last call

Mar. 18th, 2010 03:52 pm
[personal profile] xaara
I've been fiddling around with a few fics lately, gen stuff, some set in season two, some in season five, and an AU of Lucifer Rising tentatively titled "Sam Listens to Dean For Once in his Goddamn Life; Also Dean Doesn't Act Like an Ass, and There's This Angel Dude."

However, I keep getting distracted. I keep getting distracted, because the story I want to tell and can't figure out how, the story that is really getting to me this season (and last, actually), is Dean's drinking.

In the spirit of full [tmi] disclosure, I have quite a bit of experience with drinkers. I work at a bar. My last boyfriend was a bartender; the one before that was a (now-recovering) alcoholic. My best friend is a recovering alcoholic. For about four months following one really, really bad breakup, I was mostly either drunk or hungover, until I realized that I could go one of two directions: down, or up.

Bearing that in mind, watching Dean's drinking intensify over the last couple of seasons has been an uncomfortable experience. I desperately want Bobby or Sam to notice openly, to say something, but aside from a few offhand comments here and there, they don't seem to think it's that big a deal.

It's a big fucking deal. Here's what it's like to be a high-functioning alcoholic: you wake up because your blood sugar drops dramatically, disoriented and slightly nauseous. You get out of bed resolving that this is the morning you're going to drink just water and maybe a little juice. Then, you think it can't be that bad to pour a shot of whiskey into your coffee, because it'll make you feel better. It does make you feel better. It takes the edge off your headache, and gives you a slight buzz, because you're so dehydrated that anything would get you buzzed right now. You fight to clear your head, and after a while you have a sort of gentle awareness of the world around you. It's like reining your brain in so it goes from functioning like a modern computer to functioning like an abacus, capable of doing only things that make solid, tangible sense in the solid, tangible present. You eat some cereal for breakfast, take a shower, and are careful to brush your teeth, despite the fact that the taste of toothpaste makes your stomach heave.

You go through the day on autopilot, and by the time you're done with your obligations (you've probably had a beer or two with lunch) you decide it's time to kick back with a movie and a glass of whiskey. And another. And a third. By ten, you're drunk and tired and just want to pass out, or you're out with friends just getting started on the real drinking of the night. Either way, you pass out--you don't sleep, not really, not with all that alcohol clogging up your body--and you wake up the next day, suddenly, and your mouth tastes like you licked a bar rag and you think, Man, I could use a screwdriver about now.

It's not romantic. It's not fun. It's painful, and disgusting, and alienating. You drink to get away from what's bothering you (in my case, grief and anger and loneliness; in Dean's, well, grief and anger and loneliness), but because the alcohol dulls your mind's ability to multitask, you end up unable to focus on anything else. So you drink more, because if you drink enough, eventually you'll pass out and you won't have to think about anything.

This is a liability at the best of times. When you're drinking consistently (even if it's not much--it doesn't have to be much), you lose the ability to create mental hierarchies. You're chronically sleep-deprived. Your reaction time and decision-making skills are moot points. It takes ages to process new information, and even important things like names and faces and remembering to call your mom on her birthday just sort of slide away.

Dean's not in the best of times. He's in the middle of the capital-A Apocalypse. He can't think straight; his body is breaking down and betraying him. His reflexes aren't what he's used to, and his fine motor skills, especially new ones, ones he doesn't know like the back of his hand, are suffering. Mostly, though, his friends and his family, people who need to sit him down and say something, treat it like a minor issue. The show's writers seem unsure of whether to play it as a joke or just ignore it altogether, but they've written themselves into his mess and need to acknowledge it's there.

I don't want there to be some sort of Intervention! episode. I understand that hunters, like most men and women who work grueling, unappreciated jobs, often end the day with a glass of the closest hard stuff. I think it's unrealistic for Dean to quit drinking, but I also think it's unrealistic for him to continue at his current pace without serious, potentially deadly, side effects.

So yeah. I want to address that. In a way that doesn't send people running for the hills, since it's not exactly a lighthearted topic, and I'm not sure I'm capable of treating it in any way except extremely seriously. I want the show to take responsibility for the characters it's created, and their choices. If you choose to set a series in Modern America+Monsters, you are obligated to address the problems inherent in the setting. Dean's drinking, like that of lonely, desperate people around the world, is not cute and not funny. It deserves far more nuanced, careful, and responsible writing than I've seen so far, if only in deference to those of us who see him unscrew the cap on his flask and take a swig to steady his nerves and feel a sympathetic burn right below the sternum where we've tried the same medicine.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-18 10:48 pm (UTC)
ext_13391: (SPN: Dean: drinking night)
From: [identity profile] smilla02.livejournal.com
This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your experience.

I want to address that. In a way that doesn't send people running for the hills, since it's not exactly a lighthearted topic, and I'm not sure I'm capable of treating it in any way except extremely seriously.

And that's why you're a wonderful writer. I would love to read all your stories, but considering that I don't trust SPN to treat the matter of Dean's drinking with the seriousness it deserves (it didn't with his post-Hell issues) I would love to read this story written the way you would.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-19 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xaara.livejournal.com
Well, I'm glad I at least didn't come across too after-school special (Lips That Touch Wine Shall Never Touch Mine!) It's something I'm really open about in my real life, but it always feels a little odd to be a real person here. :P

I definitely see Dean's drinking as one of his post-Hell issues. It strikes me as a symptom rather than a separate disease, and if I ever get around to parsing this out in a way that isn't annoyingly didactic to read, that's probably how I'd approach it.

Oh, show, I love you so much, but I will never, ever trust you. (Kind of like my dad's 1970 Volvo station wagon.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-18 11:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lassiterfics.livejournal.com
What Smilla said, every bit of it. Thanks for sharing this. <3

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-19 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xaara.livejournal.com
Hehe, it's just one of those things about this show that I love beyond all reason and still makes me *facepalm* on a weekly basis. Oh, the media.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-20 04:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ibroketuesday.livejournal.com
Nthing the "thanks for sharing this". It's beautiful and illuminating.

It seems that dealing with serious issues in a nuanced and deliberate way is something that the SPN writers have been failing to do across the board. Deal with Dean's alcoholism and PTSD? Deal with Sam's addiction and rage/control issues? Deal with Castiel's failing powers, hunt for God and status as outcast? Nah, let's have an episode where they GO TO A CON instead!!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-03-22 05:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xaara.livejournal.com
Oops, I could've sworn I responded to this comment, but apparently not.

I guess I tend to cut the show a little (or a lot) of slack in dealing with issues. I mean, these people are basically poster children for repression and looking the other way. Also, you can't just wake up one morning and say, "I want to spend the next 46 minutes of script exploring the psychological effects of isolation on angels." Or I guess you could, but then this would be on HBO and a much different show. I always have to take a step back and realize that many (most?) people who watch are just watching, without this whole participatory/analytical background. So you have to walk a fine line between meta and plot. (Of course, sometimes this show manages to discard both meta and plot. But that's a rant for a different day. :P)

The show is very adamant about being set in Modern America+Monsters, and should therefore explore the issues it raises that affect real Modern America. Yeah, most of us don't spend time in Hell. But people really do suffer from post-traumatic stress. Most people aren't addicted to demon blood. But people really are addicted to a number of substances that have similar unintended side effects: breakdown of relationships and trust. Most of us aren't angels on the run from heavenly hosts, but we've all been lonely, we've all been scared, and plenty of people have been in corners so tight they haven't been able to see a way out.

Anyway, this turned out quite long, so basically: I do not expect Supernatural writers to address any of this. I would, however, love for them to surprise me. And in the meantime, there is fandom!

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