I wish that we could learn more about Dan’s background and see his family interact. What do you think the dynamics would be like between Dan’s brother and Amy? How do you think it’s like with the three of them? How would Dan’s family be around Amy’s?
I loved Reid Scott’s description of Dan as “coming from douchebag stock,” and it seems fairly apt as a likely description to me. I highly doubt Dan’s family are like Amy’s – obliviously affectionate to the point of being smothering.
I tend to picture them as being at best neglectful – my general experience has been that people with as little respect for other people’s feelings as Dan displays (over and over and over) tend to come from backgrounds where their feelings and emotional needs, reasonable or otherwise, were not respected or met.
And for all Dan says he’s bad at basic empathy, he does have at least some measure of it – the thought of having to be present while Amy’s father died upset him so much he became almost jittery.
So I tend to think that Dan’s parents probably didn’t invest in him much emotionally, but did push him to succeed. And since Dan is so extroverted, I imagine his need for attention and parental engagement as a child would have been substantial. He doesn’t seem the kind of child who could be left to entertain himself with a book.
What I imagine is his parents constantly telling him he deserves (and should achieve) The Best – exam results, college placements, internships, etc – and probably arranging for him to have whatever education was needed to get him there…but probably not involving themselves in his life much beyond outlining their expectations.
And I can see Dan being forced as a result to become emotionally self-sufficient at an unhealthily young age.
That, to me, would explain Dan’s combination of neediness (I think Ben nailed him pretty accurately with the “five percent that still needs to be loved” line) and outsized sense of entitlement. On some level, he doesn’t acknowledge other people’s emotional needs because his were never acknowledged.
Amy, of course, is the one exception to this – if you watch how Dan relates to her (both what he does and doesn’t do), he understands her needs very well.
Which, without wanting to make his attraction to her seem pathological, does make a kind of sense. Amy is probably every bit as demanding of Dan as his family were – she certainly expects him to excel professionally – but she also has a softness to her, a vulnerability that she’s never been able to fully hide.
Remember when I said Amy may well be more important to Dan as an OBJECT of love, rather than a source of love? I wonder if part of that is a kind of…reflection of himself. As in (and this would all be entirely subconscious of course), part of the draw for Dan is getting to play the role in Amy’s life, be supportive and present, in a way that no one ever really was for him. And in some ways filling THAT need, getting to ‘take care’ of her, may pull him back to her almost as much as the sexual attraction. (In which case, if his family treat Amy badly, expect him to get VERY visibly pissed off).
That said, this is all speculation – until we see Dan’s family it’s hard to be certain about any of it.
But I highly doubt his brother still speaks to him – or if he does, it’s probably only as much as family events demand. Sleeping with a sibling’s future spouse is such a huge betrayal that it’s very hard to imagine they could have any kind of functional relationship afterwards – unless, of course, Dan’s brother is as awful as he is and was never really invested in the relationship emotionally (though even then…)
I also have this suspicion that Dan comes from money – or at least, more money than Amy does. Her family seems comfortably middle-class (despite Sophie’s downward mobility) but I would picture his background being, I don’t know, say a middle-ground between Amy’s and Selina’s.
I don’t think his family can have been AS terrible as Selina’s, because if nothing else, Dan seems too functional for that. On the most basic level, Dan has created and sustained an adult relationship of equals with Amy (I use the term relationship in the broadest sense possible here) in a way that Selina has never managed with anyone, and has shown at least some limited ability to course-correct when it seems like his actions will damage that relationship. He’s also far more self-sufficient, not needing the constant praise of a Gary or a Richard to maintain his emotional equilibrium. (Admittedly, he becomes pretty insufferable when he has to do without Amy for a prolonged stretch of time, but not to anything like the same extent).