Fighting with the Sky

The Morality of Dexter

Posted on: September 2, 2009

DEXTER (Season 2)I really like things that make you questions morality.  Everyone has their own definition of morality, so I really like when my morality is pushed.

I recently discovered the show Dexter (I just finished the second season).  I have been hearing about this show for a while and I recently decided to see what all the fuss was about.  Everything about this show pushes on your definition of morality.

Dexter is a show about a guy named Dexter (never would have guessed, right?) who doesn’t really have feelings of his own and he doesn’t really fully understand social interactions (which sounds a lot like Asperger’s, but that is never even mentioned in the show).  Through training from his foster father, he has learned how to fake emotions and navigate through social situations.  He works in forensics as a blood-spatter specialist (he has a really weird obsession with blood) at the Miami police department where his sister, Deb, is a cop in the homicide department.  He’s dating a woman named Rita (Julie Benz, for all those Buffy and Angel fans, she played Darla) with two kids, whose ex-husband used to beat and rape her.  Dexter likes her because he thinks she’s just as messed up as he is.  But Dexter also has a secret.  He’s a serial killer.

Dexter has urges within himself to kill.  He’s had them since he was a child, which we are meant to believe is because he saw his mother brutally murdered at a young age.  Dexter kills people who do bad things do satisfy these urges.  He’s very methodical about it.  He has a procedure.  He stalks his victims, paralyzes them with drugs, takes a drop of their blood for his slide collection, then cuts them up into pieces.  It’s pretty intense.

Despite the fact that Dexter is a serial killer, the audience identifies with him.  We even see him at some points as — gasp! — a good guy, or at least a well-intentioned one.  He kills, but his victims are only people who have done horrible things.  We want him to survive, not be discovered, and his relationships to succeed (or at least I do).  We feel sorry for him because he doesn’t understand social interactions and doesn’t have feelings (even though he kind of does, just not normal ones).  But every episode, just when you are starting to identify with Dexter, you are reminded that he is a serial killer.  It makes you think about society’s morality and your own morality pretty much every second of the show.

And I just have to say, I love the character of Deb, Dexter’s sister.  She’s a homicide cop at the MiamiPD.  Every other word out of her mouth is a curse word.  She makes mistakes, but she’s still confident in herself and stands up for herself and those she cares about.  Given, all of these things are in the professional world, in her relationships, she’s a little less confident.  But her most healthy relationship that I’ve seen (so far) is with a much old FBI agent who is working with the Miami PD on the “Bay Harbor Butcher” case (the “Bay Harbor Butcher” is really Dexter, shhh).  But Deb has developed through these first two seasons.  She started out in vice, desperately wanting to get into homicide.  But when she got there, she was the new girl who was not that confident.  As the show progressed, she grew into a confident woman and a good cop.


6 Responses to "The Morality of Dexter"

LOVE this show. I also love how strong a woman Deb is. Even when she is unsure about something, she manages to push through and better herself with it. She’s not afraid to kick some ass, but she’s also a caring sister to boot.

Even Rita adamantly stands up for herself, especially later in the series. She is determined to get out from under Paul’s thumb, and to make her life what she wants it to be.

Dexter is a show about a guy named Dexter (never would have guessed, right?) who doesn’t really have feelings of his own and he doesn’t really fully understand social interactions (which sounds a lot like Asperger’s, but that is never even mentioned in the show).

I believe that Dexter is supposed to be a clinical sociopath – going off what I’ve read about the show, as I’ve only seen about half of the first season.

He is most definitely a sociopath.

The books the television series are based on are pretty interesting too, if you’re ever looking for some popcorn fiction to read poolside/in bed with the plague/whatever.

Anyway, one of the reasons I love Dexter is the same reason you do: it’s a show which humanizes a totally evil person. You get to know him, you love him, you care about him, you worry when it looks like he might be caught, even. And you’re constantly being reminded that he’s a serial killer. This is not a show which tries to hide the fact that it’s about evil. It creates a lot of cognitive dissonance to have someone evil in the position of the main character, doesn’t it?

I haven’t watched in a while, since Showtime resolutely refuses to put things online (even when I would be willing to pay for it). I think I’ve watched through the end of season two as well, but it looks like the third season just came out on DVD, so I have some catching up to do!

Deb is a pretty great character, but I also find Rita really interesting. (Although it’s weird to see Julie Benz in that role, because I always see her as Darla!)

I haven’t seen the show, but I can see the appeal of Dexter as a vigilante (like Batman, though Dexter finished the job and kills the bad guys, instead of letting the Joker get sent to Arkham again, just so he can later escape again, and we start the rigmarole all over again…)

He is a serial killer, but if he’s killing the bad guys, is he that bad? We know the legal system sometimes lets the bad guys go free.

I’m not a fan of The Sopranos, but when Tony et al. went after the guy who raped Tony’s therapist, as much as I dislike everyone on the show, I had to appreciate that move. We want the bad guy to get his comeuppance, and sometimes the most “satisfying” way for that to happen is to have the bad guy go through what he put his victim through (a brutal beating by someone bigger and stronger).


In the show Dexter just wants to kill, He channels his urgers through the code Harry taught him: Must have killed, must be planning on doing it again etc. I don’t think he really feels like a vigilante or that he’s right as much as he wants to kill people and yet doesn’t want to go to jail and this is the way he handles those urges. In the second season when they were looking for the Bay Harbor Butcher it seemed like the first time he ever started to look at what he did as something that meant he was “good” and that was because of what he saw reflected in others

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