Hello boys and girls, today I want to talk about traditional gender roles in fiction, the modern double standard on gender roles, and how sexism plays into that. Specifically, as you may have predicted, I’ll be focusing on the character archetype that Sam Winchester fits into, and why it makes people uncomfortable.
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Sam Winchester is a male character in a traditionally female role. The cursed damsel in need of a protector, essentially. He is the passive to Dean’s active in the majority of the myth arcs. That is to say, things happen to Sam without his consent or control, while Dean’s involvement in the myth arcs requires action. Sam also has many traditionally “feminine” personality traits. When I watch Supernatural with my family, a running joke is that Supernatural doesn’t need a heroine/female supportive, because it already has Sam. Sam’s role, in other works, would probably be filled by a female character. But Sam is male, and that makes people feel uncomfortable BECAUSE:
It’s totally okay/badass for a woman to play a man’s role, but it’s wrong/humorous/derogatory for a man to play a woman’s role. Because everyone knows you’re not supposed to take women seriously.
I’m sure many if not most of you have heard someone say things about Sam like “he’s too emotional,” “he’s such a girl,” “he’s useless/weak/in the way,” “he’s annoying,” made misogynistic slurs towards him (this has also been done in canon), or used derogatory words like faggot/pussy/gay in a negative context. These are also comments typically made towards female characters in general, especially if said female character has any sway over the story or male characters. Sam being male in this role also makes him susceptible to trivialization. A disturbingly common assessment of Sam is to reduce him to a fandom joke, a plot device or accessory, to downplay his importance in the story or to just generally refuse to read into him too deeply or take him seriously.
Because, again, a man in a woman’s role is a joke.