On season 8's build-up to Dean being openly bisexual.
To some people, the interactions between Dean and Aaron in 8x13 might seem like an isolated event, but that’s not the case. It was the most blatant indication of Dean’s bisexuality we’ve gotten, and thus more easily noticeable even to casual viewers. However, there was a lead-up of subtler ones — that are gradually getting more and more unsubtle — preceding it. In hindsight, season 8 has been showing all the signs of a slow-burning progression, as well as a significant change in Dean.
You may or may not have heard Jensen’s quote prior to season 8’s premiere about how he was “going to be playing Dean a little differently this season.” (It’s a little ways down in this article.) At first, it was unclear what he meant. Dean didn’t seem all that different — further hardened by Purgatory, but still the same character we know and love. To me, it became obvious in 8x11 what Jensen had been referring to.
“LARP and the Real Girl” was the first time in, well, ever that we’ve seen Dean embrace his geeky side. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him more comfortable with being who he is and enjoying what he enjoys — comfortable and happy. The best part, though, was that he didn’t attempt to hide it around Sam, someone he typically feels compelled to put on a “game face” for in lieu of letting his guard down. He’s always had to be the tough one, the strong one, the “everything’s gonna be fine” one — regardless of whether or not he really feels it, which he hasn’t for most of his life. Dean’s person — his emotions, fears, thoughts, etc. — took a back seat to playing caretaker to Sam. This is a mentality that, as we all know, was imposed on him by his father, a man by whom Dean was profoundly affected. He idolized John and craved his approval, the consistent lack of which contributed to his self-loathing. Therefore, he shied away from anything he was convinced John would frown upon: geeky tendencies like LARPing; an interest in fashion (people have been noting this season that Dean’s clothing style has changed and he seems to be paying closer attention to his appearance — the vibrantly colored plaid shirts, for instance); and, of course, his bisexuality. We’re meant to think this deep-seated repression has burdened Dean for the majority of his life, though we didn’t begin seeing signs of it until season 2. From “Playthings”:
Dean: […W]hy do all these people assume we’re gay?
Sam: Well, you are kinda butch. They probably think you’re overcompensating.
It was nothing more than a joke — though who knows whether or not Sam was consciously jabbing at Dean’s sexuality because he knew his brother wasn’t straight? — and yet Dean’s expression in response to it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t to me, at least. I didn’t think anything of it the first time I saw it, but rewatching it after learning what I know now, I could see the fear in his face. I don’t know which was more terrifying for Dean: the thought that he likes men, or that the brother who looks up to him might know he does. It took him years, but I think he’s finally coming to terms with both.
Because of the scattered moments throughout the show that support Dean’s bisexuality, yet remain just on the right side of subtle, I’m inclined to believe that this is an aspect of Dean’s character years in the making. I think he’s been intentionally written as a repressed bisexual for seasons, but that the writers were either unsure of whether or not they wanted to make it explicit, or were simply waiting until they had the assets to do so. If it’s the latter, then Purgatory gave them a golden opportunity.
Dean described Purgatory as being “pure.” Nearly every factor of his earthly life was stripped away: the burden of responsibility, pressures from society, etc. Purgatory, as an adjective, means “tending to cleanse or purge.” In a religious sense, it’s “a state or place in which the souls of those who have died in a state of grace are believed to undergo a limited amount of suffering to expiate their venial sins and become purified of the remaining effects of mortal sin.” Essentially, it’s a place of cleansing in which a person releases their figurative demons and capitulates with who they are. Season 8 has been trying to establish that this is precisely the process Dean underwent. After Cas returned and they hashed out what happened in Purgatory, he was freed of his last remaining hindrance of thinking he’d left Cas behind. Since then, Dean has appeared happier and, above all, more comfortable in his own skin than he has in I don’t even know how long.
So yeah, Jensen has to play Dean a little differently now. Dean is different, and in all the best ways. With how his character development’s going, accepting his long-repressed bisexuality would make more sense than ever.
What’s more is that, since the very first episode of the season, non-heterosexual hints and allusions have been ingeniously woven into canon. During the scene where Dean meets Benny, he says to a monster sizing him up for battle, “Oh, yeah, you’re the one who uses too much teeth,” referring to a blowjob. In 8x06, when he tells Garth he was in Purgatory and Garth asks him if he means “Purgatory Purgatory,” Dean retorts, “No, the one in Miami.” Because fandom is curious, it was discovered that said Purgatory in Miami is a gay club. In 8x08, he mentioned opening a “charming B&B in Vermont”, Vermont being the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. In 8x12, when Abaddon manipulated first the motel clerk (a man) and then the punk girl into showing her their memories, there were mirrored flashbacks of Dean giving each of them the same flirtatious smirk. Finally, in 8x13, Dean was openly hit on by a man. Rather than rejecting him and saying confidently that he “doesn’t swing that way” or “play for his team” (which he’s done in the past when he thought a man was coming onto him — see “Croatoan” and “Live Free or Twi-hard”), he got visibly flustered. Later, when it turned out that Aaron was faking it because he was tailing Dean (and it’s important to note that he thought the most convenient way to get close to Dean, a person he didn’t even know, would be to feign homoerotic interest in him), Dean expressed disappointment. (“So, wait. What you’re saying is that you and me, we…didn’t have a moment?”) He also continued to show care for Aaron throughout the rest of the episode, like when he immediately shoved him aside to protect him.
There have been far too many nods to non-heterosexuality, all of which have been said by or otherwise involved Dean, for it to not mean anything. When coupled with the fact that he’s growing more and more comfortable with himself and embracing who he is without emotional repercussions, their significance is furthered. Remember that it’s rare for things to happen in TV shows unintentionally. The job of the writers, actors, directors, etc. is to tell a story, and the same literary devices that are used within books, like foreshadowing and metaphors, are equally implementable in live action. Furthermore, the best foreshadowing is when you don’t notice it along the way, but if you go back, you smack your forehead in disbelief at yourself because you realize that it was all there, right under your nose. For viewers who don’t have the same passion for details and complexities that our portion of fandom does, that’s often what happens. The signs occur within allusions, parallels and throw-away lines that slip a lot of minds, but yet subliminally prepare us for the outcome.
I think that’s what the writers are aiming for: prepping the entirety of Supernatural’s viewership for the end result of Dean coming out as openly bisexual. They’ve been incorporating hints of both his bisexuality and non-heterosexuality in general, starting at ground zero (which is the most subtle of subtleties) and working their way up. It was done gingerly at first, but has grown gradually more blatant as the season’s progressed. If Dean being bisexual isn’t made undeniable by the end of this season, then it will be in the next. There’s no other explanation for why this is happening. Believe me: I’ve tried numerous times, when I was worried that I might be getting ahead of myself, to examine it objectively and determine another reason that’s logical in a narrative sense. I came up with jack. Not only has it never happened in Supernatural before, but it makes sense in the context of this season in particular. It’s being done on purpose as a build-up to exactly what the hints point to. If I wind up being wrong, then hey, I was wrong and I’ll admit that. But at this point, with the in-canon evidence combined with cooperation on Jensen’s part and TPTB seeing all the positive reactions from fans, I can’t even consider the possibility that I could be.
Lastly, because I’m a Destiel shipper so you know I had to mention it: if the writers really are intending to establish Dean as canonically bisexual, then I can’t help but think that it has more than a little to do with his and Cas’s relationship. I won’t get into the Destiel implications this season has also given us (that’s another meta for another time), but it would have to be a pretty massive coincidence if what seems like a Destiel build-up and a bi!Dean build-up just happened to occur within the same season. Cas isn’t a man, but he’s perceived as one by both society and, to some degree, Dean himself. To place them in a romantic relationship, Dean’s sexuality would most certainly have to be addressed. It all ties together a little too perfectly, and I’m suspicious as hell. But because this is Supernatural and, to quote Cas, it has a habit of exceeding my expectations, I’m also more optimistic than I’ve ever been.