serial killers have
become new mythology.
demons in our world.
There’s a new and rather intriguing series started on the FX channel, simply called ‘Dexter’ in which a forensics expert, working for the Miami police department, is by night a serial killer. Dexter is a likeable enough chap, helping his foster sister (a policewoman struggling for recognition) with difficult cases. This is set against a background in which only 20% of homicides in Miami are solved to any satisfactory degree. Dexter, whose foster father was a cop, has learnt how to avoid detection, and uses his compulsion to kill only against those who have evaded justice. In the first episode alone, Dexter deals out his particular brand of justice to a child-killer and man who avoided conviction for multiple rape and murder on a technicality.
Dexter provides a running commentary on the action and, thanks mainly to the excellent casting of Michael C Hall as the paradoxical Dexter, gives us a chilling insight to the psychology of a sociopath who acts out emotions as though he were living in a play. In reality, he is ‘empty inside’, devoid of emotion, except for the two women in his life, his foster sister and his girlfriend, who, having suffered a life of sexual violence at the hands of an abusive ex-husband, is not keen to get involved in any further intimacy. Dexter himself is incapable of normal sexual arousal.
One could argue that our interest in such characters, as with Hannibal Lecter, who murdered people because their abstraction provided a positive outcome for the world, mirrors a desire in the general population for someone to be actually doing something about the horrors of society. In this sense, serial killers, at least fictional ones, have become the new superheroes. They lead a secret life, and have a strange ability to recognise each other, and for the most part seem to possess powers above and beyond those of mere non-murdering mortals. This is as true for the serial killers of the world of Lecter as it is for Dexter’s world. Oddly, this has recently been mirrored in British crime series, such as ‘Wire in The Blood’ and, more recently and more obviously ‘In Cold Blood’ (?) in which Matthew Kelly is the central serial killer, an individual seemingly far more dangerous and intelligent than the rest of the population.
One could also argue that, as a society, we need to have our monsters distanced from us. The very words ‘monster’ or ‘beast’ – often associated with serial killers - automatically suggest that these people are something inhuman. Fictionally, we make them so. As with Nineteen Fifties Science Fiction films and novels, in which the aliens often lived among us as humans, so now our fictional serial killers live within humanity, using their superior skills and talents to evade detection.
In the pilot episode of ‘Dexter’, our hero is confronted with a new serial killer, one who murders women, removes all their blood and cuts them precisely into measured pieces. Dexter becomes fascinated by what he feels to be is his Moriarty, a killer whose methods and ‘powers’ rival his own. By instinct, accident, or actions on the part of his Nemesis, Dexter finds himself on the trail of the killer, and realises – when the killer throws the head of one of his victims onto Dexter’s car – that he is being challenged to a gruesome form of game.
As gruesome as the subject matter is, the series is well-written, compelling and laced with a necessarily dark humour.
One wonders, however, in a society which takes things so literally as does America, how long it will be before a real killer cites the defence that ‘Dexter made me do it’.
Talking of monsters, today marked the end of (yawn) Fake Week in the Big Brother House. As was expected, Charley was voted out by the public, but after a ‘fake’ eviction and interview which everyone in the House saw, she was put back in. I have never been so disappointed with BB as I am with this series. The producers have manipulated nominations and votes blatantly in order to avoid controversial housemates being evicted. Next year, why don’t the producers just decide who is going to go each week and save us all the bother.
There is another issue here which needs addressing. The only black people in the House are Charley and Brian. I sincerely hope that general populace don’t think of them as representative of the Black Community. Although I am sure Brian is a very nice man, I am concerned that many teenagers will see him as a role model. This is a person who admits that he ‘paid no attention at school’ and seems to have no idea who Shakespeare is or was. Either he has special needs, which should be addressed, or he is, as many people suspect, terminally stupid. It actually scares me that one day he may have children.