Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dexter, the Nice Serial Murderer

He’s a one-man lynch mob. He "takes the law into his own hands" when the law has clearly proved inadequate. Not only does he murder murderers; he frames the brutish ex-husband of his girlfriend by injecting him with heroin and leaving him, while unconscious, for the cops to find. He will happily murder any mass murderer, even his brother.
“I will be judge and I will be jury,” to quote Lewis Carroll.
Where will it end? Will he dispose of a rival in his office, or a cop for giving him a ticket? Am I in danger for writing this about him?
We sympathize with Dexter. When he loses his nerve and doesn’t murder a blind murderer, we root for him to get his nerve back. And I was, indeed, hoping that he would get his girlfriend’s obnoxious ex-husband out of the picture.
There have been predecessors. Hannibal the Cannibal, for instance—that somewhat admirable serial murderer who likes to eat his victims. And there was a Michael Douglas film where he headed a committee to wreak justice on malefactors who had gone free. (The message was that the committee didn’t work.)
I doubt that many viewers will be persuaded to “take the law into heir own hands” thanks to Dexter. Some kids do try to fly, emulating Superman, but hell, it’s clear that Dexter is sick.
What’s annoying is that the program claims that Dexter, like his brother the Ice Truck Killer, is instinctually prone to murder—and he needs an outlet. His decent, sympathetic cop-father even guides him into a career of killing killers. So he graduates from killing animals to killing people—bad people. What kind of person is born with a need to kill?
Not the kind, gentle, funny, warm fellow that Dexter tends to be when he’s not busy killing people.
The program is well done—clever writing, good acting (apart from a few cast members who chew the scenery). And some of its attraction is from the unusual horror – all that blood, all those dead bodies. (I turn away when Dexter plunges a knife into someone’s heart.)
I’m not arguing that Dexter should be censored. But I think that if impressionable young people watch the program, they should be urged to see “The Ox-Bow Incident”—a film against lynching.

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