Now, to recap: Bugs (1.08) is, I believe, the first time anyone thinks that the boys are sleeping together (that we see on screen). Sam and Dean are informed, several times, that the housing complex is welcoming to people of all sexual orientations. And then Dean slaps Sam's ass and calls him honey. This pattern continues. In Something Wicked (1.18), Michael, the young boy at the motel, asks the now famous question, "Two queens or a king?" and then, when Dean responds, "Two queens," says, "Sure, I'll bet." In Playthings (2.11), Susan asks if they're antiquing and Sherman, the bellboy, shares this assumption. Dean can't imagine why everyone thinks they're gay, but Sam suggests, "Well, you are kind of butch. Maybe they think you're overcompensating." In A Very Supernatural Christmas (3.08), Dean and Sam pose as a gay couple when inquiring about Christmas wreaths. In Lazarus Rising (4.01), we get more of this. Pamela offers to have a threesome with Sam and Dean and Kristy (Ruby?) asks, "So, are you two, like, together?" ("What? No, no, he's my brother." "Oh, I got it... I guess.")
I'm going to disappoint everyone in fandom before I get any further and say that I don't think Sam and Dean are having crazy, mad, incestuous sex. Really, I don't. And that's not what this meta is about.
However, after talking this over with several people, I do think they're romantically involved with one another and that is, arguably, a form of incest. They are, I argue, romantically involved with one another to the exclusion of romantic involvement with others.
Romance, you say, in my Supernatural? It's more likely than you think.
For one, there's the romance of Dean's pendant. Dean doesn't take it off and views it as a violation when it is removed from him (Skin, 1.06). We learn that it was a gift from Sam, originally intended for John (A Very Supernatural Christmas, 3.08). When Dean dies, Sam won't even let it be buried with Dean's body and, instead, wears it next to his skin (Lazarus Rising, 4.01). Upon Dean's return to life, Sam gives it back and Dean is pleased that Sam has been keeping it safe.
When one can't sleep, the other tends to keep watch and look after the first's sleep habits. When Sam has nightmares after Jessica's death, Dean is always there, ready to help him out. On the few occasions Dean has had sleeping troubles, Sam has been there for him. When Sam had his visions, Dean was always there, ready to hold him and help him and talk him through it and help him save people. (This is important, considering that Dean is suspicious of everything he can't fully comprehend, including angels.)
Sam gives up his dreams of a normal life - or adjusts his life dreams - for Dean. While he does initially return to hunting to avenge Jessica's death, he, at first, makes it clear that he wants to go back to his normal life when the Yellow Eyed Demon (Azazel) is dead. However, when Dean shoots Azazel with the Colt, Sam continues to hunt. Even after Dean's death (both in Mystery Spot, 3.11, and No Rest for the Wicked, 3.16), he continues to hunt. His life plans have adjusted to include Dean's.
They have trouble living without one another. Normally this is described as codependence, which it is to a certain extent, but it can also be viewed as a form of devoted romance. They, by the end of season two, cannot bear to be parted. When they are forcibly separated, bad things happen. The most obvious examples are, of course, the deaths of Sam and Dean. Dean can't imagine a world without Sam. That is a world in which he cannot bear living. Sam, as we see in Mystery Spot (3.11) and Lazarus Rising (4.01), shuts down into a sort of unemotional trauma victim. But, even beyond that, when they are still alive separation is difficult. In Sin City (3.04), Sam completely freaks out when Dean disappears with the possessed woman and in The Magnificent Seven (3.01), Sam refuses Dean's fairly rational offer of saving Sam and Bobby and sacrificing his already doomed self.
As Bobby tells them in Tall Tales (2.15), Sam and Dean are like an old married couple. They argue; they fight; they have their differences. Sam has demon blood. Dean was chosen by angels. Yet, they cannot imagine life or the world without one another. Even after separation, death, or hell, they move as a unit. They save each other. They manfully share their lives. While they both have sexual encounters with various women on the road, they don't need someone else emotionally. Sam doesn't, as far as I can tell as a viewer, long for the comfort and pleasure of having a long-term relationship with someone anymore. Dean, in my eyes, hasn't desired that since the beginning of the series. The romance is in the little things, like in any relationship. The food they buy. The car. The hugs. The fact that they're apparently named after a married couple.
Now, you say, that's all very lovely, but why talk about this now?
Last night, I watched In the Beginning (4.03) rather than look at Palin's face, like many other Supernatural fans. And while I do stand by my theory that the angel or demons are not the same as the bodies they possess, the incestuous overtones of this episode is undeniable. So let's analyse it.
It begins, for me, not in the Marty McFly dinner, but after Samuel has been possessed by Azazel.
Samuel has pinned Dean, in the chair to the wall, and asks, "Oh, hey, if that slug (slut?) marries your mommy, are you one of my psychic kids?" He then leans over Dean and proceeds to smell him up. I was half expecting to see Mitch Pileggi's tongue licking Dean's neck. (And not because I'm a sick fuck. That scene is creepy.) This is the body, at least, of Dean's grandfather, sniffing him up and pinning him to the wall and covering him with his body. Also, Samuel's not dead yet, so Grandpa gets to know all of this.
Check it out:
Azazel-as-Samuel then pontificates as to why he's hanging around Lawrence, Kansas in 1973 instead of slaughtering goats on the Arabian Peninsula (blah blah Master Race blah blah). He then explains, "They're ideal breeders. Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. No one's breeding with me. Though Mary? Man! I'd like to make an exception. So far, she's my favorite."
Okay. I get that this is Azazel talking and Samuel probably doesn't want to jump his daughter. While Samuel and Mary seem to have their issues, it doesn't seem like incest is one of them. However, Azazel is using Samuel's body to explain to Samuel's grandson that he'd like to breed with Mary, Samuel's daughter and Dean's mother. I don't care how you spin it, that's deeply wrong. If Azazel bones Mary using Samuel that is, still, a form of incest. Potentially non-consenual incest on both parts? Ewwww.
After Azazel-as-Samuel breaks John's neck and argues a bit with a distressed Mary (a tableau that looks very similar to Dean holding Sam's body at the end of season two), he offers her, "Let's kiss and make up." And then that's just what they do. Azazel-as-Samuel is kissing Samuel's daughter. I do realise that demons kiss to seal deals, but the kiss Dean shared with the Cross Roads Demons was significantly less intense than the one shared between Mary and Azazel-as-Samuel.
Dean is clearly horrified, realising at last that his mother made a deal (and made out with Grandpa):
Now, I haven't been able to come to any clear conclusions about what all of the incest means in this show. It is there and I don't think that it is just a case of fans seeing what they want to see. I've been making jokes about incest being a family value for the Campbell-Winchesters, but there is a point here. There's incest and it's here for all to see.
Chekov's gun states, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired." This pistol hasn't just been hanging on the wall since the first act, people have been commenting on what a nice pistol it is since then. And last night, someone took the pistol off the wall, played with it, and put it back up there. I don't know what it means, but I'm going to be mighty interested to see this particular pistol fire.
ETA: I am clearly losing my mind, because I missed a major line of incest. Dean/Mary. Dean thinks his mom is hot, vocalises it, and thinks that Sam would share his point of view. ("Sam, wherever you are, Mom is hot. And I'm going to hell... again.") While this is a very true fact - Amy Gumenick is gorgeous - Dean, though he clearly realises this is a 'wrong' thought, doesn't seem to be terribly bothered by the fact that he finds his own mother attractive. This deserves more thought.