Sunday, March 27, 2011

Good and bad and everything in between.

I've started watching Dexter again.  I don't know why I ever stopped; it's such a fascinating study in human nature.  Or... something else... I guess Dexter would describe himself as other-than-human, but what is it that makes us human?  If it is the physical condition of being human (born human, of humans, in humanity, with the same genetic makeup as humans and the same material needs) then Dexter is most certainly human.  And he's not a sociopath, as I've heard suggested.  He displays some sociapathic characteristics, but he wouldn't care about all these people, even Harry, if he was.  And he does care, and that's why the show's interesting.

I've watched all the usual crime/forensics/police dramas: CSI (in its many incarnations), Law & Order (in its ever-more-numerous masques), Bones, Inspector Lynley, and such, and I feel this has made me better able to appreciate Dexter.  I do not mean to suggest that any of these are realistic (I have come to realize over the years that many are far from accurate, most notably CSI (in which techs are given guns and the lab rats go into the field).  I think maybe this innacuracy allows me to juxtapose CSI (which, I must admit, is probably the worst perpetrator) with Dexter.  But knowing these shows allows me to ignore all the forensics and police procedural part.  I imagine Dexter's as accurate perhaps as L & O, but the point is not accuracy, precisely.  The other route a show like this usually goes is invariably the drama route, which I suppose they are, deep down inside, but Dexter doesn't even really land there.  Sure there's the family drama, with his sister and his father and his girlfriend and her kids.  But it's not really about these people; it's all about him.

At the core, every story is very specific; it's about one or a few people and the world's relationship with them.  That's what a main character is: a focus, a thumbtack on a map with strings radiating.  It seems simple, even simplistic when I say it like that.  Oh, well.

On the surface Dexter looks like another fascinatingly twisted string of executions that draw us in a mob to the gallows (everybody likes a good beheading).  But I think underneath it's a more subtle weaving pushing common ideals--such as the morals we're taught when we're three and too young to think--and challenging our senses of ourselves.  Actually, I think that most people who watch it tend to ignore that bit, and that's why it's survived so long.  People feel gratified to watch Dex fulfill their needs for justice (even though justice resides in a different realm and looks not at all like what we think justice should), but they don't examine why.  I've long given up trying to be disgusted at the revenge-fantasy this heroic vigilante-ism brings to the surface in me.  I'm comfortable with my amygdala; are you?

I like Dexter.

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