deliberately lost.

I really like the notion of something huge (having to kill Madison) depending on something so seemingly trivial as the PRS games, but I'm not sure that I think the line between the two events is completely straight. Madison herself is a huge variable, you know?

But yay, thinky thoughts! I love our show!

Opinions on whether or not Dean threw the game are various, but it would have been just as easy for Sam to, since it's as easy to lose as it is to win.

We always played rock-paper-scissors, sometimes slapping our fists into our hands, but usually just fists. Otherwise exactly like the boys played it.

See, I thought the Winchesters were playing it some weird, macho way. We were much more delicate about it - no fist pounding at all.

And for the record, I don't think Dean threw the game.

There's a whole other meta somewhere in there about Dean's steadiness providing the comfort zone for Sam to play - Sam can form outside relationships, can study hard, can go off to Stanford because Dean's unswerving commitment to family has given him the freedom to explore all of these options - but I think that's too much for me.

This is very true. Dean's role in the family as caretaker or semi parental figure, the stability is what allowed Sam to take those chances or to concentrate more on forming himself. It's the role parents are supposed to fill, to basically give their children enough feeling of security to allow them to take chances - knowing that if they screw up, someone will be there to catch them no matter what, even as they are "rebelling" against them.

We get a hint of it in Salvation when Sam thanks Dean for always having his back and for his knowing that even when didn't know if he could count on anyone else he'd always known he could count on Dean. John didn't fill that role in his children's lives, but Dean filled it in Sam's.

Their family dynamics were all screwed up in that it wasn't a parent who offered comfort and stability because the parent seemed to stop being able to so it, it was a sibling(and for most of that time a child) who gave it to both younger sibling and parent(as we hear about briefly in IMTOD). Dean learned along time ago to temper his competitiveness in some areas esp. with his family - because he couldn't afford it. There was no one there to mediate fights with Sam or to decide what was fair when Dad was away for 3 days on hunting trips, there was no one else there to support Dad out of his dark moods in order for them to be able to function. The funny thing is Dean is often thought of as being the wild one but in fact he'd have to have alot of self-control to fulfil the role he's fulfilled.

Dean is the mommy. The end.

He is the one who, as you say, nurtures the others, being the rock, the safety net, whatever metaphor you want to use. And while that is admirable, it's also upsetting, because Dean pushes this commitment to his family over the edge into unhealthily self-denying. God, I love him.

awesome mini-meta! i hadn't considered all those angles, really just thought 'man, those boys take that game SERIOUSLY.' i agree with you, i don't think dean lost on purpose. he's probably just a stubborn bastard. but anyway, very interesting, telling reading on a such a little slice of the episode.

Thank you very much! Yes, the boys being so completely, goofily serious is one of the best parts about the scene. BOYS!

I loved that scene so much because it spoke about all these levels of family. First, the whole "because I'm older" thing and how despite being essentially demon hunting partners, they're first and foremost brothers.

Plus, yeah, I think if they ever tried to out psych each other it would be a huge mess, because they know each other well, but also have huge blind spots for each other (Dean not getting that scissors might be the coolest, but Sam will always choose rock because rock beats paper). Same for Sam, though. He pushes Dean about his emotions, but seems honestly shocked when Dean has some that are more intense than he expected (when Dean refuses to leave him when Sam might have caught the virus).

if they ever tried to out psych each other it would be a huge mess Yes. And that's funny (I want fic!) and sad too, that they are laid so bare for each other's eyes but can't always figure each other out.

That scene was some of the most efficient writing I've seen; I really love that.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

A little late in answering your entry, but I love this game. In my third grade class there are times when more than one student wants to do the same thing with a project or be a part of an event in class or lunch with a specific person, truth is just about any dispute at all. I found out long ago, that I simply say Rock, Paper, Scissors and they settle for that as an answer to these disputes, I never have to make the choice, I let 2 out of 3 be the decision maker. It always works and they always abide by the winner, no argument whatsoever. I've had other adults in my room when something comes up, as we stand and settle it as quickly as it arose they stand amazed that it's done and we've moved on. Coolest thing ever when Sam and Dean did it.

Re: Rock, Paper, Scissors

Ha! That's so fantastic! And I love that PRS has become infallible justice in your classroom.

(I have to say I'm a leeeetle surprised the kids don't go for "best of 5," "best of 7," etc., but it's sweet that they don't.)

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