Here’s What’s Wrong With Everyone’s Understanding Of Dexter

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What do we have here, a serial killer trying to pass himself off as normal?

A hallucination of your father admonishing you for your mistakes is a pretty standard literary metaphor for the superego, and if that’s true you should probably sit down: this superego, like your superego, doesn’t criticize him for doing something wrong, like killing,  but for doing something that would endanger his serial killing, his enjoyment.  “The code” isn’t a moral (right/wrong) code but an ethical one: “you will kill (and here’s how you go about it for max pleasure.)”  There’s no guilt, only shame, which is precisely the feeling he has when his sister catches him enjoying.  So rather than Dexter being about an aberration of our society, it’s a reflection of our time: we don’t feel bad for acting on our desires, we feel bad if we don’t act on them.  Only in America would we be depressed about the fact that we aren’t happy.  You can read it again if you want, but no, it doesn’t make sense.

But it’s fiction, right?  So what he “is” isn’t important, what’s important is what the viewers want him to be: a serial killer pretending to be normal, a monster hiding in plain sight.  That would conveniently let us off the hook, I’ll admit, but saying it for 7 seasons doesn’t make it true.  Your first clue is the voice over, and voice overs are for the purpose of making the viewer disbelieve his eyes.  Turn the volume down, and see: a normal person with normal relationships, a bond to his father, sister, kid(s), friends.  “But he can’t love.”  HA!  Tell me what that would look like, use no examples from TV or movies, I’ll be at the bar with a billion dollars reward money that you will never collect.

And when teenagers and adults secretly tell me (as if they were the only ones) that they feel a little like Dexter, the lack of empathy, the lack of emotion,  “I feel like I fake normality a lot of the time”, I ask, wait, how do you know that’s how Dexter feels?  Maybe you’re not like Dexter so much as he’s a lot like you, i.e. like everyone.  Funny how we never connected with any of the other serial killers on that show, just the one guy who thinks he’s unlike everyone else who all think they’re unlike everyone else.

“He’s insane!”  Run the test: is he unable to understand that what he is doing is wrong? No.  Is he unable to control himself? No– he covers his tracks and waits for opportunities.  Is he suffering from a mental disorder that impairs his reason?  No.  This is a sane man who was allowed and then allowed himself to pursue and indulge in desires which, admittedly, are whacked, under the premise that they are innate and going to come out eventually.   I love the show and therefore I’m happy to root for the morally ambiguous protagonist, but TV is wrong, this isn’t how a serial killer would act if he wanted to be normal, this is exactly how you think you would act if you decided to kill people.



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6 Responses to Here’s What’s Wrong With Everyone’s Understanding Of Dexter

  1. Guy Fox says:

    it’s a reflection of our time: we don’t feel bad for acting on our desires, we feel bad if we don’t act on them. Only in America would we be depressed about the fact that we aren’t happy.

    This has much more to do with class than geography. It’s going to affect/afflict Googoosha just as much as anyone who spends too much time watching Oprah/Ayn Rand/insert handbook to better life through auto-branding here. This hard-earned superficiality might have originally emanated from American mass media (though I have my doubts), but it’s global now. Those who can’t hope to keep up with how quickly the signs of individual quality change (i.e. the poor) are the ones who will latch on to an ol’ skool superego, and they’re gonna get freakin’ pissed when you call their dad a liar/pussy.

    • Nachlasse says:

      @ Guy: What doubts do you have w.r.t the origins of this ‘hard earned superficiality’ from the American mass media? I can’t seem to think of any other possible origin other than the whole consumerist boom. I’d love to know what you’re thinking.

      @TLP and everyone else: If you’re using how the superego strives to enjoyment concept, then Lacan would have only formulated that after the 1920’s and 30’s consumerist boom. Even though he first published about about that 1950’s but I think theres reason to believe he started lecturing about it in the 40’s maybe. Could the superego really change its course from Freudian to Lacanian in such a short time? I guess the way to view this could be the shift in the superego instead of believing Freud was ‘wrong.’ I could be completely wrong, I’d appreciate it if you let me know.

      • Guy Fox says:

        Since you asked…

        By hard earned superficiality I mean the tendency to ascribe higher value to image and signs of value than any kind of actual value. Existence might precede essence, but appearance is swamping them both. A society based on mass-consumption seems to be the fertile ground for this, right? The US started this kind of society with its post-industrial capitalism, which is the system where machines make trinkets and trifles in China, but media serves to make people feel inadequate without them, even though they’re of no practical use (e.g. sandwich grills, angry birds, designer kitchens, Ipads, etc.). That’s the narrative, right? Not so much. It’s collective narcissism that allows Americans to retell history around themselves. Counterexample? Why certainly!

        Potatoes are a wonderful tubor from the New World. They’re bloody nutritious, are a plentiful and hardy source of calories, and are pretty much idiot proof – just the sort of crop northern Europe had been desperate for since the Celts. So some explorers bring them back across the Atlantic in the late 16th century, but nobody wanted to touch them. Their similarity to nightshade made people think they were poisonous, and there were even suspicions that they caused 3 things nobody wants: leprosy, farting, and worst of all, horniness. The damn things are mana from heaven (close enough), but they weren’t mentioned in the weren’t mentioned in the bible, so even starving peasants won’t touch them. The rich and powerful know that people are much more docile when sated, so if you can popularize the potato, you can hope for fewer revolutions, fewer mutinies, and more productivity & tax revenue. How do you get the poor to eat their taters?

        First principle of marketing: rich is the new porn, but it has ALWAYS BEEN the new porn. Nobles start wearing potato blossoms in their boutonnieres. Make it an accessory. Frederick the Great of Prussia came up with the absolute BEST idea though: plant a bunch of potatoes in the royal garden and post an armed guard around them to make them seem like the most exclusive accessory since a jeweled sceptre. The peasants figure anything worthy of that treatment has gotta be good, and break the law by stealing the plants for their own use. Appearance was trump even before the Declaration of Independence. I’ve been trying to find when this started to be the case. Prelim results say you need to go back about 7 centuries before things start to look different, and that’s only an aberration until you go even further back.

        Humans are corrupt apes indeed, but we’ve always been that way.

  2. rafaelmadeira says:

    The hallucination of Harry hasn’t shown up since Debra caught Dexter. I wonder if that means something long-term or that he just hasn’t shown up yet. This was a pretty big deal, you’d think he’d make an appearance.

  3. Alf says:

    “… this is exactly how you think you would act if you decided to kill people.”

    Yes. But I knew this long ago. What does that say about me?

  4. Britunculus says:

    I always assumed the point of Dexter was that he’s actually ‘normal’ but his Dad pathologized his teenager behaviour.

    I assumed that Dexter was a microcosm of American response to psychoanalysis.

    Am I wrong too?