Monday, July 13, 2009

When Slaughter is Sexy

Those of you who have watched Showtime’s series “Dexter” will recognize this little verbal portrait (if not the photo below). But I ask you to read this next paragraph, and consider: what about such a guy is sexy?

Here we have a serial killer, fascinated since childhood with blood, vivisection, and murder. He is emotionless and can only mimic the human behaviors that are normally prompted by feelings. He is asexual, and unable to muster any kind of desire or arousal without, shall we say, serious stimulation. However, killing—and even sometimes the act of killing committed by another—produces excitement, joy, and even lust in his otherwise cold heart.

That’s Dexter in a nutshell. Of course to be fair, there are a few other things about him to be considered. He learned from his father an ethical code that he strictly obeys: to kill only those whose crimes are so horrific that they are more of a threat to the public that Dexter himself. He truly wants to be human, and is conscientious in his efforts to behave like a kindhearted fellow. While incapable of feeling “protective” of his girlfriend, he certainly has an intellectual commitment to watch out for her well-being. And yes, he’s got a fine sense of humor.

Still, a serial killer is a serial killer. Dexter is a very creepy fellow, with his needles and knives and careful attention to using protective plastic sheets.

All that said, this particular homicidal psychopath is undeniably sexy. It helps that Michael C. Hall, who plays Dexter, is sensuously handsome and has a melodic, warm voice. But I maintain it is the concept of this character that hold the true charm. It’s really quite brilliant.

It’s a fact that many women have a strange interest in the Jeffrey Dahmers and Ted Bundys of the world. Twisted though that seems, it is due to the fact that serial killers possess a few key traits—warped, I’ll grant you—that appeal to basic feminine nature.

  • They are powerful, literally wielding the power of life and death.
  • They are predatory, the ultimate in aggressive (the supreme alpha male if you will).
  • They are brilliant and extremely skilled at what they do.

Certainly these things are true of Dexter in spades. And the writers of the show have cleverly worked out his personality so that women will be even more drawn to him. He is harmless to you and me. He’s not evil—or at least has his evil side under control. He’s not motivated by sex and is not a sexual threat. He feels nothing, so somehow doesn’t seem as culpable for what he does.

And he’s charming, funny, gentle mannered, and as a sort of Robin Hood of Homicide, actually a hero.

With all that going on, a lot of us ladies are happy to overlook the downside of Dexter’s personality and habits. We are even more happy to be able to safely indulge the secret perverse interest we have in sociopaths like him.

As a writer, I can only say, kudos to the creators of such a complex and fascinating character. I’ve created a lot of (hopefully) sexy protagonists, but never one like this.


Raquel said...

I have been an admirer of Dexter since the first show. While I admit I've battled with myself for falling for such a twisted sort of character since the shows premier, and even still squirm a little at the thought of having a crush on a man capable of such bloody acts, it has not kept me from drooling over him since first "getting to know" him. I suppose one of the things that makes him so attractive is that not a single man has ever kept me squirming for so long. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my freakish delight.

Diana Laurence said...

Hi Raquel! I guaranTEE you there is a massive crowd of women stuck on our favorite psychopath. Nice that the show and Michael got Emmy nominations today! Definitely deserving. Thanks for sharing your feelings about Dex so eloquently!