Three Cheers for the Sadistic Killer!

A few years ago I read a book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, about a serial killer who only kills other killers. His foster father had discovered his proclivity for taking life, and instead of turning him in or getting him treated, he trained him to kill only those who are so depraved they don’t deserve to live. He’s a sadistic killer with a bad childhood, and he is so devoid of feeling he fakes every social interaction. A perfect solution to so many nasty little problems, no? So, he was an antagonistic protagonist, sort of.

I find myself fascinated with this character. He forces me to challenge my own beliefs about what’s right and what’s wrong.
What’s moral and just? How does this sit in the biblical context of an eye for an eye?   I feel empathy for his bad childhood, and he really seems to want to do as his foster father asked and kill no innocents. But still it bothers me that a stone cold killer is the supposed good guy, on our side. We can’t cheer him on as he’s cutting a child molester to pieces! Or can we?

On one hand, what a great way to bypass a little thing called due process. On the other hand, am I really going to cry if nasty people who know how to manipulate the system are exterminated?  But even the roaches I loathe aren’t killed by the exterminator by being chopped up in little pieces (though I really don’t know any exterminators so I can’t really say that with any degree of certainty).  And does it really matter if the extermination is humane?  Dead is dead.   And then, of course, I start thinking about the death penalty and, well, now you have a little glimpse into how my mind works.

Like many books I’ve read in my lifetime it’s stayed with me, and every once in awhile I’ll think about it, ponder the issues it ignites, and put it away. I like it that way. I wonder if other people are as disturbed as I am, and I argue each side. My own private little debates, most of which have no resolution.

My private little debate is going public, though. Why? Because they’ve created a television series based on the character, Dexter. It’s disturbing and powerful and pushes many envelopes. But will it start a dialogue similar to my own inner debates?

It makes me wonder what everyone thinks of this book, this show, this “solution”.

What say you?


3 Responses to “Three Cheers for the Sadistic Killer!”

  1. goodfountain Says:

    Well I’ve never heard of this book or this TV show. My initial reaction (without really having the benefit of reading the book as you have) is that murder is wrong. Period. So I don’t feel much of an internal debate. Dexter is not a hero. I can see how a TV show or a book can write a character in such a way as to invoke “rah rah” feelings. That bothers me because it can create more desensitization to murder.

    Anyway, interesting post.

  2. Kate Says:

    Well, Dexter itself, too far out of the realm of plausibility to create an internal debate for me. Much like Grey’s Anatomy, I can enjoy it precisely because it’s so farfetched, and would get irritated if it was closer to reality. (Though I’m frustrated with myself because I completely forgot to DVR the premier. Argh.)

    But I realized a few years ago that while I have conflicted feelings about the death penalty, my against-feelings must be stronger than my for-feelings. I learned this because there are jobs out there for psychologists, to do assessments for death row inmates, because just as you have to be competent to stand trial, you have to be competent to be executed. And if found incompetent, for instance if you’re schizophrenic and have been refusing medication, then the state has to take steps (such as forcing medication) in order to restore competency so that it can kill you.

    I can’t do that. That’s a job I could not do. So if I can’t contribute to the process, then I can’t fully support the concept.

  3. Lisa Says:

    I have not read the book, and I only know about the TV show.

    (But I am a fan of the guy that plays Dexter and have adored him since he was on Six Feet Under. He is a phenomenal actor and I want to rent Dexter on DVD just because I know he’s probably awesome in it.)

    My impression isn’t that you’re supposed to be cheering for Dexter, but again, I have very little to base that on.

    As far as the death penalty, I don’t support it. I don’t have faith in our criminal justice system that they would never execute, or have never executed, an innocent person. The idea of putting one innocent person to death for a crime they did not do is enough for me to be against the death penalty for every other person sitting on death row. I simply can’t stomach the idea of it happening to anyone, because if it could it means it could happen to me or someone I love, too.

    I don’t think it’s any better or worse to murder someone you know is guilty of a crime. A person is a person, whether they are a crack whore or the Dalai Lama. And although most everyone in the human race does it (and I certainly don’t exclude myself here) there is a tendency to look at people as more “deserving” of being victims of crimes. I think that’s wrong, but again I’m guilty of it myself.

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