Dexter’s Reflections
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Author: Tim, posted on 2/2/2012 , in Category "General"
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Abstract: Analyzing Dexter – the American TV hit show, in a reflection of common personality traits.

Dexter is an American TV hit series, where season 1, largely based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, debuted on Showtime on October 2006, and up to season 6 that ran from October 2011, it swept a huge number of TV watchers with an increasing popularity. The series centers on Dexter Morgan, played by Michael C. Hall, who leads a double life: a Miami Metro Police Department blood spatter analyst, helping to solve murders, and also a serial killer with strict rules of conduct and operations’ codes. Dexter kills only the bad guys that slip through the justice system and get no punishment for their deeds. The kills are well planned and organized, and executed in a “kill room” – a place where Dexter carefully prepares in advance, to leave no evidence.
Throughout the series, Dexter’s personality is revealed, where along the main plot of each season we see how Dexter is trying to find his way and maybe his place in society. Dexter’s charm and curiosity towards the world are part of the traits that make the character attractive, however there is much more to it. Throughout the series, Dexter shares with us his thoughts, and so we discover that in many cases, we actually share similar thoughts, wishes, and sometimes even characteristic traits, however while we may be struggling with them in our lives, as a fictional character Dexter is allowed to express them radically. Let’s have a look on some traits:

Focusing on details. Both in his work as a splatter analyst and in his darker side as a serial killer, Dexter is always focusing on details.
  • In his work: when he enters a room where a murder took place, based on the layout and form of the blood, he analyses the scenario, describing what happened. While sharing with us his thoughts, he sometimes omits some of his conclusions from his coworkers, in order to be able to catch the target himself.  
  • As a serial killer: his “kill rooms” are usually planned to the smallest detail. The plastic all around to leave no trace of the deed, the set of knives to match the case, etc’.

Order and Cleanliness. Everything has its place, and there are strict rules that need to be followed. These rules are joined in a set of behavior and operational codes, some for the purpose of survival (not to get caught), some have the purpose of maintaining a logical path of action designed by his viewpoint of the world, and others are formed along with Dexter’s own experience and experiment.
When everything is in its place and all is in order, Dexter feels in control. There is always a plan. In his kill room, Dexter is in complete control, taking the final execution step in his to discard one of society’s nuisances. The kill room and Dexter’s deepest needs to eliminate the “dirt” – the bad people, are an obvious metaphor of the desire of anyone of us to “clean the dirt”, get rid of all the nuisances that surround us. While we have to constantly battle and deal with our annoyances, Dexter wraps them neatly in plastic bags and throws them into the river.

Note: those that share the tendencies to focus on details, or order and cleanliness, know that this part of their nature can never be ignored, and to observe this quality acted out is fascinating. Another popular TV series in which the main character externalized these traits was “Monk”.

Experience and Explore. The needs to experience and explore are extremely important and emphasized during every season. Dexter needs to understand both the environment and himself – to be conscious about his needs, what he can change, his beliefs (does god exists? Does every person hold something good inside? (Season 6)), and how to act in society: as a friend (season 3 and season 6), as a husband and father (the first seasons), as a brother, as a coworker, and as an individual in this world. Dexter always refers to his darker side as his dark passenger.
In our own journey in this life, these are the same questions anyone of us has to deal with constantly. How to be a good spouse, parent, or partner. Sometimes we are successful, and sometimes we make mistakes, gradually enriching our experience to a complete set of “rules” we believe that work for use.

Belong. Dexter is a “lonely wolf”. While he tries to explore his own needs and desires, he believes that finding a person that really accepts him as he is and understand him is impossible. This however has some exceptions. His brother Brian, which turns out to be also a serial killer (season 1), and his friend Miguel (season 3) who similarly turned to be a serial killer. Lila (season 2) a pyromaniac who starts to pursue Dexter obsessively, displaying however a true understanding toward him. Interestingly, Dexter kills them after they failed to follow his “Code” of killing only those that have committed a crime (or a threat to himself in the case of Lila), therefore, displaying again the fixation and importance of the rules and the order that needs to be maintained. In season 5 he executes those that abused Lumen – which became his girlfriend during this season and got to know and accept his darker side, however, he helped her to close a circle and continue with her life, while his deep desires are more permanent.
Throughout the series we hear Dexter’s thoughts regarding his beliefs that he will always be alone, however, every once in a while appears another character that displays affection towards Dexter and does want to accept his as he is. In a way, it is easy for many of us to relate to that. Everyone wants to be loved, to be understood. In a way, don’t we all just want to belong?

Emotions. Although Dexter is seemingly emotionally cold very closed, he does have deep emotions, and he tries to format some rules that will help his combine them in his set of codes which help him deal with the world. For example, in season 4 he hopes to learn how to be a better family man form a serial killer later referred to as Trinity, which of-course ends with a disappointment. An exception to this is season 5. The coldness and logical-analytical way Dexter follows in his path of figuring out what is good and bad, what is allowed and what is wrong, is part of what makes this character attractive. It reminds us of a child that is discovering the world, but from the eyes of a grownup. And again, aren’t we all in a way like that? Don’t we all have somewhere inside a child that wants to discover the world?

A Critique
The writers of this show are doing a wonderful job and the actors are fantastic, which makes it a top hit show. However, there are some strident mistakes which appear when actions contradict Dexter’s basic personality. For example, Dexter has a very analytical and logical mind, but in one of the last episodes of season 6, Dexter anonymously informs the department about doomsday’s killer latest kill, and he does it using his own cellular phone. This is completely illogical from a person who works with the police, knowing the call can be easily tracked. Another example is the last episode of season 6, where Dexter composes his kill room in the church. While the symbol matches completely to the season’s theme, Dexter didn’t secure the room so that no one will be able to surprise him. Although restricted from non-police personnel, the church was open so that anyone could enter, and this completely contradicts the order, focus on details and Dexter’s need for control. The writers have already proved to be talented and could have easily worked on another way for his sister to catch him in action. There are other mistakes over the series. Just as Dexter follows his codes and set of rules in order to survive and understand the world, we, as the audience see the world from his eyes when we watch the show, and those of us that share some of Dexter’s personality traits will pay attention to these details, which are disturbing when relating to the character.

Finally, if we look closely, we can see that Dexter manifests personality traits that at least some of us share. When we observe any of the traits we possess or understand, it extracts some form of sympathy or at some cases even admiration to the figure that is able to manage wit these traits, which are not always so easy to handle. As a fictional character, Dexter possesses no threat or competition, and thus we can easily relate to its image.
Although I’ve used third person syntax, these are merely my own opinions about this excellent show. For the sake of objectivity I’ll omit critic on specific seasons, looking forward to the next one, discovering new ways of Dexter’s integration in the world.

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