Dexter: The Humble Monster

The Showtime series “Dexter” paints a morbidly human and twisted portrait of a forensics sociopath, Dexter Morgan as he struggles to maintain the facade of social life while waxing his own kind of “private justice” through the elimination of those in need of a little “treatment”. This “private justice” also helps him quench his monstrous tendencies while giving him the satisfaction of his private cravings. That is to say, in this series, the character with whom we spend the most amount of time is a monster, a heartless precise killer caught in a balancing act between desire and restraint.

I recently wrote about Carl R. Rogers, opened up his idea of “false faces” and the need for one to come to terms with one’s many “faces” in the process of becoming a person. Later that day I was floored by “Dexter” as this show in particular focuses on the social mask as the viewer experiences the interior/exterior life of a humble monster.

I see three narratives running through this series. The first is the basic story: a blood pattern analyst, Dexter Morgan working and interacting while secretly completing his little nighttime “projects.” Also, sub-plots which involve the tracking of “The Ice Truck Killer,” his sister, girlfriend and co-workers and so on. The narrative running beneath this is the monologues we receive, the messages from his interior landscape, the reflections on not being able to feel, the awareness of alienation which serve as a blunt study on extreme social masking. Third, there is the interconnecting narrative, the connection point between the prior two, which is the distance between the monster and the social human. It is within this distance that sits between the first two narratives where the viewer spends a lot of time. We are fully aware of the pretending of which Dexter actively engages in, the role playing and repeated attempts to blend in. This distance is vital to his character and is hit upon in every episode I have seen thus far. He is, as he refers to himself, “A master of disguise.”

Moreover, there is the character of “Harry,” Dexter’s father who taught him how to disguise himself and mentored him in the art of blending in. In one episode, Dexter refers to Harry as always being with him. The father-son bond between Harry and Dexter seem to be one of Dexter’s only feelings of true love. His relationship with his girlfriend at times comes to light for him as they partake in the games of everyday life, but still he wrestles with the gap between who he really is and who he knows he must be. Harry is the only person who truly knew Dexter and his cravings and Harry is, in my eyes, the only one that Dexter could truly love.

While watching this show, the mind may become disoriented. The character Dexter that we follow and listen to takes us into the dark spots of the mind, the sterility of his surgical chambers reflect his true inner life. His emotionless involvement are all the more unsettling as are the few things that seem to give him real joy, especially his fascination and love for blood. To emphasize with this kind of character puts the viewer in a vulnerable position as it moves from Dexter as pretending to be warm and friendly to Dexter as coolly vicious and alien. The viewer waits as the episode begins to find out who Dexter’s next evil victim will be. All along, we may forget the perverse interiority of Dexter. At times, he is like the Gnostic alien, the confused being confronted with the strangeness of the alien landscape, on the periphery yet immersed in the waters of sociality.

Dexter Season One is available for purchase through the US iTunes music store.