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).
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
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.