“Dexter”: 21st Century Anti-Hero, or just another TV psycho?

200px-dexter_morganI have just recently become familiar with Dexter, the critically acclaimed Showtime series that started in 2006. I have gotten through seasons one, two and almost three. My wife is obsessed with it. From a technical standpoint, it is very slick and modern: the title credits are truly a work of art and the theme music and the background score are both comically eerie and work perfectly. Michael C. Hall (of Six Feet Under fame) plays Dexter Morgan, a forensic blood splatter specialist (I had no idea this occupation existed) working for the Miami Homicide division. He was adopted by a veteran cop on the force when his mother was hacked to pieces by a vicious cocaine dealer thug when he was just a toddler. This horrific experience sets in stage the evolution of the character of Dexter: a law-abiding good guy citizen with normal relationships by day (both a girlfriend, Rita, and a step-sister cop on the force, Deb) and an unbelievably methodical vigilante serial killer by night. All previous indicators of a character like Dexter would place him as a prime villain, in the tradition of Hannibal Lecter, or the real life Ted Bundy. The only thing is, Dexter kills Bad Guys, so, in a twist of expectations, he is more like Batman. A very creepy, cold and calculating Batman, that is. How is an audience supposed to react to someone like Dexter? Are they supposed to root for him? cheer him on as he kills, again and again, episode after episode? OR, is the show meant to showcase how fine a line the perception of good and evil truly is. From a political standpoint, Dexter is almost right-wing in his Draconian thirst for justice (I am sure there are some law-and-order types who silently wish for a Dexter-type to clean society of its "filth"). Dexter also appeals to outcasts as well, people who don't quite fit in with "the system". Dexter has to live by a rigid code of operation, first for practical reasons (to not get caught) and secondly, because this is the way he morally rationalizes his bloody way of life. Like any good television show or film, the content asks more questions than it does answer them, so in this sense, Dexter works. It penetrates deep into your subconscious, makes you evaluate your ethics, makes you wonder why you cheer him on, or turn your head in disgust. The show is not without its problems, though. Jimmy Smits joins the show in season three as a vengeful DA who joins Dexter's bloody crusade (at first unwillingly by Dexter, then later with his acceptance) who is kind of portrayed as a Latino caricature more than as a person of Latino origin (he is hot-tempered, listens to salsa music all the time, wears a thin mustache and it appears that Smits is wearing dark makeup, on top of it all. NOTE TO PRODUCERS: Jimmy Smits is Latino, YOU DON'T NEED TO ADD MAKEUP TO HIS FACE TO MAKE HIM LOOK "LATINO", HE ALREADY IS: this kind of problem has been going on for awhile now, but that's beside the point). The problem is, Smits' character is really cool and he plays the part well, but the stereotypical "augmentations" are a bit distracting. Also, Dexter's machinations are a little farfetched. He is constantly out late at night (doing his dark deeds), and his girlfriend never seems to mind. He gets SERIOUSLY close to getting caught in season two, yet nobody raises any suspisions about him except for the unlucky Seargent Doakes from seasons one and two. At least the show has a sense of humor. That being said, Dexter is a fascinating viewing. Its the kind of show that gets you hooked..Hooked to the next kill.

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