Lib gets a life!!

September 16, 2008

Dexter – a serial killer with standards

Filed under: Télévision — Lib @ 1:05 am
Tags: , , ,

Dexter, then, starring Michael C. Hall. You know, the gay brother from Six Feet Under. Well, I’ve been hooked on this show ever since I started watching it, following a friend’s excellent advice. I finished watching the first season last week, and I’m just starting the second one now, hoping to get through it before season 3 starts, at the end of the month. I checked out the book it’s inspired from, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, from the library. To keep it short, I’m a fan.

Let me remind you of the pitchline if you’re not familiar with it. By day, Dexter Morgan in a blood spatter forensic expert working with Miami Police Department. He’s got a girlfriend, Rita, a sister, Debra, and he’s excellent at his job – everybody loves Dexter. By night though, he turns into a serial killer. There’s a catch, though: he only kills people who deserve it. And there’s the rub.

As far as I’m concerned, I took it all for granted when I started watching it – the fact that Dexter kills people never bothered me. When I think about it, I reckon that’s because I didn’t know what the show was about when I fisrt saw it. I was introduced to Dexter by Dexter himself, and I didn’t question his deeds… Maybe that tells something about me that I don’t really want to know… Anyway, I started to question it when I described the show to a friend, and her first reaction was wondering how this show could even appeal to anyone. Which is the sane, logical reaction: after all, this guy kills people. I am dead against the death penalty, in any circumstances. And yet, I accept Dexter’s own line ‘I kill people who deserve it only’. How come?

Well, first of all, I like Dexter. Like any person who watches and enjoys the show. He is smart and handsome, he is witty and cute. He’s a sweet boyfriend and a devoted brother, he’s good at his job, he makes me laugh. And most of all, he lets me in on his secret. No one knows who Dexter actually is, but the audience. And, in a way, no one understands him but the audience. ‘Hi, folks, I’m Dexter, I kill people. I can’t help it, I’ve got these urges. My foster father was the first to see it in me, so he taught me to cover my tracks so I would never get caught, and he told me to kill people who were murderers themselves only. I’m a serial killer with standards.’ And we buy it, even though we would never support the death penalty.

But in my opinion, at the end of the day, the real reason why we absolve Dexter is that he is, in his very own way, a modern superhero. It is shocking and provocative because the show is realistic. Dexter does not turn into a bat at night, he can’t make cobwebs spring from his fingertips, he can’t fly. He’s the man on the street, he could be your neighbour. But like Batman, Spiderman or Superman, he kills baddies. Simple as. Problem is, he doesn’t do it in epic battles, but in shady corners. His methods are not heroic, they are gruesome. And yet, when he’s done, he’s not any different from John Wayne or Indiana Jones. He’s rid the world of another villain. Except he can’t be hailed a hero – because what he does, deep down, is wrong, and he knows it. Dexter is a realistic superhero: he doesn’t get away with murder. Not that he’s ever caught, but he’s got to pay the price – forever lonely. A sociopath and a scapegoat. Like his brother says – You can’t be a killer and a hero. It doesn’t work that way!

So yes, my friend was right when questioning the morality of the show. Dexter is not moral. That’s because he is what a superhero would be if movies were real. And fortunately, Dexter is not real either. He is a terrific fictional character – I would have loved to be the writer that came up with that pitchline. Because plotwise, it’s genius.



  1. dexter is one bada$$ vigilante, im sure his charachter had some influences from batman… check out some of the older shows here: … thanks for the post, and i agree, dexter is NOT moral he’s technically a total fruityloop… but yeah, that’s an interesting plot for sure… 🙂

    Comment by brucewayne586 — September 17, 2008 @ 12:28 pm | Reply

  2. Well, I just finished the first season, and I agree with you so far.

    About the admiration for the character of a serial killer versus being against death penalty, I had to think about it when I began a story about a girl having to kil her father. How Freudian is that ? But actually, that’s the whole point, isn’t it ? Watching a TV show about a serial killer, writing stories about people dealing with their problems by killing, doesn’t mean that murder / execution is a solution in real life, it’s just, I don’t know, kind of a primal urge from back when the humans being were not too good at talking. Stories are here to catalyse those urges, express them in a way that doen’t hurt anyone.

    Comment by Petite Pêche — September 18, 2008 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

  3. Actually, it’s quite interesting because the episode I saw last night (from season 2) does urge Dexter to think himself as a superhero (he identifies himself to ‘the dark defender’, except he thinks leather pants are not a good idea in Miami’s heat…) I wasn’t completely wrong then with this theory!

    Comment by Lib — September 18, 2008 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

  4. Alors je n’ai pas du tout le meme ressenti que toi sur Dexter !!!
    Bon déjà je n’ai pas regardé toute la première saison (ou la deuxième, je suis tombée 2,3 fois dessus par hasard à la télé ici en Australie… mais Dexter ne m’ait pas du tout apparu comme un superhéros mais bien plus comme un type pas sûr de lui, qui lutte avec ce qu’il appelle son insenbilité… fin toute sa relation avec sa petite amie le fait souffrir, je le vois pas du tout comme le boyfriend parfait ! Après je suis ptête en train de te spoiler car je ne sais pas du tout quelle saison j’ai regardé…
    J’ai sympathisé aussi sur le héros, car il est attachant malgré tous ses défauts mais jamais je n’ai perdu de vue la morale et je ne suis pas sûre que le scénariste non plus !!!

    Mais cette série est indéniablement d’une très grande qualité, ne serait-ce que malgré le rythme plutôt lent, on est accroc et on en redemande !

    Comment by Winnie — October 12, 2008 @ 10:15 am | Reply

  5. @ Winnie : je ne sais pas du tout sur quelle saison tu es tombée… à vue de nez, ça ressemble à la 3 (et tu ne risques pas de me spoiler, je les ai tous vus !). Il est vrai que dans la troisième saison, Dexter se départ un peu de son assurance habituelle… et il est aussi très vrai que le rythme ralenti. Pour tout avouer, je trouve que la saison 3 n’est pas d’aussi bonne qualité que la 1 et la 2, haletantes de bout en bout. Dans la 3, l’intrigue principale est moins prenante, et du coup, comme il faut bien parler de quelque chose, les scénaristes se font plus psychologues que narrateurs d’un film d’action… et c’est ma foi un peu lourd. Cela dit, je continue à regarder avec assiduité, car le personnage reste fascinant.

    Je suis par ailleurs en train de lire American Psycho de Bret Easton Ellis, et il est intéressant de voir à quel point son personnage principale, Patrick Bateman, qui tue lui aussi la nuit, est différent de Dexter…

    Comment by Lib — November 10, 2008 @ 11:49 am | Reply

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