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.

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