For the past few years we’ve seen him tell us with complete sincerity that he’s a football player, teenage girl, a screaming toddler, a hot babe jogging (yeah, sure), and even inanimate objects and weather elements such as a lamp and a “pleasant breeze.” He’s even told us he’s a deer as he wanders into the middle of the street only to let himself get run over by a car to prove a point about insurance. People seem to find this amusing, while I’m seemingly the only one who can see the real tragedy occurring inside this man’s mind.
I think it’s obvious that Dean Winters is suffering from an extreme case of Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder), as defined in the DSM-5. This could be the result of his dedication to acting, a method actor of the most dangerous order. The man was who made Hellraiser: Hellseeker the certified horror classic it is, and if it weren’t for him in Oz or 30 Rock or Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, those shows would be hollow husks that nobody could recall.
But with true understated acting genius comes insanity, as Dean Winters has made painfully evident. When sitting in the bar and looking up only to see his face remaining ironically calm and collected while running in a suit, with the misconception that he’s a football player, I can’t help but cringe and ask the bartender for a stronger drink as I did one night.
“You doing okay?” the guy next to me asked, face filled with mild concern.
“It’s just,” I pointed to the TV as Dean caused a car accident while standing in the middle of the street with his supposed football team, unaware that he had been the sole cause of it in his psychotic confusion, “it’s just Dean Winters, man. He’s so lost. He doesn’t know who he is anymore.”
Dean then advertised Allstate, somehow still aware that this was his purpose for being in the commercial.
The man next to me looked down at the bar with his brows lowered in confusion, turned away and shook his head, and didn’t say another word to me that night. He probably realized like me in that moment that Dean Winters had fallen into a pit of darkness from which he may never return.
What we need is to see Dennis Haysbert–who still provides voiceover for the end of those Allstate commercials–to speak with Dean in the middle of one of these commercials about getting help. Playing his confrontation off as part of the commercial may resonate with Dean, who seems to be stuck in not one, but an almost infinite amount of characters. Interestingly, he still acts like a masculine guy in each, not straying from his deep voice or squinty expression of coolness, perhaps indicating that he sees each character as one and the same, an extension of Dean, if you will.
I would like to imagine this commercial myself here; maybe Allstate will find my idea and use it, run it by Dennis:
Dean is whatever current personality he believes he is, and causes a car to crash into a telephone pole. Just before he promotes Allstate, Dennis walks out onto the scene and speaks with Dean.
DENNIS: Dean, what are you doing?
DEAN: I’m not Dean, I’m [whatever person or thing at the moment].
DENNIS: Look, man. You’re not [whatever person or thing at the moment], you’re Dean. You’re Dean Winters. That is your name. You’re a good man. You’re just a little lost right now, but I will help bring you back. Just listen to me and look into my soulful eyes, the kind of eyes that made me convincing as the country’s first African-American President in the hit show 24. That’s right, Dean. I played the fictional predecessor of Barack Obama, and yet I know that I am, in fact, Dennis Haysbert, not President David Palmer. I’m also not Lambert from the Splinter Cell games, even though the last four letters in my real surname are the exact same.
A single tear travels down Dean’s cheek. He looks down to the ground as he searches for what Dean Winters is, what defines that very concept of a person that used to sit on the surface.
DENNIS: I know it’s hard, but reach, Dean. Reach. Deep in there is someone with a life, a personality, a soul. Look at all of these people and things you think you’ve been. Each one has either caused pain to others or himself, all in the name of selling insurance. Great insurance, it is, but it’s still simply an advertising medium. It’s not worth hurting people over. And a lamp? Really? You’re not a lamp, or a gust of wind, or a speck of dust causing someone to dangerously sneeze while driving, Dean. You’re a man. A man with thoughts and feelings and freedom.
Dean collapses to the ground, kneeling and weeping openly into his hands. He recalls who he is, everything that is that entity called “Dean Winters”. Every facet of his true life rushes in tandem to the forefront of his consciousness, overwriting every fabricated memory that has since been inserted as a sort of character collage.
Dennis offers his hand for assistance, which Dean takes, and Dennis helps him up. He holds him out again, placing his comforting large hands back on his shoulders.
DEAN: I know who I am, Dennis! I’m Dean! I’m Dean!
Dennis offers that signature radiant smile that assures him everything is OK.
DENNIS: Yes, you are. You are Dean.
DEAN: I’m Dean! I’m Dean! I’m Dean Winters. I know it! (he’ll probably say something to this effect)
DENNIS: Welcome back, Dean Winters.
Commercial ends with Allstate logo, and everyone in bars across America cheers, crying into their beers. They may even go home to buy insurance.
I hope Allstate finds this and uses it. If not, I hope Dean finds it and finally remembers who he really is. Perhaps this can snap him back into reality. I may save a man with this post.