‘Dexter’ as Therapy

‘Dexter’ is still the best show on cable TV.  I first saw it on regular TV as a summertime replacement and became addicted.  Since I don’t have cable TV, I watch it on DVD and typically watch an 8-episode season in 2 nights.  Because I watch it on cable, I’ve only seen the first three seasons (it is currently in its 5th season).  In Orem, Blockbuster only has a couple of ‘Dexter’ DVDs on their shelves, and because of high demand, I usually have to wait months before I can rent one.  No wonder Blockbuster is going broke.

Scott D. Pierce writing in the SLTrib (24 Nov 2010) had the following to say about ‘Dexter:’

If you’re having homicidal thoughts, maybe you should watch “Dexter”–Showtime’s bloody, violent series about a serial killer who kills serial killers.

Consider it therapy.

Well, this probably won’t work if you actually have homicidal tendencies–but maybe if you just feel a fleeting, occasional urge to kill someone.

“I don’t lose sleep over the possibility that I’m advocating serial murder through my work,” said Michael C. Hall, who plays Dexter, the ultimate antihero.

Yes, Dexter Morgan kills people.  A lot of people.  But only people who deserve it.

Weirdly enough, for almost 5 seasons now, fans of the show have found themselves rooting for a guy who’s both amoral and ultramoral, in a homicidal kind of way.

What’s not to like.

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6 Responses to ‘Dexter’ as Therapy

  1. Carl Youngblood says:

    Just watched one episode so I’m not an expert on the show. But what repelled me about it was that it seemed to use highly contrived situations to justify what would otherwise be extremely immoral behavior. They make bad guys that are really easy to hate so that you have no problems about watching somebody gruesomely slaughter them. Essentially, I see it as a way of allowing a culture that is already numb to violence (especially American culture) further debauch itself with supposed impunity. Any time fiction presents caricatures it does a disservice to its audience. On top of that, it continues to feed the American lust for violent retribution instead of character reformation. One need not look further than our incredibly dysfunctional prison system to see where this kind of thinking has gotten us.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I don’t disagree with your assessment. It is definitely a show for adults, it has bad language, adult situations, nudity, violence (most of it implied), etc. But the main gist of the show is character development.

      In many respects I find the show an updating (modernization) of the antihero from Albert Camus’s The Stranger. It is a modern-day existential or absurdist paean. While I was on my mission in France, I because very interested in existentialims, and Dexter seems like an extention of that philososphy.

      I know I occasionally have strong feelings of alienation. I have moments when I feel like an alien on this Earth, like I’m the only “normal” person on the planet (maybe that’s just egotism). In that respect, I can relate to Dexter Morgan.

      I also have moments when I feel like I would love to be a vigilante. Cleaning up the world would be so much easier.

      Luckily, we are all adults, and can hopefully control our more basic impulses. I too cringe at the Dexter’s slicing-and-dicing, but for me that is a minor part of the show. I generally dislike violence in movies (even cartoon violence). But for some reason, find it acceptable in Dexter. Although, there is no plot reason that I can see for it to be so disgusting.

  2. Carl Youngblood says:

    I should add, the show presents the psychopath as thoroughly alien and therefore safe to hate and to kill, further blinding audiences to their own potential for evil. It also seems to posit a dark view of human nature as opposed to one in which the overwhelming majority are worth saving and only commit crimes due to poor upbringing. It’s been interesting to live here in Norway for the last year and see how much more successful they are at rehabilitating criminals than the US is.

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    I too am not a big fan of our prison system. But don’t you feel that some individuals need to disappear from the earth before than can hurt anyone else? And disppear faster? ie. Ted Bundy? I’m basically anti-capital punishment. But some people just need to disappear. Don’t worry, I’m old and am not training to be a vigilante. I’m also very liberal on social issues.

    • Carl Youngblood says:

      I don’t disagree with your assessment. It is definitely a show for adults, it has bad language, adult situations, nudity, violence (most of it implied), etc. But the main gist of the show is character development.

      I’m not trying to prudishly take issue with such things as language, nudity, violence etc. categorically, as if the mere presence of such things make a movie bad. I’m more concerned about the overall philosophy that is being advocated by a program. And it seems like the message of Dexter is thoroughly steeped in this false concept of alienation of one’s neighbor and retribution for criminal wrongdoing instead of personal vulnerability and shared responsibility for criminal activity.

      That said, I don’t want to take this too far. I can see how it is an entertaining show for many. But the fact that it is entertaining for so many of us might not necessarily be good–haven’t reached a final verdict yet.

      I too am not a big fan of our prison system. But don’t you feel that some individuals need to disappear from the earth before than can hurt anyone else? And disppear faster? ie. Ted Bundy?

      I’m not sure that Ted Bundy could have been produced by any culture but ours. I can’t be certain, but I think there’s a strong chance he would never have committed those crimes if he had been raised in another country. The fetishization of sexuality in America has probably done a lot to contribute to these kinds of abberant behaviors. By demonizing sex and maintaining a puritanical standard we create unhealthy avenues for it, then we deal with these unhealthy manifestations with more and more fire-power, bigger prisons and no mercy to the psychopathic offspring of these philosophies. We are often so ideological in our approaches that we don’t even look to see if they are actually working or not.

      • rogerdhansen says:

        We all have different interests and I guess that’s what makes the world interesting.

        I work some in Uganda, home of Idi Amin and more recently the Lord Republican Army (a guerilla group that used child soldiers). I’ve visited a camp where they try to rehabilitate child soldiers. I’m pretty sure that all cultures have ugliness.

        I’m almost a pacificist, so maybe my interest in Dexter is beyond explanation. Thanx for your comments Carl. I greatly respect your opinions.

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