Your friendly serial killer

I’ve been absorbed in Dexter, the Showtime series about the blood forensics expert/serial killer. I love this criticism of the media buzz around Dexter on the Media Research Center’s site (a conservative group). I found it humorous.

I’ll admit to having a long time fascination with serial killers. I used to read true crime novels (those hideously unliterary little mass market books) when I was a kid and was always especially interested in the serial killers — the ones that were compelled to repeat their rituals over and over and over again. I see in my son this same fascination with death. The last time he was here he picked up a death encyclopedia. I told him he could pick between that and a coloring book on brain anatomy (we were at Paxton Gate). I was hoping to color the amygdala with him and talk about anatomy or something foolishly educational. Of course, he chose the book that catalogued different ways people died and when (which, btw, he’s learned quite a lot from), and I picked up a black and white photograph of what looked like a pile of dead dolls.

My fascination with murderers is partly why I love crime dramas. Though I also love them because each episode is discrete — you don’t have to watch an entire season to get it. Sure, there are some insignificant narratives that arc through a season, but I’m only interested in the crime. That human relationship stuff always makes me impatient.

Last night, I saw the most gruesome CSI episode: Pirates of the Third Reich. Why is it that every strong, independent, intelligent, attractive woman on TV just happens to own a pair of knee high black leather boots and a matching bull whip for just the right occassion? Like whipping your daughter’s murderer to death. The episode was about a methodically organized serial killer (much like Dexter). And in both the CSI episode and the Dexter series, there is just enough gore to be a little scary, but not enough to make me turn away.

The thing with Dexter is that he really doesn’t seem that off. The things he thinks aren’t so foreign to me. I was thinking tonight how it’s a little like anthropomorphizing an animal. Not that I would equate a human being to, say, a cat, though arguably you could say that by society’s standards, serial killers aren’t “human”. But, it’s a little like that — attributing feelings and thoughts to something, a person in this case, that don’t actually exist. But in the series, Dexter’s desire to fit in, to live a normal life — isn’t that what we all want? Maybe it’s harder for some of us than for others, or maybe I don’t understand your average person very well, or god forbid, maybe I’m giving away too much about myself when I say that I can relate to what that character thinks. I feel like he’s just a lonely, longing person who feels like he’s missing something, play acting through life, a different mask for different situations, and I think many of us have felt the same way. And I think that’s the point the show is making — that he’s a serial killer, but he’s still just a person like you and me.

The cinematography is gorgeous. The scenes from the opening credits make the mundane look threatening and murderous. It’s like an mini allegory for the entire series. And you would have never thought that a butchered, bloodless body wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine could be beautiful. But I promise you, it is.

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