Why I love Dexter

The series Dexter is coming to an end in about a month and so I felt inspired to talk about it, because I think it is one of the most amazing shows to have been made and thought I would explain why I think that.

First of all if you think Dexter is just a show about vigilante justice, a psychopath who goes around killing other bad people, you’ve missed the point completely in opinion.  This aspect of the show is really just to make sure that you can morally stay with the character while keeping you on the brink of darkness.  Ultimately if you are only watching the show to see “bad guys get their just desserts” then I might be a little worried about you, because that’s really not what the series is trying to show you.

The first aspect that I like is that you see the world through the eyes of a killer.  He kills “bad guys” so we can sort of tolerate his killing.  However there are some other things that build us sympathy.  He loves his sister, and he loves his children.  Finally the fact that we know of his past, the fact that he had a traumatic child hood experience in which he saw his mother get murdered and sat in her blood for a prolonged period of time and thus impacted his personality is where the brilliance starts in my opinion.  Traumatic childhood events are very common in people who society considers violent criminals, but how often do we spend time investigating what happened in their childhood.  We only look at what they’ve done and make our judgments based on that.  What if we had the story told in the way Dexter’s story is told for all violent criminals?  Might we not feel at least some sympathy for the devil?

The second brilliant thing the story does is to show us how much we are all a little like Dexter.  Dexter is a person who hides who he is.  He has to not just because of the law, but because of the disgust that would be shown to him by society in general.  But the show cleverly throughout the series looks at the fact that we all hide things.  We all have darkness in us, and sometimes it comes out. We all have secrets we’d rather not tell.  Very often we see a character do something, or we are told something about a character that makes us initially judge that person to have questionable character.  Only later the show reveals to us the truth.  Why they did what they did, or how a situation can easily be misconstrued.  Until you know the intimate details of a person’s life we can be quite erroneous about our judgment about someone, or at the very least the lines between black and white become a lot fuzzier.    Many of even the overarching “bad guys” in the series that Dexter kills in the end one can feel some sympathy for.  A psychopathic brother who was ignored and not given the same opportunities Dexter was given for love and support of his condition.  A District Attorney going a little too far off the deep end because he’s seen too many bad guys escape the justice system because of a technicality.  A serial killer who faced perhaps an even worse set of childhood tragedies and could not escape the cycle of violence.  A man steeped in religious belief he believed himself to be the bringer of the end of the world if he performed certain actions.  It makes us question, what kind of monsters we might become given a similar set of circumstances in our lives.

Finally it makes a psychopath human.  Despite how we might categorize psychopaths they are a part of a society, the human race.  Part of what makes them what they are is a physiological condition, and if we combine that with childhood trauma, what kind of person do we get?  It’s a combination of nature than nurture.  Furthermore it makes us ask, is someone simply a psychopath or not a psychopath?  Are there points in between?  Most likely there are.  Can they form absolutely no connections, perhaps that is true for some, but maybe there are some that can form a couple based on positive childhood experiences.  Again the grey comes back as we think about, maybe one of the reasons nobody thinks of a psychopath as a human as that nobody ever tried to uncover their humanity.   Maybe nobody took the time as a child to understand them and help them deal with their thoughts and feelings.

I know there are many people, probably in psychology, who think that Dexter doesn’t fit the model of a true psychopath but I think it’s important to remember that Dexter is a story, not a documentary.  That what the writer is trying to reveal is the dividing line between what we consider a monster and good person is not clear.

I am not sure how it will all end, but I think they have done a terrific job.  So thank you Dexter for drawing us in and reminding us that we all have demons to face and deal with. J

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4 thoughts on “Why I love Dexter

  1. I love the series, too. I’ve been intrigued by the introduction of Dr. Vogel on many levels. She has a serious dark passenger – perhaps not in the same vein as Dexter does – but lots of secrets and a more-than-professional interest in his madness and the madness of others. Her reactions to Dexter not being a “true psychopath” – when he discusses the love he has for his sister and his son – are really quite interesting. Sort of a mixture of fascination and disappointment.

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    1. I find her reaction to his display of love for his sister and son I feel actually are quite condescending and insulting. I think in many ways while she accepts Dexter for who he is her view of the psychopath remains quite traditional and clinical. It’s like she’s defined the psychopath and thus only sees the value in making the psychopath useful as a part of nature. She does care for Dexter, but I still feel she denies his own ability to feel connections to people. Her reaction to his love for Debra was deep was one of being perplexed to the point that she tried to explain it away as something else and not love. The last episode was the only one where she actually didn’t sound too insulting although her line “You two are perfect for each other, and possibly also terrible for each other” is certainly not very supportive. Also I think she views Hannah as a psychopathic killer as well and her mind she sees that as a good thing that they are together. Again in perhaps more of a clinical way rather than an emotional way. This is why I think it is significant that the part of the brain that is being sent to her is the part of the brain responsible for empathy is significant. Her attitude towards psychopaths and their lack of empathy is her fatal flaw as a scientist and her denial to talk about how she got into the business of psychology I’m certain leads to some spurning in the past of probably a son or close patient. Somebody who is jealous of her affection towards other psychopaths and not to them. That’s why I think it is most likely a son. Perhaps she had one who did something terrible forcing her to abandon them out of fear initially. Perhaps the son killed somebody close to her, like his father. Just speculation but I think Dr. Vogel’s disbelief in the ability of psychopaths to feeling love will be her downfall!

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  2. Sherri Purves

    I don’t have a lot to add when it comes to Dexter. I agree with every thing you said about the show. Why does the character of Dexter appeal to us? Why do we like him despite him being a serial killer? We all identify with Dexter and his code. He is an anti-hero for us. We all have a code as far as morality goes. In Dexter’s case he takes the code one step further, acting on vigilante justice and ultimately committing murder. Despite the hypocrisy, Dexters actions in taking lives is justified, even though his actions are wrong morally. Dexter uncovers something we think of doing when our own personal code has been violated. Ultimately, we live vicariously through Dexter, because he does the things to bad people the things we only imagine doing.

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    1. That’s a good additional point I forgot to mention in regards to his code. Yes I agree that it similar to codes that we all live by. His was given to him, because he didn’t have the skills to achieve his own moral code. At times, like we all do, he questions this code when he makes observations that don’t seem to fit, although in the end he is always forced to come back to the code simply because it ensures that he doesn’t get caught.

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