Monday, September 13, 2010

Dean Winchester (SPN) vs. Damon Salvatore (TVD) – A Character Study

Let’s start with the actors first: Jensen Ackles and Ian Somerhalder. They both have several reoccurring roles in TV series listed in their resume, and only a few movies done for the big screen, none of which was a big household name or at least remotely memorable. It’s not too late, though. They’re still young, have the looks required by the job, can do action scenes, have great comedic timing and the ability to express feeling with their face and eyes. For their sake, I hope they do more work for the big screen, because it would be a shame if they got forever stuck in TV land, no matter how successful they are there. Their real breaks came with the roles played in CW’s horror and fantasy series, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries. They quickly established a big fanbase and their shows are still running, partially thanks to them. If anyone noticed, they’re listed second and third in the cast list, and still it’s one of those cases when they manage to steal the show. Neither SPN or TVD would be the same without their characters.

But enough about them, let’s talk about the characters. In a way, both Dean and Damon come from a similar background. Sure, the Winchesters weren’t big estate owners like the Salvatores, but the boys were raised in the absence of a mother by an obsessive and controlling father. They suffered a great loss. Dean lost his mother in a fire when he was a kid, while Damon also lost the love of his life, Katherine, in a fire, as we learn at first, and neither was an accident. They also lost their family and friends along the way, and all they have left is their younger brothers, Sam and Stefan. With a strong sense of the family and lifetime experience of doing it, Dean is obsessed with protecting his brother. Things are a little more complicated for Damon, who is not exactly a nice guy, though he has his reason to be the way he is. Even if he swore to cause his brother a lifetime of misery in retaliation, and we get the hint that he stuck to his word in the past, we don’t actually see him hurting Stefan, not to the full extent of his power to do such thing. Instead, he spends a lot of time saving and taking care of Stefan, in his own seemly detached way.

The sense of brotherhood is strong. The Winchesters move from one cheap motel to another, share the same car, and work together hunting demons and stuff basically 24hrs a day. The Salvatores, being wealthier, live in a huge house, where each keep to their own agenda, while still keeping tabs of each other’s moves. In their barely holding together world, their lives are repeatedly disrupted by their own obsessions. Dean wants to stop Lucifer, save his brother, save the world and everybody in it. Damon has a smaller goal, but spread on a longer term, a century and a half, which he can afford being immortal, and that is to bring Katherine back. Their dedication to the cause would be worth admiring, if it wasn’t also so self-destructive. It’s like they’re in the middle of this train wreck and they don’t get off, they don’t want to get off. They’ve been caught up in this nightmare for so long, they don’t remember how a normal life feels like anymore.

So they compensate with violence, women and booze. For Dean, it’s a living. He kills demons and all kinds of evil creatures, he even takes a shot at Lucifer. Favorite weapons of choice are shotguns with salt and knives, but he can get creative if the situation calls for it. In Damon’s case, it’s a matter of lifestyle. When one lives for so long, it’s easy to get bored, and boredom leads to stupid things that tends to blow in his face. The trick is Damon doesn’t get mad, he gets even and usually in the most vicious way. Neck snapping without warning is quite popular, but he’s handy with the stake too. And from there things escalate leading to a lot of dead bodies to dispose of. The difference between them is that Dean wouldn’t hurt innocent people, while Damon treats everyone equally. If he wants them dead, they’re dead. It helps that he can switch off his conscience and feels neither sufferance nor guilt. A good fight is much more fun this way. And yes, they fight and usually win, but that doesn’t stop them from being savagely beaten and tortured. It’s like the powers above have decided to punish them for their sins, and they’re brought back repeatedly or not allowed to die.

Given the circumstances, no wonder they turn to drink. Dean needs the alcohol in order to be able to sleep and forget the misery in his life, the hopeless future, and the forty years spent in hell. He’s often seen with a bottle or glass in hand, though I don’t quite remember seeing him drunk. Having less to fear for his safety, when the scene doesn’t require the glass to contain blood, Damon treats himself with one drink after another, something fancier than the cheap liqueur Dean is able to afford no doubt. It’s a miracle that a vampire can actually get drunk, but he does that successfully on several occasions.

Ah, and then come the women. ‘Cause, you see, they’re both good looking guys and a good catch at first glance. They wear rings or amulets carrying protective spells, and of course then there are the leather jackets, brown for Dean and black for Damon, the cars, and kick ass attitude mixed with a great amount of charm. They are very fun to be around, especially when they pretend not to take anything seriously. They also hit on everything that moves, but, well, no one’s perfect and those eyes and smiles are very hard to resist. In the absence of a higher education – let’s face it, what would he have to talk about with a Harvard graduate other than movies and cars? – Dean has to settle for waitresses and strippers, and when that doesn’t work out he falls back to porn. Over the one century and a half of his existence, Damon has refined his act. When Dean scores with twins, Damon gets four girls naked in his living room. Mind control is a great thing, and memory erasing is even better if he cares for a snack.

But where is love in all this? We know Dean was in love once with a journalist, but of course the relationship couldn’t last because of his day, and mostly night, job. He obviously cares for Lisa, the former and current girlfriend he’s playing house with, but it’s not clear if he is in love with her or just the idea of a family with her and her son. He’s lost so much, so many people in his life, that the ability to open up and let someone in is highly debatable to still exist in him. Illusion or not, Damon loved Katherine and it was real enough for him. He wanted to spend an eternity with her, and then die once she was gone. Now he is starting to open up to Elena, who doesn’t return his feelings since she is in love with his brother. So the question is, in the absence of a real relationship, a true love experience, will they be able to recognize real love when, or if, it comes their way? Maybe. But if they recognize it, will they be able to accept it, deal with it and make it work? Probably not. It would take a very strong, intelligent, patient and understanding female character to achieve that, and chances for someone like this to appear are very slim, close to non-existent, in these particular shows.

So we’re left with a couple of very lost, very messed up, and very hurt boys, so hurt that all we want is to grab them, hug them, and tell them that everything is going to be alright. Awww.

Later edit - Here's an example of how they deliver a line:


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Nicely written. I did wonder who would make a comparison of these two brothers.
And comparing the two pairs of brothers would be fun too.

Their (Damon and Dean) characters are tortured souls. I guess we love the Heathcliffs( character from Wuthering Heights novel) of the world.

Weird Vision said...

I guess we do. :) Glad you liked it.

Anonymous said...

Same Anonymous of the previous comment :D

I read somewhere that Ian Somerhalder and Jensen Ackles were born the same year different months (1978) .

Also Jared Padalecki and Paul Wesley were born same month,same year (July 1982) . Paul is Polish and apparently Jared has Polish connection from his fathers side too. More similarities :)

Anonymous said...

They r sooooooo much alike! Soooo true that the 2 shows are never better w/o them! I love them both! I can't get enough of them.. So I guess jensen ackles qualifies 2 play christian grey 2 :)


Weird Vision said...

I don't want either of them to play that part. I want them to star in real movies with intelligent plots.