Supernatural University: "I Did What I Had To" – The Pernicious Defense

In Holy Terror, character after character – from Theo, to Castiel, to Dean, to Gadreel – repeated the same mantra to justify their actions to themselves and to others: "I did what I had to." We've heard it before from many characters in the show, and probably from many people in our own lives. We've probably all used it ourselves.

I argue here that we should think carefully about why we're using it, and generally reconsider saying or thinking it. In many cases, when we say "I did what I had to," we really mean, "I shouldn't be held accountable for doing something you perceive as wrong because I'm a victim here too; I did it only because I didn't have any other choice, and if I'd had a different option you'd have liked better, I'd have taken it." And in most instances, I submit, that is a lie. Welcome to a psychology and philosophy session of Supernatural University!


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I Had To: The Victim's Excuse

In biological terms, there are very few things we actually must do in order to remain alive. We have to breathe, drink, eat, sleep, and excrete – and that's pretty much it. In purely biological terms, everything else we do is a choice, not a necessity. (Well, for the species as a whole, procreation is also a necessity – but it's not something every individual in the species must choose to do in order for the group to survive. End digression ...)

We don't typically think of it that way. We see a whole range of actions as necessities – things we believe we simply have no choice but to do – when we consider the consequences of different actions or of inaction to be so unacceptable as not even to merit consideration. Many times, we don't even think about them consciously; we're weighing things against values so deeply embedded within us we just accept them as a given. If we didn't do what the bully demanded, we'd get hurt. If we admitted we broke a thing, we'd be punished for it. If we didn't obey our boss, we'd get fired. If we didn't follow our secular rules, we'd be arrested. If we didn't adhere to our religious beliefs, we'd be damned.

In each case, however, we are making a choice; we're valuing one outcome above another and choosing the one most attractive (or least unattractive) to us. As long as we're clear about that and willing to accept judgment on that basis, we're being honest with ourselves, and that's healthy. When we make ourselves victims by professing we had no choice, however, we're lying to ourselves as well as to others, making excuses to avoid being held accountable by anyone. And that, I submit, is a bad thing because every time we do it, we chip away at our self-image and diminish our power to act. We think we're persuading ourselves that we have no guilt for our choice because we have no real power to choose, and thus we're putting that guilt or blame price on whoever or whatever forced us into the situation. But whenever we do that, we're cheating ourselves.

Think about it. If you believe you're powerless – if you tell yourself often enough that you never really have a choice, that everything you do is laid out for you – you're going to convince yourself that's the truth. You're going to miss opportunities because you'll never even see them. Even if you do see them, you're going to dismiss them as unattainable because you don't believe in your own ability to act. And then you're going to be bitter about being held back, about never being given a chance ... and that begets a self-defeating spiral. Once you've convinced yourself that nothing is your fault because nothing is your choice and you have no choice, you'll also have convinced yourself that you can never do anything to change that, that you can never take charge and win. You'll have seduced yourself into a situation where you find yourself doing what others require even if that violates core values you once accepted, because you perceive you have no choice. It's a trap baited with freedom from responsibility that signs your life over to others.

Don't fall into it.

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Victim's Excuse In Practice: Theo and Gadreel

I think Holy Terror gave us two good examples of the victim's excuse in practice: Theo and Gadreel.

Faithless Theo, proposing to change sides and defect to Metatron's cause, defended doing Malachi's dirty work of torturing and murdering angels as "doing what he had to." A pure opportunist seeking to stay alive and on the winning side, he didn't see his choices as wrong or evil; simply pragmatic number-crunching to maximize his odds of survival. He put all the responsibility for the choices made and the consequences of his actions on the others whose orders he followed by rote, and considered his only choice to be dictated by following the survival path of least resistance. He may have thought that in rebelling against Malachi he was freely charting his own course, but he wasn't; he was simply continuing to yield to whoever looked like the strongest bully, the one most likely to win.

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Gadreel also took the victim's path. He protested to Metatron that his failure to protect God's creation against the infiltration of evil wasn't his fault and that all the things others said about him were lies. What actually happened and what role he played in it remain unknown; I do hope we get to find out. But this is where things get interesting.

When Gadreel first responded to Dean's prayer, pretending to be Ezekiel and trading on the dead angel's reputation as a "good and honorable" being, I think he truly was trying to redeem himself and recover his strength while also staying safely concealed from other angels who might still judge him for the actions that led to his imprisonment in Heaven. I think that, even confused and injured as he was, he saw his unexpected freedom on Earth as a second chance. I don't believe he was planning to hijack Sam's body from the start; I think he really was trying to remake himself in a better image and erase his status as a pariah, while also gaining in the Winchesters resourceful allies of proven worth. With that as his goal, he resisted anything that threatened it, including Castiel possibly realizing not just what but who he was if Cas – who knew Ezekiel as a comrade and might catch Gadreel out as an imposter – had remained at the Men of Letters bunker.

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When Metatron revealed his knowledge of Gadreel, he not only played on Gadreel's desire to regain his reputation to seduce the angel to his side; he also reinforced Gadreel's image of himself as a victim, someone unjustly blamed and punished for events he didn't perceive as his fault. He offered Gadreel a different road to justify himself and cleanse his own name, a noble quest much bigger than just clandestinely saving one man's life: the restoration of God's Heaven to all its proper glory. To avert Gadreel's unease regarding his motives, Metatron even cast himself in a variation of the same mold, falsely – and not very convincingly – presenting his desire to rebuild Heaven to his own specifications and rule it as a "burden" he felt constrained to accept. I believe Metatron's seduction of Gadreel had nothing to do with Gadreel's intrinsic worth, but everything to do with the opportunity afforded by his unique placement inside a Winchester and his victim-complex vulnerability to corruption.

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I submit Gadreel clearly understood that the proof of loyalty Metatron demanded – killing people on order, starting with Kevin – went directly against the personal redemption he'd been trying to achieve when he responded to Dean's prayer. "That – that is not who I am," he said, but Metatron, confident in the hook he'd baited, dismissively told him to decide. Still conflicted, Gadreel returned to the bunker only to discover that Dean intended to warn Sam to expel him, which would have negated all he'd originally said he was trying to do as well as ended his immediate usefulness to Metatron. Rather than trying to persuade Dean otherwise by coming clean with Dean about who he was, what he was doing, why he had lied, and what Metatron wanted of him, Gadreel decided – not as he had to, but as he chose to – to forcibly retain Sam's body and follow Metatron's orders despite knowing they violated his own sense of right and wrong. He accepted the view that he was a victim just doing what he had to do in order to survive and serve his bigger mission, so he wouldn't be responsible for the consequences.

This is where the "I did what I had to" justification is its most dangerous. It's a simple variation on "the ends justify the means," and that's never true. If something good does come from you committing an evil act under orders – say you torture a terrorist and he gives you the means to deactivate a bomb and save other lives – that in no way changes the nature of what you did by torturing in the first place. It just waxes the slippery slope that makes the next evil act so much easier to commit because you persuade yourself that it's worth it, that it's okay, that it doesn't really matter so much. It eats away at your empathy by letting you put up barriers of "I had to do it – so it's not my fault. And it came out better in the end, anyway." That makes you callous, not strong. When you see yourself as a victim not responsible for your own decisions, someone just doing what circumstances or superiors require of you even when you feel it's wrong, you lose who you are by letting other people define and control you.

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I Had To Because: The Plea For Understanding

I would propose that not every instance of "I did what I had to" is just the victim's excuse, however, which is why I started this little discussion by saying we need to understand why we're saying it. Sometimes – the better times – we use it as the springboard to promote understanding, to help someone see how and why we felt compelled to make a choice with which they disagree. So long as we accept their right to judge our choice differently than we do and we strive both to see it through their eyes and to let them view it through ours, we may all come out richer for the experience.

The key difference is that in this usage, we don't disavow responsibility for our actions; we don't claim victim status for ourselves to avoid bearing blame for the consequences of our choices. We don't assign responsibility and choice to others. We don't lie to ourselves or to others about being powerless to choose. Instead, we admit to ourselves why we chose as we did, why one outcome was preferable and seemed essential to us even though it wouldn't have been to others, and then we seek to share that information with those others. It's not a claim that we were right; it's simply a statement of who we are and why we think the way we do. It's an explanation, not an excuse – and we offer it knowing and accepting it might make no difference in how another feels about us.

In this usage, it never stands on its own. It's always accompanied by self-awareness and self-reflection, and most often by words and actions intended to invite and enable others to share our perspective, if they're willing. I would submit this is a much healthier thing than the guilt-avoidance of claiming to be a victim, but it still has its dangers.

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The Difference In Practice: Castiel And Dean

I would posit that both Dean and Castiel used "I did what I had to" not as an excuse, but in the context of a plea for understanding. Let me explain.

Captured and tortured by Malachi, after similarly being rendered helpless and then killed by the Reaper wearing April's guise back in I'm No Angel, Castiel fully expected to die again. Offered the unexpected opportunity by Theo's defection to choose differently, he calculated that reacquiring angelic strength was the only way he could survive, escape, and attempt to make amends for his previous error of trusting Metatron. Inspired by Metatron's unprecedented theft of his own grace, he tried Metatron's trick to siphon off Theo's grace and take it as his own, and it worked. He smote Theo's human vessel and whatever of Theo remained in it, and then killed Malachi's guard angels to gain his freedom.

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When he called Dean to warn him about Ezekiel's death, Castiel didn't tell Dean what he had done to regain angelic ability; he simply said, "I did what I had to." But he didn't leave it at that. He went on to acknowledge, "I became what they've become: a barbarian." His shame and self-loathing were apparent. He wasn't excusing himself for what he'd done; he wasn't shifting the responsibility or blame for his choice onto Theo or Malachi or Bartholomew, or even onto Metatron. Yes, he blamed Metatron for deceiving him, he blamed Malachi and Bartholomew for perpetuating civil war, and he blamed Theo for willingly doing Malachi's dirty work, but he nonetheless held himself accountable for his own actions. He had resigned and steeled himself to die for his beliefs and his mistakes, but when Theo's defection gave him the opportunity to choose a different course of action, he took it, even knowing it was evil. I daresay he consoled himself with the thought that he'd done worse before and that what he did now was the only chance he could see to survive long enough to try to make things better, but he didn't try to tell himself that what he did was right. He consciously valued his survival and his desire to save other angels like Muriel and atone for his previous mistakes over keeping the moral high ground by accepting death before dishonor, and so he knowingly and deliberately chose dishonor. And he'll flagellate himself for it.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but I can understand Castiel's choice. And I don't think he'll protest if others judge him harshly for that choice; I think he'll accept the blame and take what punishment any more just and uncorrputed angel such as Muriel might mete out. And because of that, I don't think he was just using the victim's excuse.

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Dean, in finally coming clean to Sam – well, to whom he understandably thought was Sam – about what he had done in tricking Sam into saying yes to being possessed by an angel, also said, "I did what I had to." But I would submit that he, too, wasn't simply excusing himself, but instead pleading for understanding concerning why he couldn't conceive of making a different choice. He knew what he had done was fundamentally wrong, but he still couldn't accept Sam dying. He confessed that Sam being messed up messed him up too; an honest echo of the "There ain't no me if there ain't no you" argument that had persuaded Sam to say yes to Dean/"Ezekiel" in I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here. To Dean, having Sam alive was essential to his own life, even if Sam was furious beyond forgiveness. Dean obviously hoped and bet all his future happiness that "Ezekiel" was trustworthy and that Sam would be willing and able to understand the depth of his desperate need and eventually grant him absolution out of love, as he had done before when Dean sold his soul for Sam's life back in season two, but Dean also accepted that just having Sam alive would be worth even a lifetime of his bitter resentment. A chance at Sam's survival seemed worth the price of gambling on an angel's honesty and goodwill and a brother's just anger. Dean didn't put responsibility for his choice on anyone else. He didn't deny that there was a choice; he just tried to express why he saw only one option as being acceptable to him.

That decision has now backfired on him in spectacular fashion, resulting in Kevin's death and putting Sam into even worse danger. Dean's options weren't good in the first place, and they're even less so now; he won't be forgiving himself any time soon. The specter of this decision will hang over each successive one he makes as he tries to get Sam back and repair his brother's trust while dealing with his own guilt for all the harm that's come to Sam, Kevin, and Castiel because he rolled "Ezekiel's" dice. There's little to no chance Dean will forgive "Ezekiel" for what the angel has done, but he won't try to deny his own culpability, either. I just hope his tunnel vision focus on saving Sam and avenging Kevin won't blind him to the full array of choices available to him and lead him again down an "I did what I had to" path.

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Parting Thoughts

I've always considered the "I did what I had to" argument a pernicious one. Even when it's used to plead for understanding, validation, and forgiveness, not simply to shift blame for the consequences to someone else for putting you into a situation where you saw only one viable course of action, it carries the danger of leading you down a path where each successive decision takes you further away from who you are. Once you've rationalized and accepted for whatever reason that you have no other choice, it's easier to keep accepting that than to change course down the road. That can make you a victim by sapping your energy over time and closing you off from seeing and evaluating other options.

There are times when all our options suck and we don't have good choices available. I won't deny that. But here's my advice. If you're in that situation and have to make a decision, be honest with yourself about why you make the choice you do, and acknowledge that it is a choice. Figure out your priorities and what drives you toward them; knowledge is power. If you can, share them and your dilemma with people you trust; others may be able to help you see options you just weren't in a position to perceive on your own, or point out flaws in your reasoning that might alter where you come down. When you try to explain your decision to someone else, help them understand why you made your choice, but don't get defensive or insist you were right; be open to understanding why they may disagree with you, because even if you don't agree, what they say might help you refine your course or make better future decisions. Don't be afraid to admit an error if you realize you made one; course corrections are easier the sooner they're made, before you've acquired too much inertia or momentum.

But whatever decision you make, own it, because if you don't, someone else will own you.

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Miscellany

I haven't been able to do episode reviews lately, but that doesn't mean I don't have thoughts!

In terms of the show, I hope we might see Gadreel reconsidering his alliance with Metatron, repenting his actions, and pursuing the redemption he seemed to be seeking when he first answered Dean's prayer. Redemption has been a recurring theme throughout the series, and frankly, I find it a more interesting and compelling story than just another fall into villainy. I don't know how Gadreel could possibly atone for murdering Kevin – I'm certainly not inclined to forgive him for that, even if they find a way to bring Kevin back! – and hijacking Sam, but I wish he would come to his senses and resist being used by Metatron.

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Preferably, I'd like to see Sam bring Gadreel around from inside. I didn't believe Gadreel for a second when he said, "There is no more Sam." Man, Sam fought Lucifer to a standstill in Swan Song; I have to believe he could match wills with any angel and come out on top. Admittedly, Sam went into that fight aware, fully conscious, and with determined intent, but I have faith in his strength of soul. I could see this challenge as the means through which Sam finally comes fully back into his own, reintegrating himself and committing to a positive and purpose-driven life in a way he really hasn't since that deliberate Swan Song sacrifice. I know Jared's been having a ball playing the complexity of other characters in Sam's body, but I long to see Sam being Sam again – and this time not addicted, not soulless, not crazy, not uncertain, not driven, not aimless, not overwhelmed, not crippled, and not possessed. I'd love to see Sam pull off a win that grounds him in his worth and satisfies his need to make a difference, to be of consequence to others in this world. I'd love it if Sam's moral center led Gadreel to rediscover his own, and finally healed them both.

Hey – I'm a romantic, a humanist, and an optimist; what can I say?

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I also hope the writers address Castiel knowing there's an "angel exorcism" that a third party can use to drive an angel out of its human vessel; Alastair was using it on him in On The Head Of A Pin when Sam intervened. Dean was unconscious at the time, so there's no reason he would know about it, and Sam may very well have thought Alastair was torturing Castiel, not trying to evict him, so it would make sense that he didn't write notes on it. Castiel never had the opportunity to try it against angels who came after him; they'd have killed or silenced him before he got the first three words out of his mouth. Dean also never told him Sam was possessed by an angel who might need eviction, so Cas had no reason to mention it. For all we know, given that we only saw it once, the incantation might even require demon power to work. But I really hope that particular loose end gets tied up with a reasonable explanation!

I've got a few other meta I hope to complete soon, including thoughts on Reapers and angels; positive lessons from human Castiel; and how and why I think Hollywood expectations for hero franchises are bad things for TV shows and movies. Wish me luck and writing time!

Oh, and Happy New Year!


Comments  

PENNY JAIME
# PENNY JAIME 2013-12-28 13:44
Well, just because Alastair knew the spell, doesn't mean Cas knows it as well. After all, Alastair never finished it (obviously, since Cas didn't get expelled!). From the previews, I don't think Crowley knows it either.
They are doing a great job making it very entertaining, if you ask me. I have loved this season so much. It may just jump to my 2nd favorite!!
PENNY JAIME
# PENNY JAIME 2013-12-28 13:44
Well, just because Alastair knew the spell, doesn't mean Cas knows it as well. After all, Alastair never finished it (obviously, since Cas didn't get expelled!). From the previews, I don't think Crowley knows it either.
They are doing a great job making it very entertaining, if you ask me. I have loved this season so much. It may just jump to my 2nd favorite!!
ME
# ME 2013-12-28 15:22
Dearest Bardicvoice, How did you know that I was currently reading a book that's main tension is whether everything that happens will always happen and we're just along for the ride or do we make the choices that shapes our futures?

I totally agree that "I did what I had to do" is a scapegoat, but Dean and Castiel were taking responsibility for what they did. But, I also wonder if Gadreel wasn't using it in the same way, I get the feeling he is taking responsibility for his actions, but cares little to explain it to Dean at this point. I'm not so sure that he killed Kevin only to be owned by Metatron, it seemed as though he was a bit suspicious of Metatron--maybe he's up to something entirely different. Not that that makes Kevin's murder okay, but maybe all is not as it seems.

Anyway, very interesting read so thanks.
ME
# ME 2013-12-28 15:22
Dearest Bardicvoice, How did you know that I was currently reading a book that's main tension is whether everything that happens will always happen and we're just along for the ride or do we make the choices that shapes our futures?

I totally agree that "I did what I had to do" is a scapegoat, but Dean and Castiel were taking responsibility for what they did. But, I also wonder if Gadreel wasn't using it in the same way, I get the feeling he is taking responsibility for his actions, but cares little to explain it to Dean at this point. I'm not so sure that he killed Kevin only to be owned by Metatron, it seemed as though he was a bit suspicious of Metatron--maybe he's up to something entirely different. Not that that makes Kevin's murder okay, but maybe all is not as it seems.

Anyway, very interesting read so thanks.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2013-12-28 15:32
I get the feeling that Gadreel has his own agenda. He may be playing along with Metatron for now (probably for his own survival) but I don't feel like he is completely on board. Gadreel seemed horrified no angels were in heaven. He also didn't want to be Metatrons hit man.
Sam fought Lucifer with an intact soul and gallons of demon blood. He is still weak and supposedly unaware he is being possessed. Gadreel told Dean in the season opener that Sam could eject him especially with him being weak himself from the fall. Now that it seems that Gadreel healed himself first it might be more difficult for Sam to eject him. I agree that Sam is probably going to come to an understanding with the angel and maybe they will work together to restore heaven. I just can't for the life of me see how they are going to resolve killing Kevin.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2013-12-28 15:32
I get the feeling that Gadreel has his own agenda. He may be playing along with Metatron for now (probably for his own survival) but I don't feel like he is completely on board. Gadreel seemed horrified no angels were in heaven. He also didn't want to be Metatrons hit man.
Sam fought Lucifer with an intact soul and gallons of demon blood. He is still weak and supposedly unaware he is being possessed. Gadreel told Dean in the season opener that Sam could eject him especially with him being weak himself from the fall. Now that it seems that Gadreel healed himself first it might be more difficult for Sam to eject him. I agree that Sam is probably going to come to an understanding with the angel and maybe they will work together to restore heaven. I just can't for the life of me see how they are going to resolve killing Kevin.
TeresaPezzino
# TeresaPezzino 2013-12-28 16:02
Welcome back, I have greatly missed your voice and your insights although I know you have been terribly busy! Apparently retirement is exhausting, lol! I agree with your outlook on Sam- he has gone from forced hunter to psychic kid and so on and I would love for him to finally be able to settle into who he is and to feel good about himself. I want him to be able to say "I did what I wanted to do" rather than "what I had to do" without negative consequences.
TeresaPezzino
# TeresaPezzino 2013-12-28 16:02
Welcome back, I have greatly missed your voice and your insights although I know you have been terribly busy! Apparently retirement is exhausting, lol! I agree with your outlook on Sam- he has gone from forced hunter to psychic kid and so on and I would love for him to finally be able to settle into who he is and to feel good about himself. I want him to be able to say "I did what I wanted to do" rather than "what I had to do" without negative consequences.
jarielynn
# jarielynn 2013-12-28 16:52
Oh wow... I could just gush about everything you just said, because a lot of my thoughts are there too. From Gadreel wanting to be good and his choice not being made until the conversation with Dean, to Sam finding himself again and cas and Dean's reasoning and guilt issues.. right on. Thank you.
I hope the SPN writers are as optimistic as we are. lol.
jarielynn
# jarielynn 2013-12-28 16:52
Oh wow... I could just gush about everything you just said, because a lot of my thoughts are there too. From Gadreel wanting to be good and his choice not being made until the conversation with Dean, to Sam finding himself again and cas and Dean's reasoning and guilt issues.. right on. Thank you.
I hope the SPN writers are as optimistic as we are. lol.
lkeke35
# lkeke35 2013-12-28 20:01
Bardicvoice : I always look forward to your reviews and meta. You always have so much clarity and calm in your writings. Its always very refreshing.
lkeke35
# lkeke35 2013-12-28 20:01
Bardicvoice : I always look forward to your reviews and meta. You always have so much clarity and calm in your writings. Its always very refreshing.
SueB
# SueB 2013-12-28 21:48
Interesting analysis. I agree with you on Gadreel's initial motivation being redemption and really hope that Sam brings him around. I saw Crowley with the needles akin to his torture of Alphie. I expect they will get to talk to Sam but not free him.

I also like your thoughts on the self-deception of "I had no choice." I also think it becomes a habit, especially when you get on a bad path and keep rationalizing continuing down that path (i.e. road to hell paved with good intentions and this is a lovely enabling rationalization to support that trek). Gadreel is seeking redemption, Cas is seeking redemption, Sam WAS seeking redemption (burning the taint out of his blood), and now Dean is seeking redemption (or at least revenge, I'm not sure he think he's worthy of redemption). Their approaches will be interesting and likely different.
SueB
# SueB 2013-12-28 21:48
Interesting analysis. I agree with you on Gadreel's initial motivation being redemption and really hope that Sam brings him around. I saw Crowley with the needles akin to his torture of Alphie. I expect they will get to talk to Sam but not free him.

I also like your thoughts on the self-deception of "I had no choice." I also think it becomes a habit, especially when you get on a bad path and keep rationalizing continuing down that path (i.e. road to hell paved with good intentions and this is a lovely enabling rationalization to support that trek). Gadreel is seeking redemption, Cas is seeking redemption, Sam WAS seeking redemption (burning the taint out of his blood), and now Dean is seeking redemption (or at least revenge, I'm not sure he think he's worthy of redemption). Their approaches will be interesting and likely different.
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2013-12-28 22:53
Happy Holidays Bardicvoice!

Very thought-provoki ng article!

I'd like to add one instance where the line "I did what I had to do" can actually be quite positive.

In my work life, I've been fortunate to talk with several people who have performed truly heroic acts - they have put their own lives at risk to save another person. I'm thinking in particular of one young man who jumped onto the subway tracks to pull another man to safety, just as a train was pulling into the station.

As he described it, he first lay down on his belly on the platform and tried to reach the other man, but that didn't work. Then he tried to direct the other man to a small recess where he could take shelter until the train passed, but he realized the man was too scary and injured to move. So, in a split second he made the decision to jump down onto the tracks too, and pull the guy free.

I asked him what was going through his mind, was he scared, what was the thinking about? His answer "There was a man who needed saving. I did what I had to do"

He definitely had a choice. He could have remained on the platform. But for his perspective, he had no choice. He wouldn't have been able to live with himself if the other man had died, when he could have helped.

I guess he could have been saying it as a plea for understanding - this is the reason I put myself in harm's way.

But I do think there are some, albeit not a lot, of instances where "I did what I had to do" is not a defense, but the truth. Generally, they have to deal with emergencies, crises and life-threatenin g situations - performing CPR, rescuing someone from drowning, delivering a baby, giving First Aid.
The person really is doing what he/she has to do.

That being said, I'm not sure any of the situations of Supernatural exactly fit that category, (sadly not even Dean trying to save Sam in the season opener. Although the argument could be made it was a very Supernatural form of CPR!)

Anyways, great article, and I thought I'd add one more time the "I did what I had to do" defense comes into play.

Happy 2014!

Pragmatic Dreamer
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2013-12-28 22:53
Happy Holidays Bardicvoice!

Very thought-provoki ng article!

I'd like to add one instance where the line "I did what I had to do" can actually be quite positive.

In my work life, I've been fortunate to talk with several people who have performed truly heroic acts - they have put their own lives at risk to save another person. I'm thinking in particular of one young man who jumped onto the subway tracks to pull another man to safety, just as a train was pulling into the station.

As he described it, he first lay down on his belly on the platform and tried to reach the other man, but that didn't work. Then he tried to direct the other man to a small recess where he could take shelter until the train passed, but he realized the man was too scary and injured to move. So, in a split second he made the decision to jump down onto the tracks too, and pull the guy free.

I asked him what was going through his mind, was he scared, what was the thinking about? His answer "There was a man who needed saving. I did what I had to do"

He definitely had a choice. He could have remained on the platform. But for his perspective, he had no choice. He wouldn't have been able to live with himself if the other man had died, when he could have helped.

I guess he could have been saying it as a plea for understanding - this is the reason I put myself in harm's way.

But I do think there are some, albeit not a lot, of instances where "I did what I had to do" is not a defense, but the truth. Generally, they have to deal with emergencies, crises and life-threatenin g situations - performing CPR, rescuing someone from drowning, delivering a baby, giving First Aid.
The person really is doing what he/she has to do.

That being said, I'm not sure any of the situations of Supernatural exactly fit that category, (sadly not even Dean trying to save Sam in the season opener. Although the argument could be made it was a very Supernatural form of CPR!)

Anyways, great article, and I thought I'd add one more time the "I did what I had to do" defense comes into play.

Happy 2014!

Pragmatic Dreamer
mary9930
# mary9930 2013-12-28 23:43
Not just an article from bardicvoice but hope for more to come??? There is a Santa Claus :-)

I like the way you differentiate between Cas & Dean and Theo & Gadreel without totally giving Cas & Dean a pass. I'm a big fan of taking personal responsibility but I also understand that sometimes you're only left with bad choices.

Pragmatic Dreamer #8 Supernatural CPR? LOVE IT
mary9930
# mary9930 2013-12-28 23:43
Not just an article from bardicvoice but hope for more to come??? There is a Santa Claus :-)

I like the way you differentiate between Cas & Dean and Theo & Gadreel without totally giving Cas & Dean a pass. I'm a big fan of taking personal responsibility but I also understand that sometimes you're only left with bad choices.

Pragmatic Dreamer #8 Supernatural CPR? LOVE IT
Melanie
# Melanie 2013-12-29 01:39
Interesting article, Bardicvoice - its always fun reading your take on SPN. I have to say that I think Pragmatic Dreamers version of 'I did what I had to' is more along the lines of what I think of when I hear the phrase. While I do think people who say it are justifying themselves and their actions, I don't think it is nessessarily because they have cast themselves in the role of victim. In Gadreel's case, I didn't get the victim vibe, in his mind, I think, he's the hero (right hand of X) doing what must be done. He's got to be conscious of it being his choice - Metatron told him that he, Gadreel, had to 'Choose' and he did. Like you, I also hope that Gadreel does recognize his mistake in judgement in following Metatron and pursue redemption, but I'm not sure that's where the writers are headed.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!
Melanie
# Melanie 2013-12-29 01:39
Interesting article, Bardicvoice - its always fun reading your take on SPN. I have to say that I think Pragmatic Dreamers version of 'I did what I had to' is more along the lines of what I think of when I hear the phrase. While I do think people who say it are justifying themselves and their actions, I don't think it is nessessarily because they have cast themselves in the role of victim. In Gadreel's case, I didn't get the victim vibe, in his mind, I think, he's the hero (right hand of X) doing what must be done. He's got to be conscious of it being his choice - Metatron told him that he, Gadreel, had to 'Choose' and he did. Like you, I also hope that Gadreel does recognize his mistake in judgement in following Metatron and pursue redemption, but I'm not sure that's where the writers are headed.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!
ME
# ME 2013-12-29 08:25
I forgot to mention, I am really looking forward to your other meta articles. They are always a fun read so keep 'em coming!
ME
# ME 2013-12-29 08:25
I forgot to mention, I am really looking forward to your other meta articles. They are always a fun read so keep 'em coming!
BookLady
# BookLady 2013-12-29 14:38
Thanks for the article! I loved it! So much great reasoning and writing!

For some reason it got me thinking about Slumdog Millionaire. It's a romance, but it is also about two brothers. Both came from the same horrible, fight to survive background, but they made completely different choices in doing what they had to do to live. The older brother wanted power and prestige while the younger brother wanted love. Perhaps the older brother saw his choices as being more realistic in their hard, cold world and maybe he saw himself as protecting his younger brother. Anyway, his final choice was his greatest gift to his younger brother and a sort of redemption. Really interesting, in terms of this article.

Anyway, I, too, would like to see Sam get what you wish for him. If he's too weak to eject Gadreel now, maybe Sam can still be Gad's Jiminy Cricket and help him see what his other possible choices are. But, who will do the same for Dean? He needs not to slide down that slippery slope. He needs Cas and/or Charlie!

I'd also love to see Sam return to being badass. Not evil, though. He's been the powerless one for sooo long. Always being the one to be protected and nurtured and supported gets old after a while. And, it feels repetitive.

Looking forward to reading more of your articles, especially the one about hero movies!

Happy New Year, everyone!
BookLady
# BookLady 2013-12-29 14:38
Thanks for the article! I loved it! So much great reasoning and writing!

For some reason it got me thinking about Slumdog Millionaire. It's a romance, but it is also about two brothers. Both came from the same horrible, fight to survive background, but they made completely different choices in doing what they had to do to live. The older brother wanted power and prestige while the younger brother wanted love. Perhaps the older brother saw his choices as being more realistic in their hard, cold world and maybe he saw himself as protecting his younger brother. Anyway, his final choice was his greatest gift to his younger brother and a sort of redemption. Really interesting, in terms of this article.

Anyway, I, too, would like to see Sam get what you wish for him. If he's too weak to eject Gadreel now, maybe Sam can still be Gad's Jiminy Cricket and help him see what his other possible choices are. But, who will do the same for Dean? He needs not to slide down that slippery slope. He needs Cas and/or Charlie!

I'd also love to see Sam return to being badass. Not evil, though. He's been the powerless one for sooo long. Always being the one to be protected and nurtured and supported gets old after a while. And, it feels repetitive.

Looking forward to reading more of your articles, especially the one about hero movies!

Happy New Year, everyone!
Bevie
# Bevie 2013-12-29 15:15
I've been missing you so very much. Haven't read it yet, but just so you know how much I love and appreciate your reviews, analyses and metas and lectures.
"Never read one I didn't like" is the truth. :-)

Wish you had the time to review every episode again! :sigh:
Bevie
# Bevie 2013-12-29 15:15
I've been missing you so very much. Haven't read it yet, but just so you know how much I love and appreciate your reviews, analyses and metas and lectures.
"Never read one I didn't like" is the truth. :-)

Wish you had the time to review every episode again! :sigh:
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2013-12-29 22:28
Thanks for coming, reading, and commenting, folks! Glad you enjoyed!

Pragmatic Dreamer, you're right-on with the third use of "I did what I had to" -- the good one of jumping in to do the right and selfless thing without conscious thought simply because it's ingrained in your value set. That's one of the choices I mentioned as something we don't even see as a choice because the alternative is so unacceptable as to be unthinkable. But that's neither victim thinking nor apologetic plea, and I should have clarified that. Thanks for doing it for me!

I definitely have more meta in mind; I swear, the things are suddenly breeding! I just need to find a way to balance my time better, because even when I know what I want to say, the crafting of it always takes longer than I expected and unfolds more petals on the flower than I saw on the bud when I first looked. Oops!

On the review front, I'm discouraged from writing in part because while I do have criticisms (I have MAJOR problems with the Reaper stuff, for example), there's so much negativity rampant in the fandom these days that I don't want to throw fuel on angry fires or get defensive about all the things I like in the show that others either don't see or don't agree about with me. I haven't figured out how to walk that tightrope, and it's really not comfortable having it cut into my feet either, so I just haven't been able to bring myself to write detailed reviews. Apologies for that. I miss doing them, but for the last couple of months, every time I sat down to write one I just ... couldn't. So I didn't. And now I can't catch up. That disappoints me. But I'll swing for the things I *can* write, and hopefully that will help!
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2013-12-29 22:28
Thanks for coming, reading, and commenting, folks! Glad you enjoyed!

Pragmatic Dreamer, you're right-on with the third use of "I did what I had to" -- the good one of jumping in to do the right and selfless thing without conscious thought simply because it's ingrained in your value set. That's one of the choices I mentioned as something we don't even see as a choice because the alternative is so unacceptable as to be unthinkable. But that's neither victim thinking nor apologetic plea, and I should have clarified that. Thanks for doing it for me!

I definitely have more meta in mind; I swear, the things are suddenly breeding! I just need to find a way to balance my time better, because even when I know what I want to say, the crafting of it always takes longer than I expected and unfolds more petals on the flower than I saw on the bud when I first looked. Oops!

On the review front, I'm discouraged from writing in part because while I do have criticisms (I have MAJOR problems with the Reaper stuff, for example), there's so much negativity rampant in the fandom these days that I don't want to throw fuel on angry fires or get defensive about all the things I like in the show that others either don't see or don't agree about with me. I haven't figured out how to walk that tightrope, and it's really not comfortable having it cut into my feet either, so I just haven't been able to bring myself to write detailed reviews. Apologies for that. I miss doing them, but for the last couple of months, every time I sat down to write one I just ... couldn't. So I didn't. And now I can't catch up. That disappoints me. But I'll swing for the things I *can* write, and hopefully that will help!
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2013-12-30 18:35
I hope this isn't an inappropriate question but I was wondering if there was any way that you and sweetondean could still write reviews for this website without the comment section. I feel like 99% of the people who read your reviews are positive fans that don't post because they don't have anything to add to the review or they don't want to get caught up in the attacks. It just seems unfair for those of us who really enjoy these reviews have to share the consequences of the unhappy few. Again I am sorry if this is out of line. You can unpublish this post if you want.
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2013-12-30 18:35
I hope this isn't an inappropriate question but I was wondering if there was any way that you and sweetondean could still write reviews for this website without the comment section. I feel like 99% of the people who read your reviews are positive fans that don't post because they don't have anything to add to the review or they don't want to get caught up in the attacks. It just seems unfair for those of us who really enjoy these reviews have to share the consequences of the unhappy few. Again I am sorry if this is out of line. You can unpublish this post if you want.
Ale
# Ale 2013-12-31 06:48
Quoting cheryl42:
I hope this isn't an inappropriate question but I was wondering if there was any way that you and sweetondean could still write reviews for this website without the comment section. I feel like 99% of the people who read your reviews are positive fans that don't post because they don't have anything to add to the review or they don't want to get caught up in the attacks. It just seems unfair for those of us who really enjoy these reviews have to share the consequences of the unhappy few. Again I am sorry if this is out of line. You can unpublish this post if you want.


Please, don't unplublish this. I feel exactly the same. I don't write so much on the site anymore because of the of the endless tiring complaing, but Bardicvoice and sweetondean are my favorite writers. Bardicvoice is inspiring and sweetondean always lift my spirits. I look foward for their pov and they Always make my day.
Ale
# Ale 2013-12-31 06:48
Quote:
I hope this isn't an inappropriate question but I was wondering if there was any way that you and sweetondean could still write reviews for this website without the comment section. I feel like 99% of the people who read your reviews are positive fans that don't post because they don't have anything to add to the review or they don't want to get caught up in the attacks. It just seems unfair for those of us who really enjoy these reviews have to share the consequences of the unhappy few. Again I am sorry if this is out of line. You can unpublish this post if you want.
Please, don't unplublish this. I feel exactly the same. I don't write so much on the site anymore because of the of the endless tiring complaing, but Bardicvoice and sweetondean are my favorite writers. Bardicvoice is inspiring and sweetondean always lift my spirits. I look foward for their pov and they Always make my day.
ME
# ME 2013-12-31 09:34
Cheryl and Ale, you guys just echoed my thoughts exactly. I have been a lurker for sometime and only comment when I feel inspired, but recently I decided I needed to become a bit more vocal to try and represent some of the more constructive visitors to this site. I really enjoy Bardicvoice's insights in the show. I don't always agree, but love the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness that she puts into every single article. Whether I agree or not, they are always a fun and thought-provoki ng read. I do realize that she may be rather busy in her own life, but it makes me sad to think that the negativity has driven her away. So, here's to hoping that the New Year rings in a more happy era for the Supernatural fandom that will inspire more thought provoking articles.
ME
# ME 2013-12-31 09:34
Cheryl and Ale, you guys just echoed my thoughts exactly. I have been a lurker for sometime and only comment when I feel inspired, but recently I decided I needed to become a bit more vocal to try and represent some of the more constructive visitors to this site. I really enjoy Bardicvoice's insights in the show. I don't always agree, but love the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness that she puts into every single article. Whether I agree or not, they are always a fun and thought-provoki ng read. I do realize that she may be rather busy in her own life, but it makes me sad to think that the negativity has driven her away. So, here's to hoping that the New Year rings in a more happy era for the Supernatural fandom that will inspire more thought provoking articles.
Bevie
# Bevie 2014-01-01 13:51
15, 16 and 17 - How I wish this could be done. As Ale says, Bardicvoice is so inspiring and insightful, and sweetondean always cheers me up with her reviews. It is such a shame those good feelings disappear somewhat with the negativity that mostly follows.

Could we get back the 'positive' and 'negative' threads that were here before the crash?

I would hate to lose sweetondean, and I already miss Mary's wonderful reviews. :sigh:
Bevie
# Bevie 2014-01-01 13:51
15, 16 and 17 - How I wish this could be done. As Ale says, Bardicvoice is so inspiring and insightful, and sweetondean always cheers me up with her reviews. It is such a shame those good feelings disappear somewhat with the negativity that mostly follows.

Could we get back the 'positive' and 'negative' threads that were here before the crash?

I would hate to lose sweetondean, and I already miss Mary's wonderful reviews. :sigh:
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2014-01-01 15:24
Thank you, thank you, thank you, folks! I am going to keep writing. I can't commit to reviewing all the episodes; I am having some difficulty balancing the hours it takes for me to do my kind of analysis with the time I need to spend working on my business and doing my volunteer stuff. But I'm experimenting with some shorter things, where I take on just one topic or concept at a time, whether it comes from a character, a plot point, or what have you. And I think I'll try to do a little bit on my production notes for things that jump out at me from production design, performances, camera, lighting, VFX, and whatnot. I'll experiment a bit and see how things work out.

Love you guys who love this site!
Bardicvoice
# Bardicvoice 2014-01-01 15:24
Thank you, thank you, thank you, folks! I am going to keep writing. I can't commit to reviewing all the episodes; I am having some difficulty balancing the hours it takes for me to do my kind of analysis with the time I need to spend working on my business and doing my volunteer stuff. But I'm experimenting with some shorter things, where I take on just one topic or concept at a time, whether it comes from a character, a plot point, or what have you. And I think I'll try to do a little bit on my production notes for things that jump out at me from production design, performances, camera, lighting, VFX, and whatnot. I'll experiment a bit and see how things work out.

Love you guys who love this site!
amyh
# amyh 2014-01-01 18:55
I really loved and appreciated this article. Its a very intersting read. I'm not sure I subscribe to to the "I did what I had to do" My why lines up with Pragmatic Dreamer who said it elequantly.

That said...I have great hope for Dean,(of course Sam will understand, forgive and give moose hugs) Cas (Conan was a barbarian and truely awesome) and Gadreel in this regard. Gadreel becauses I dont think we really have an accurate pov for him and secretly I'm hoping he is playing a con on Metranon. Though Kevin's death is hard to explain in any positive way.

I hope you are right about Sam coming out stronger for all this...and maybe affecting Gad positively. Sam has been lost in all the ways you mention for far too long on show.

Thank you. Thank you for your wonderful insights.
amyh
# amyh 2014-01-01 18:55
I really loved and appreciated this article. Its a very intersting read. I'm not sure I subscribe to to the "I did what I had to do" My why lines up with Pragmatic Dreamer who said it elequantly.

That said...I have great hope for Dean,(of course Sam will understand, forgive and give moose hugs) Cas (Conan was a barbarian and truely awesome) and Gadreel in this regard. Gadreel becauses I dont think we really have an accurate pov for him and secretly I'm hoping he is playing a con on Metranon. Though Kevin's death is hard to explain in any positive way.

I hope you are right about Sam coming out stronger for all this...and maybe affecting Gad positively. Sam has been lost in all the ways you mention for far too long on show.

Thank you. Thank you for your wonderful insights.
amazed11
# amazed11 2014-01-05 06:58
Love, love, love this article. Thank you Mary, a very enjoyable read and especially as it involves a topic very close to my own heart. It almost feels as if in society today, 'victim' is the unknowing default setting for a majority of people and we are inadvertently passing it from generation to generation. Taking ownership for our own choices, understanding we cannot always choose the situation/s we find ourselves in but we always, always have a choice in how we react to those situations.

In the Supernatural world it is fascinating to see fictional characters take on the differing roles and wonder what the outcome will be for the remainder of this season. Obviously the writers and show runners have creative control and they will have an end vision, although what influences each of them individually in their own lives and experiences, has to have some impact on how they write or see the scenes unfolding. I would imagine the writing team would bring together a considerable range of different backgrounds and experiences so the discussions in the writer's room must make for some interesting debates.

Looking forward to reading whatever articles you will be creating.
amazed11
# amazed11 2014-01-05 06:58
Love, love, love this article. Thank you Mary, a very enjoyable read and especially as it involves a topic very close to my own heart. It almost feels as if in society today, 'victim' is the unknowing default setting for a majority of people and we are inadvertently passing it from generation to generation. Taking ownership for our own choices, understanding we cannot always choose the situation/s we find ourselves in but we always, always have a choice in how we react to those situations.

In the Supernatural world it is fascinating to see fictional characters take on the differing roles and wonder what the outcome will be for the remainder of this season. Obviously the writers and show runners have creative control and they will have an end vision, although what influences each of them individually in their own lives and experiences, has to have some impact on how they write or see the scenes unfolding. I would imagine the writing team would bring together a considerable range of different backgrounds and experiences so the discussions in the writer's room must make for some interesting debates.

Looking forward to reading whatever articles you will be creating.