Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Mind of a Serial Killer: Dexter

Showtime’s “Dexter”, one of the network’s most popular long running shows, has Dexter Morgan fans starting to mourn the show as its rumored “final” season 8 aired in late June.  Hundreds of thousands of viewers tune in each week to watch the self-proclaimed monster, serial killer Dexter Morgan, carefully select his victims.  Viewers are drawn to Dexter because, while he is a serial killer, he is ridding the world of bad people.  Dexter’s killings play into morality; the good or the bad of another human being.  His victims are never innocent, but instead are guilty of murder, emotional, physical and/or sexual assault and other crimes involving innocent people.  Dexter’s killings attempt to create a balance in an unjust society, but taking a look at Dexter, is he really any better than his deserving victims?

The Profile of a Serial Killer
When we hear the words “serial killer” numerous, varying images may come to mind.  While one individual may think of the “Ladies Man” Ted Bundy, another person may think of the “Awkward and Lonely” Jeffrey Dahmer.  There is no one type of serial killer nor does a serial killer look a certain way.  Dexter Morgan, the blood splatter expert for the Miami Police Department, is a “normal” looking family man, whose big secret are the murders he has successfully conducted for years.  According to Macalester College, the profile of a serial killer could include any type of person:

He is usually male, between the ages of 25-35, and he is usually white.  His intellect ranges from below average to above average.  He is from all walks of life, as are his victims.  The majority of the time, he will kill within his own ethnic group.  The ages of his victims will vary greatly, depending on his particular “interest”.  He doesn’t usually have any prior contact with his victims, and thus no particular hatred for them; though, the victims may be symbolic to him in some way.  He may be married with children, have a job, and be just like the guy next door…Or, he may be socially inept, unable to maintain relationship, and be a complete loner.

Additionally, there are typically 4 types of Serial Killers:
  •       The Visionary Motive Type:  This type of serial killer is usually considered to be insane and even psychotic.  Often times, the Visionary Killer will kill because “the voices in their head” told them to do so.  Think of “Son of Sam”.
  •       The Missionary-Oriented Motive Type:  The Missionary Type’s main objective behind killing is to rid the world of those who they deem unacceptable for whatever reason.  Dexter Morgan is a prime example of a Missionary-Oriented Type.  He carefully chooses his victims based on the psychological and physical pain they brought to others.
  •       The Thrill-Oriented Motive Type: This type of serial killer kills for the “fun of it”.  As the killer’s excitement builds with each kill, the killer gets a “high” and often times gets “better” at the crimes, as they escalate.
  •          The Lust Killer: This type of killer usually kills for the sexual thrill.  Often fitting well into “normal, everyday” society, the Lust Killer type is harder to distinguish and is also one of the most common types of serial killer.

Was Dexter Meant to Kill?
Many experts analyze the childhood of serial killers.  Some had unhealthy relationships with their parents while others exhibited early disturbing and destructive behaviors (such as cruelty to animals and peers).  When Dexter was a young child, he witnessed the violent murder of his mother, which was the catalyst for his violent urges and outbursts.  Harry Morgan, Dexter’s adopted father, who also worked for the Miami Police Department, taught Dexter how to channel his homicidal tendencies and allowed Dexter to kill animals.  Realizing that Dexter’s tendencies were not subsiding, but rather serious, Harry trained Dexter to be a “vigilante”; only hunting and killing murderers.  Dexter fans may cheer on his Missionary-Oriented killings, but despite his constant struggle between the “Hero” and the “Dark Passenger”, Dexter’s childhood shaped him into a lifetime of killing. 

Is Dexter a Hero?
Why is Dexter so wildly popular?  Why do fans find themselves agreeing, even cheering on, his decisions?  Is it because he’s a nice guy with a real job, a house, a family, and only chooses to kill society’s bad guys?  Regardless of the reasons, Dexter is still, by description, a serial killer.  A serial killer has committed three or more killings and having common characteristics suggesting that the crimes were committed by the same person.  Additionally, unlike mass murderers who often kill their victims at one time, a serial killer needs a “cooling off” period.  This period of time allows the killer to take an emotional and physical break.  In some cases that may mean going to work (like Dexter), coming home to a family, or trying to live a seemingly “normal” life.

When you tune into Dexter, do you see him as a serial killer or just a “ do gooder”, ridding the world of bad?


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