10 (Psychological) Reasons why we like Dexter Morgan


There must be (logical) reasons why the world fell in love with the character of Dexter Morgan as portrayed in Showtime’s series “Dexter”. How do we come to empathize with a blood-spatter analyst by day turned serial killer by night? I’ve selected 10 reasons why I believe Dexter’s such a sweetheart in our minds.

1. The “Normality” factor

Dexter Morgan is not portrayed as a monster. He is not some middle-aged guy that keeps dissected animals in his house and dead bodies in the cellar or in the backyard. He is not the classical killer marked by visible deviant behavior. He is the guy next door with a dirty secret.

2. We understand addiction and compulsion

One extra chocolate, cigarettes for every mood, checking locks for the tenth time, color-coordinated wardrobe, just one more drop of wine, and, why not, a killing impulse that needs to be fed. When seen from the perspective of compulsions and addictions, Dexter’s situation is completely out of his control. “He can’t help it.” The viewer feels sorry for the character, for he is not always the top-dog, he becomes helpless, just like any of us confronted with inner demons. Dexter becomes easy to identify with.

3. The troubled childhood

Something of these proportions – the multiple killings – officially can’t be justified. But when you find out about the traumatic event little Dexter’s been through – that of watching his mother being killed and staying for a long time in her blood until he and his brother are finally found by the police- the whole story makes sense. It is expected that a man with a troubled childhood to develop anti-social behavior. Whew, so it’s not him. Again, he is a nice guy forced by traumatic events to develop in “a bit” of a deviant sense.

4. Dexter rationalizes, therefore you rationalize

Reasons, he has them. Socially, nothing justifies murder. However, the whole story behind Dexter’s behavior seems to hold water and somehow naturally leads him towards this form of catharsis. He (the viewer also) seems to be pleased with the idea of killing bad people because they deserve it because they’ve managed to escape the judicial system because this is how Dexter deals with his compulsions because this is how bits of evil actions are gradually stopped.

5. Meet SuperDexter

Actually, there aren’t that many differences between Dex and Superman or any other superhero. They all have a secret identity, they all appear out of the blue in critical moments and use their un-common/un-natural/super-natural features to make things right (or at least change the expected course of events).

6. Reformulating

When we watch Dexter, we teach our brain the following little trick: “Dear brain, Dexter is not doing anything bad, no-no. He is making the world a better and safer place by taking out these bad-bad men”. And ta-daaa, your brain likes Dex and enables you to empathize with the character.

7. Anti-social behavior, but great social skills

Nice but not so valid contrast. Aside from the killing aspect, Dexter managed to be (or at least pass as) a good husband and father, caring brother, team player, and friend. Way to go for a psychopath.

8. Everybody else likes him

The other characters rely on Dexter and have a good relationship with him. That is what validates your feelings regarding him too. Of course, you don’t care for those that don’t quite like him and almost uncover his secret. Now, these guys only nose around and almost become the negative characters. Hm, isn’t that funny…

9. He’s so human

Isn’t he? Dexter Morgan, without the Dark Passenger, is just an average guy that struggles to have a normal life, be part of a normal family and have a nice couple life, trying to deal with all the drama in his past and actual life and plays an overall positive social role.

10. Yes, Michael C. Hall

The role fits him like a glove. His appearance and acting skills allow you to project everything on him and his actions in the movie. You can love or hate him at times, think that he is selfish or generous, caring or lacking empathy, playful or with no sense of humor, etc. He is the whole package and watching the show takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. And for five seasons so far, we’ve all enjoyed the ride.

56 thoughts on “10 (Psychological) Reasons why we like Dexter Morgan”

  1. I suggest that your analysis has missed a key point. I enjoy Dexter as a show, and I enjoy most aspects of the character. I have spoken with other people who enjoy the program and a reason given most often is that in a society that officially values process over results, Dexter is administering justice in a very results-oriented manner. True, there are creepy elements about the ritual, but on balance, he is doing what the legal system refuses to do; achieve results against some of the most appalling criminals imaginable. In a way, watching Dexter is like enjoying a tasty sausage; the process of making the sausage might not be palatable, but the end result is something one enjoys.

    1. Thank you for your visit and comment!

      The reason that you mention is actually a rationalization, through which one finds a reason that somehow justifies an action, thought or behavior that is actually „not right”. Why wasn’t this included among the reasons we like Dexter? Because the exact same result could have been achieved in a way that is socially accepted and moral (Turning them in).

      However, the somewhat positive aspect of Dexter’s actions is mentioned in the 5th reason of my blog entry.

      All the best,
      Lucia Grosaru

  2. I was asking myself this question the other day. One of the big things I noted is that you have this character who hides from the world but the audience is of course exposed to what he really thinks and feels. I think its his private dialogue that reflects how he really deals with problems that we respect and that adds to his likability. In some case he does justify and chaulks things up to the “code of Harry” which detract from his likability for me personally. But in many other cases he searches for truth and I believe he goes after this truth relentlessly in order to progress as a human being (not as a serial killer). There is humanity and even a certain nobility to that approach which I believe is another reason we like him.

  3. Great thread! One thing that I always have in the back of my head is.. “Why doesn’t he just become a detective”. With his canny ability to track down these criminals. He would catch everyone and justice would be done. But that would defeat the purpose of the show. His dark passenger wouldn’t be satisfied and he does a lot of his detective work by breaking the law. Breaking and entering, that sort of thing. Just a thought.

  4. I think we like Dexter because we also have a dark passenger in our souls. Everyone has a dark side. Some people can control their dark passenger, but some can’t. Dexter had a difficult childhood, “he was born in blood”, and then he started to kill. But he has a Code. He doesn’t kill everyone, only guilty people, but not innocent. He is a serial killer, of cource, but he is a killer with cause.I think that he is not a monster. He does his own justice. Of cource, he is not a God, he has no right to do this justice and kill people, but he has not another choise – he became a serial killer because he had a psyhological trauma in childhood. I think that we can understand him.
    All in all, I like Dexter because it’s very psychological and dramatical show. When we watch Dexter, we understand, that everyone has a dark passenger and dark secrets, but we must control our dark side, if we don’t want to hurt our close people.

  5. Where you’re wrong is when you said “the same result could have been achieved in a way that is socially accepted and moral (Turning them in).”
    What draws me into this show is that the same result is not achieved, and these criminals are typically kept alive for long periods of time in the prison system. What you call rationalization by saying that murder is never acceptable, I call BS. Why would it be unacceptable in the way that Dexter delivers it, but acceptable if done by injection by the judicial system? Because by your own argument you call the same result “death of the criminal” moral when the state carries it out, but imply that it is immoral when Dexter does this. Contradictory? Yes, in this case immorality would have to apply to both parties or none if murder were wrong, but the fact the those who are being killed are in fact guilty, to me is not just acceptable, but desirable. Call it rationalization if you will, but there is no internal struggle to rationalize to be, it was what I wanted from the beginning…

    1. This comment is so biased, I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll just say this: please read again the article and the comment you’ve quoted and pay attention to the fact that I mentioned what “the same result” means for me – in brackets – and it refers to turning the criminals in and it has nothing to do with the death penalty or any sort of method to kill somebody as a result of judicial processes.

      Considering the fact that yo do not comment on somethng I actually said, but rather on your own interpretation of what I might’ve said, of course things don’t add up (and that’s where the BS characteristic may come from).

      I do encourage everybody to comment and share their opinions on topics included on this blog, but I’d appreciate it if people would consider an unbiased starting point when making such interventions.

  6. I personally like Dexter because quite simply he and I are quite alike. It is fascinating to look for what you have in common with him and where you differ.

    I think a fair amount of people can, on a psychological level, identify with Dexter, however unsettling that is. Often there are only a few aspects that differ and keep one from acting as Dexter does.

    But a sense of addiction or dependency, a feeling of disconnection and wonder, conflicting impulses that require rationalization to control, a secret desire to do what Dexter does, I figure at least some fans must feel these things.

  7. though people may not want to admit it travis has a valid point we like dexter becuase we all have wants to see violent criminals get what they deserve especially me like this dark knight rises shooter he doesent deserve to live he doesent deserve a nice gentle death with the lethal injection he should be let out captured while he is not looking and put on a table with plastic sheets himself but its not just him there are so many criminals i wish death on a violent rapist who gets away with it and laughs because he beat the system and now they think they are untouchable or a murderer who kills a mother and leaves a child an orphan i wish someone like dexter but real would show them that they arent untouchable at all and that death could be standing around the next corner

  8. Dexter is just more of the detrimental programming that has covertly brainwashed the zombies that walk the earth. My 15 year old nephew freaks out when he can’t get his fix of this [edited by admin] show. Television is a marvel of technology and at the same time we have been lied to through it and been made repeaters of the lies. Our youth has been desensitized by the killing in video games and shows like Dexter where it makes killing cool and justifies it because Dexter is a good killer and the other killers are bad and deserve to die.
    The social engineers in Hollywood ( and you know what group controls Hollywood ) have turned people into uninformed desensitized biological androids….if you think I am wrong then you are one of them.

    1. “If you think I am wrong then you are one of them.” Need I even refute? A person that claims definitively to have the only proper way of thinking is a narcissist and incapable of conversation. I’m not sure if you’ve glanced around, but it’s not Hollywood that makes humans violent animals. We simply are by nature. We’ve been killing each other since the dawn of time.

  9. 10 (Psychological) Reasons why we like Dexter Morgan, 80-90% of which are bullshit.

    1. The “Normality” factor.
    This argument is invalid, since other serial killers also appear to be normal, (not keeping heads in house) yet we do not sympathize with them. For this argument to be valid, it has to apply to everyone, but it does not, therefore its a lie.

    2. We understand addiction and compulsion
    Bullshit, again. Society dislikes people with addictions. There all millions of crack heads, all who “just can’t help it” yet 99% of society dislikes them, and definitely do not understad/sympathize with them. Like in first statement, for this argument to be valid it has to apply to all people (most) and since it does not, its bullshit.

    4. Dexter rationalizes, therefore you rationalize
    Funny, usually when I or my rationality-friendly friends try to rationalize with people, we get negative behaviour from them. I have been to over 10 different countrys and its all the same. Observable proof suggests that people are to emotional for me or my friends to tryt o rationalize, therefore they perceive it as personal attack and defence mechanism automatically turns on. If person is on 50% more rational then everyone around(like in dexters and most sociopath cases), it is impossible that other people will like you because of it. On contrary and it have been proven over and over again in different places with different people.

    6. Reformulating
    This is not even the reason why we like dexter, but outcome. Guess its to complex for you to see the difference between two.

    7. Anti-social behavior, but great social skills
    All sociopaths are anti-social but with good social skills. Guess what, that doesnt make to to like them. Argument invalid

    8. Everybody else likes him
    Most sociopath serial killers have good social skills, therefore in most cases people like particular serial killer until they find out his true identity. What you sed here, is deffintele NOT reason why we like dexter. By now, I have feeling that this topic was written by clinical retard

    9. He’s so human
    Isn’t he? Dexter Morgan, without the Dark Passenger, is just an average guy

    But he HAVE dark passenger, hence he is NOT normal. Are you sir a chair? Or a tree? Because no sane human can possibly make such logical fallacies as you do here

    10. Yes, Michael C. Hall
    Your opinion, not fact and definitely not psyhological reason why we like dexter, only your opinion on it.

    So when exactly are you goind to start to use your head instead of your teeth for thinking?

    1. Awww… at least you tried…

      @ My other readers: There’s a reason why I chose not to edit the previous comment. Too funny as is.

      1. I, as inteligent human, provided arguments on why everything you sed is false. You, from other hand, didnt provide any argument. you just bvasically sed: “you are wrong”. this means that since you cannont provide counter-arguments to my arguments, deep down you know Im right. you simply wont admit it because of good old defence mechanism. Its sad tho, that mature person like you, fail to prove me wrong, so instead you simply claim im wrong without any proof. Pathetic…

        1. Just a random person

          RFGRFG, although I do agree with a couple of your points, I don’t agree with your statement that you are an intelligent person. You are terrible at spelling and grammar. You also seem very emotionally unstable due to your posting of negative and aggressive comments on non-academic articles. Just saying.

          1. I find intelligence a complicated thing to quantify. I think it rather ignorant to brand someone unintelligent based on their spelling and grammar.

            I score very highly on a range of IQ tests but don’t believe myself to be intelligent. Whilst I am very capable in many aspects of my life, there are many in which I struggle. However, I am astounded by my interactions with others on a daily basis. I am greatly disturbed by the number of people who put their word to stances on which they evidently haven’t educated themselves. The fact that many go the step further of aggressively ramming such drivel down others throats is a worry. I felt RFGRFG had some interesting points and chuckled at some of the humour, shame about the aggressive tone – it’s only Dexter for goodness sake and some girls opinion on him.

            I read Lucias article and found her opinion interesting (thanks for taking the time to write it). I agreed with her as I read. However, I did so fully aware of the fact that everybody is different yet sometimes we can be grouped together. Therefore, I was able to read some of the other comments and agree with them as I read.

            I think that much of the trouble with communication is that people don’t start sharing their opinions by stating they are just that, an opnion as opposed to fact. Life is complicated, there are many reasons people like/dislike Dexter. Hopefully no-one on here is ignorant enough to think that there tuppence is the definitive answer. As a group I feel many interesting points have been raised and we can all see the complexity of the issue a little more clearly.

            Lastly, I feel as a society we invest too much trust in qualifications. All to often I have experienced qualified professionals get it wrong. I feel it’s through an over-inflated confidence in their own knowledge (“I’m qualified!”) and a tendency from those below (pay scale wise) to back down or not challenge them. It’s a common phenomena to be unable to see the wood for the trees. Sometimes it pays to listen to someone who knows nothing as a novices perspective can often pick up things which those with expertise can’t see. Let’s face it, how many examples of experts doing a 180 have we all seen – “It’s good for you/bad for you” and the old wives tale was “Everything in moderation”.

            I’d be interested to know if any of the comments changed Lucias opinion? I’d also like confirmation that I’m correct in assuming Lucia wrote this as her opinion and not the definitive answer on the Dexter debate =D

          2. Hi, Stacey!

            Thank you for your visit, comment and consistent feedback. You are absolutely right in assuming that the content of the article is my opinion and keep in mind that Psychology Corner is a blog, not a scientific journal or website. My opinions may sometimes be guided by the professional lense, but I don’t provide my insights on subjects and expect them to be the absolute truth or even have a value of true/false, considering, again, that the article is a personal view upon things.

            Lastly, I do enjoy reading all your comments and I appreciate the critical view. Sometimes I decide to respond to certain comments and at other times I simply don’t have the physical time to do that.

            I try to assimilate any constructive feedback and at times I do reconsider my point of view based on the interesting points you guys bring into the discussion.

            I just want Psychology Corner to be a place of opinions and constructive debate and sharing.

            Have a great day,

        2. No, what I “basically said” (if you really want to give an interpretation to my otherwise stingy reply) is that there is absolutely no reason why I should provide an extended feedback on your comment.

          It’s up to you to figure out the difference regarding the writing style between academic papers and blog posts or articles featured on personal websites.

  10. The reason why (dumb) people gets an appealing to this “Dexter” character is simple; it’s written by industry pro-s to make it so. And I find this [edited by admin] disgusting. Not because of the writing, but because of the fact that US media is constantly trying to make psychopaths look as “cool” guys. This portrayal is completely deceitful, as so are all these action movie characters where the main hero has a terrible past, but now regrets this and that, and above all, is a complex persona full of complex emotions. Psychopaths are empty. Killers, whether army (authorized) killers, street killers as the one this Dexter guy is supposed to be portraying, people who takes the lives of other people are rather primitive subjects. Please don’t come up with lame examples about assassins who were also intelligent professionals or whatever. If you look right at the eyes of a killer, at any moment, you’ll find them empty. Killers are not able to create, to feel complex emotions, to make something new, or actually distinctive or significative of any positive sort to society. Killers do not create revolutionary microchips, or paint mind blowing paintings, nor make fantastic movies or write actually smart books (not just Manson’ morbid books). So [edited by admin] all these characters, their writers, and the industry backing the “make the psychopath look cool” industry. You’re not deceiving me.


      A person who does not agree with this insane series.

      This t-show is absolutely ridiculous ( honestly no offence to the people who watch it).

      Dexter is described as ”America’s favorite serial killer”…. really? REALLY? Should we also start getting our favorite rapist and our favorite pedophile?

      The line has already been crossed by far by having a ”favorite serial killer” and a show which makes you sympathize with him. Wake up world, please.

      1. One of the very first things Dexter ever says in the series is “I would never hurt a child.” He doesn’t hurt the innocent. Your comment demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding the material, from someone who does not wish to understand. Dexter is the same as the man who throws the switch to the electric chair.

  11. I think above comment is right on the desintizisation of Americas youth and the fact that killing wther for a unjust or just cause is wrong. But the whole reason for this article was is that we can relate to dexter and we’ve all had our moments as human beings with our dark thoughts. I too think the way dexter thinks, but do I perform them in real society? No. Why? No benefit in real life, we have law enforcement to do that job and show them respect for it. So all in all, dexter in his complex past and string of rules left by his step dad, had a rough childhood witness’s his own mothers death seperated from his blood brother then killing him finding out harry suicided because of him. He’s complex, misunderstood, has an uncontrollable urge, but he is a good guy as you watch throughout the show. Its just that sometimes society are the bad guys. He was influenced as an innocent.

  12. One likable attribute is his fearlessness! This could fall under the superhero section obviously. And for what it’s worth, he isn’t a stab you in the back wimpy killer or creep like a pedophile. His prey respect him. 🙂

  13. I’m not going to directly reply to the post but just share why I can empathise with the character of Dexter.

    I just happened to watch the first episode of the 7th season and a line from Deb struck me, “not everyone who’s had bad things happen to them become serial killers” – or something to that effect. I believe in something called ‘determinism’ which is why I believe that Dexter has no choice and that the childhood trauma in fact preordained his psychopathic tendencies. When people try and draw parallels between two individuals who have been through ‘similar’ experiences, which has led to two different behavioral outcomes, many espouse that one individual is intrinsically ‘good’, the other ‘evil’. I find this flawed. The ability of self-control is not intrinsic, human nature varies – but, if we all had the ability to choose freely as to how we acted, no one would ‘choose’ to not have self-control.

    I do not buy into the argument that it is okay that Dexter kills bad people so it is okay. The above argument for why Dexter is not a bad individual applies to the foulest of criminals. However, I would not find it more moral for the criminals that Dexter kills to be subjected to capital punishment either. Ultimately, I think Dexter, to me, demonstrates that humanity, in extreme circumstances, is capable of extreme evil actions but that nonetheless it does not render the individual per se an evil moral agent but rather a victim of humanity itself.

  14. Interesting analysis. Some points leave one with wanting more explanation, but this is good summation of what the Viewer undergoes while watching Dexter.

    Thank you for a good article Lucia.

  15. I like Dexter because I like complicated and interesting characters. And he is nothing if not complicated and interesting. Take his ability to love for example. Dexter, by his own admission is incapable of really identifying with other people and making real emotional connections, and yet on some level, you know that Deb, Rita, the kids… they’re important to him. He doesn’t just try to act like a good person. He tries to be one. I think because being a good person does not come naturally to him like it might to someone else, it means that he winds up trying harder than the rest of us.

    It’s a fascinating struggle and of course Michael C. Hall pulls it off spectacularly, so it’s impossible not to like him.

  16. I was surprised to find out how much I didn’t relate to this article.

    Normally, I avoid CSI-like shows, because it’s all about the victims. And I realize how easily I could be overpowered, how fragile everything we know really is. In Dexter’s world, I’m not at risk. Our paths would never cross.

    The scenes I enjoy most, is that even when he’s on the bad guy’s table, he is never the victim himself. Cool, calm-headed, clever, and ever resourceful, he turns the tables. And I enjoy that show of empowerment. Every time he tells Deb “I’ll fix it” you never doubt his capability. Victims in this case are side stories, as it’s antagonist against antagonist.

    I like that’s he’s very intelligent. But unlike a Batman/Villain plot, not over-elaborate. And he’s definitely no Superhero, I’ve never watched it and justified it thinking he kills the bad guys because they are bad guys, so it’s ok, or that makes him on the side of good, because if there weren’t bad guys, the killing wouldn’t stop. In a way, he has a strong OCD vibe to me in, how meticulous he is about vetting people and setting things up. It’s not just the release he needs, but the set-up, it’s all part of the scenario.

    I also like watching Michael C. Hall portray his character. I do agree with the last point! For a character that is largely devoid of most of the feelings we associate with the human experience, MCH, delivers a wonderfully subtle and nuanced performance, you can see Dexter believably faking some social interactions, enough to fool those around him, and in the curve of an eyebrow, or unguarded glance, you can tell when he’s not.

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  18. I have always found the concepts of capital punishment (either by government or individuals) fascinating. I think what scares me most about it is a complete lack of objective metaethic. There is no defined “This is right” or “This is wrong”. In many ways all actions are morally justifiable. It really depends on where you start your ethical system and what assumptions you make.

    For example, I could say: “My ethics will be based upon the assumption that the Universe’s Natural Laws are also the laws that should dictate my behavior and my reasoning. As such, entropy dictates that everything devolves toward chaos, therefore any patterned structures must be destroyed.” This sort of ethic COULD lead to conclusions like wanton destruction for its own sake, or ironically it COULD lead to promotion of all life because life leads to manipulation of energy & matter, and therefore faster entropy. One is direct action that leads to change while the other is indirect action that trusts its process will lead to faster change. The irony is both are derived from the same premise. You could operate on the exact opposite premise and derive both as well. The Pro-Life Vegan Buddhist is operating on the same rules as the Anti-Social, Maniacal, Joker. I think it’s hilarious!

    Ethics is a scary subject, and when you get right down to it I think most people are aware of just how non-objective morality is and can therefore easily justify Dexter’s actions as simply being a product of his rational self.

    I liked Reason 4. Really got me thinking. Thank you 🙂

  19. I think you might be onto something because my brain refuses to do either 4 or 6. Which might be the reason I have a hard time getting into the show. Especially in the earlier seasons the writers made super obvious use of plot manipulation to get viewers to rationalize and reformulate and it frustrated/bored me. My wife loves the show so I’ll occasionally watch it with her but I basically spend my time analyzing the portrayal of APD (which is how I wound up at this article).

    However, I have no problems reformulating, rationalizing and empathizing with characters like Walter White, Tony Soprano, or the owner’s of Paddy’s Pub; I love those shows. I think reading American Psycho might have scarred me a little when it comes to psychopathic killers. The book was very different from the movie and after reading it… I think getting me to empathize with any character who shares the same traits as Patrick Bateman is going to be a hard sell.

    1. Thank you, Jon, for your visit and feedback.

      You are right, Bret Easton Ellis’ killers are “built” in a way that will not make the reader like them, but rather fear and be shocked by them. They are more impulsive than Dexter and less reflective or aware of their own situation.

  20. Well, all of the above does not apply to me as I did not like the show at all and I did not like Michael Hall. I started watching the first season 3 or 4 times but I could only get to episode 5 – for some reason I could not care less about what happens to Dexter and his sister and his girlfriend. I don’t understand it as everyone else thinks it’s a great show but to me me it just felt… bland

  21. He raises the weapon, glinting in the dull light, above his head. Beneath him, his soon-to-be victim finds himself wrapped in plastic, bound to a cold, hard table. The victim’s scream is muffled by the wad of cotton shoved in their mouth as the weapon falls, their killer smiling gleefully as they dispatch them to the depths of Hell.

    And yet, we find ourselves cheering this vigilante murderer.

    This, my friends, is the hero of the modern age.

  22. I think that the reason that we like Dexter can be found in the reason that we typically don’t like serial killers and work backwards from there.

    Most serial killers don’t have a code, they have a profile, which usually includes weaker, vulnerable and isolated victims. Their crimes appear random and meaningless, leaving us with a general feeling of terror.

    Dexter specifically goes after victims that do harm, or at the very least don’t offend our sensibilities. Its hard to relate to a Ukranian mob boss, a guy that skins people alive or a bunch of people that kill young women and stick their bodies in oil drums.

    If Dexter’s dark passenger ever let loose and caused him to go after an annoying neighbor or homeless man, then we would see him on the same level as any other killer. Ironically, the writers did an incredible job of showing that Dexter’s motives aren’t noble, but mechanical, like a guy running down a checklist so that the audience would have some internal tension and conflict as they watch the show.

  23. Here’s my take on it. This series highlights something very interesting about victims of trauma. There are two ways one can respond to triggers of PTSD. One is aversion, which is the classic response and the one we tend to understand and see portrayed again and again. The other is obsession. Some people will in fact seek out the things that trigger them. If you listen closely, season one Dexter says several different things that indicate blood is a trigger for him, and not something he enjoys. It sets his teeth on edge. He finds the bloodless pieces the ice truck killer leaves behind to be “beautiful”. He works a job that is all about finding sense in it, in taking control of it. His reaction to the blood bath Brian set up for him was a full on panic attack. Dexter despises blood, but he is one of those people that needs to re-experience the sense of horror it gives him. I think maybe this, in addition to self control, is the difference between people with terrible pasts who don’t turn into monsters, and the ones that do. Aversion or obsession, either way it’s a failure of society in not helping victims process their trauma properly, and immediately. Dexter is a wounded animal who no one helped doing the best he can in a reality he doesn’t understand, and I find it completely fascinating.

    Harry thought he was helping, but maybe the solution was some goddamned therapy.

    1. Hi, Mindy. Thank you for your visit and very interesting comment. I also believe that elements of Dexter’s initial trauma act as triggers for the adult and the close relation he has with those stimuli – even if the emotion is not always positive – comes to be one of the most intimate attachments he has. There are very few things that he keeps continuous and authentic relationships with – the slides, the secret, the compulsion, victims that come to know his true nature, Debra (a bit later in the story) – these are all parts of his universe and the connection with each of these things becomes intimate and significant.

      And yes, therapy could have helped the child in expressing the emotions generated by the trauma and would’ve probably given him the tools for building better attachments in life. The trauma would still be part of the adult, but coping with those emotions could lead to different social and personal choices.

  24. I really enjoyed your ideas about Dexter, Lucia. I personally love the show. Honestly, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that what Dexter does is morally acceptable, but the fact that he seems to “try” to achieve normality draws me in. It’s similar to following Walter White’s story in Breaking Bad… he’s an antihero, doing things that aren’t socially acceptable, and yet somehow in the end we are rooting for him. Whether I believe Dexter is right or wrong for killing is a personal opinion, but we cannot deny the psychology that is used to portray him as a “good person”. There are many arguments, such as the ones that you stated, and more. Even if it isn’t realistic, Dexter is relatively social (for a sociopath) and even seems to feel empathy in some scenarios with Deb, Rita, the kids, etc. The main moral of the show was that despite his efforts at sustaining a normal life, Dexter couldn’t hold onto his secret. He got good people killed and in the end couldn’t even live around civilization; death seemed to always follow him around. He had a code, he had some vague morals, and in the end, he was punished anyway. Even when you know he’s wrong, you get hooked on the story and you don’t want it to end. You’re put in Dexter’s perspective. This is why I love the show, and if anyone fails to see that… they aren’t necessarily wrong, but maybe a little confused with the meaning of the show? Anyway, thanks for posting this; I really liked it!!!

    1. Hi, Tea! Thank you for your feedback. I agree that there are people who no matter what was the way the producers of the show tried to make Dexter likable, they cannot relate to the character whatsoever. As you’ve said, it is about perspective and not many people are ready to take a first-person journey through the life of a killer. Sure, it has to do with morals and the social environment, but it also has to do with cognitive rigidity and distortion. No one required viewers to agree with Dexter’s means, that was not the point of the show, but to assume that perspective and get a feel of that experience from “the inside” or as close to the source as possible. These people do exist – even though, yes, there are many aspects that make Dexter unrealistic – and I believe that part with dealing with the “Dark Passenger” of the world is to acknowledge it and try to deal with it, rather than making this a taboo. It’s one of the many elephants in the society, so to speak, and we cannot act as if they do not exist. We won’t be able to help them or avoid antisocial activity as long as we sweep things under the rug each time they are too difficult to deal with emotionally or seem to injure our otherwise sensitive sense of moral.

      I am glad to see that even after three years since I wrote this short article on the blog, it still makes people think about the subject and keep the conversation going! Thank you.

  25. Johannes Mikkola

    They keep saying on the show that he is a psychopath, but he doesn’t really seem likea psychopath.

    Glibness/superficial charm ✔
    Grandiose sense of self-worth ☓
    Pathological lying ☓ (Secret identity doesn’t count)
    Cunning/manipulative ☓

    Lack of remorse or guilt ✔
    Emotionally shallow ☓ (Fell in love with Yvonne Strahovski)
    Callous/lack of empathy ☓ (Yvonne Strahovski amongs other things)
    Failure to accept responsibility for own actions ☓

    Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom ☓
    Parasitic lifestyle ☓
    Lack of realistic, long-term goals ☓
    Impulsivity ☓
    Irresponsibility ☓

    Poor behavioral controls ☓
    Early behavioral problems ☓
    Juvenile delinquency ☓
    Revocation of conditional release ☓
    Criminal versatility ☓

    Many short-term marital relationships ☓
    Promiscuous sexual behavior ☓

    1. I think you are confusing a lot of these traits with sociopathy. Psychopathy and Sociopathy are significantly different from one another.

      He is emotionally shallow in comparison to NORMAL PEOPLE. He only SORT OF cries and shows sorrow ONCE during the entire series in the bathroom scene where he kills the random asshole redneck dude after Rita’s death.

      As for cunning/manipulative behavior i’m not sure why you failed to check that one because as I remember, his cunning/manipulative acts are CONSTANTLY featured throughout the entire series.

  26. I’m on the last season of Dexter and I feel I need to say that this show is riveting me. My favorite book of all-time is A Clockwork Orange and I find Dexter to be very much like the character Alex. Both have this compulsive need to perform heinous acts of violence, but both are quite charming and likeable. There’s a passage in the book that describes Alex’s desire to performs sociopathic and violent acts on people because he LIKES to do it. And if you don’t like that, then go do good things. He’s not passing judgment, we are. Alex just wants to be left alone. Alex is, of course, caught and subjected to the Ludovico’s Technique, a reconditioning experiment which effectively carves out his penchant for everything sexual and violent and, in the process, he becomes less of a human being. Because doing good things must be balanced with the desire and permission to do bad things. Don’t know what anyone has to say, but I’m open for discussion.

    1. Hi, Craig.

      Thank you for your feedback. The comparison is interesting and it’s quite valuable to acknowledge that while we do judge their acts,to them, these actions are a ‘must’, a ‘what is to be done’. The compulsion is something they cannot resist and if it’s managed poorly through external means, these people may lose their core persona in the process. The void must be filled with something significant and obviously, pro-social, or at least neutral to what ‘social’ may be.

      The last season of ‘Dexter’ didn’t quite do it for me. I’m trying to keep away from spoilers, because I don’t know what episodes you’ve watched already, but I do invite you to let me/us know what you thought of the season once you get the whole picture.

      Have a great day!

  27. I am watching Dexter on Netflix and just finished Season 4. I have to admit, I need a break from this show before I can watch the next 4 seasons. It was very unexpected and sad when Dexter found Rita dead and Harrison sitting in her blood.

    However, my interpretation of the bathroom hillbilly murder rage scene was more Dexter being in a rage that he had “lost” to the Trinity Serial Killer in the sense that he had lost Rita and his family unit. I saw him cry out in rage, not remorse.

    Dexter would make a horrible father because he is incapable of true love. He thinks he feels love, but it’s not love. It’s that he feels that his sister, Harrison, Rita where part of him; that he had an ownership of them and bc of that ownership, he felt protective of them as he protected himself.

    BUT, he was reckless with himself and hence, reckless with those he thought he “loved”.

    After my break from the darkness of this show, I expect to watch more darkness as Dexter destroys himself and the people he “loves”. If Dexter could be rehabilitated, it would be after Rita’s death, but from what I see, he is not remorseful for killing; he’s only pissed at himself for being “had” by the Trinity Killer.

    1. Thank you for your visit and feedback, TO Girl. Dexter’s narcissism can trigger reactions like the ones you have mentioned. Rita was one of the aspects in his life that made him feel ‘normal’. The same with Harrison, and even Deb. Enjoy the rest of the seasons!

  28. The hidden message and moral of dexter has changed me for the rest of my life. Ive seen it from the start. Feelings are power. People do change if they just give into how they feel on a daily basis and learned from it or damned themselves from it. What if harry had never brought dexter up like that. Hiding him from experiences we all had a chance to take part in. Being human was taken away when you hide everything and at this point in are world today i believe everything should be laid out on the table for us to see how close we all realy are. He could have been brought to do what we do and ih im going to kill that fucker but hence right from wrong you know i wont. Unless its defending the innocent of course. Its makes me dig down deep to say we all know how the world works straight up. So why so much confusion among each other. Dexter proves to you that anything is possible with who we are and things we can accomplish even verses the darkest part of us we need to feel that we dont have as long as we thought we did. Im glad i got all my experience in before my young age today. The holsumness in my heart trying figure out away to love everything that comes my way and enjoy things we will never see nor feel again. Are generations as mine are still semi young so im told are not living to long. We where abandoned by parents that where to worried about the shit they missed that they tryed to get back to it. Its sad because they didnt get there experiences in till it was to late to have those feeling instilled and seared into the experience of ever being completely let loose in a part of are world we wherent supposed to see yet. This is just an example then i gtg fix my mk2 volkswagen jetta diesel. I lost my virginity to my babysitter who was also my sisters friend. I was 7 or 8 and she was 12. Theres so many thing i couod tell you that i havent got off my chest but there super fucked up and the streingth to survive and strive for happiness and love for one another in are life span is what ive chosen to do and i want my fellow humam beings to not have it be to late to find out they where capable of the imaginable

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