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http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/dexter/
(http://www.iheartreading.net/reviews/book-review-the-psychology-of-dexter-by-bella-depaulo/
http://2timespersecond.wordpress.com/2!1"/!2/!#/preoccupation-with-the-serial-killer-dexter-tv-series/
$euteberg% 'asmin (2!!()% *+merica,s favourite serial killer*% Stockholm University% -./0 (#1-"-2!-(2!-!
1.1 Object of Research
3rime is seen to be a problem of 4evil and pathological individuals5 (6oyle 1((1: (#) with a deficit of human
touch. $he society easily assigns criminals to an external group of people far away from the own family and peer
group. $herefore% a categorisation of 7them8 and 7us8 can be indicated as a 9uite common habit. :owever% the
police in particular and the ;ustice system in general as a special category ac9uire a position of in-between: $heir
task is to manage the balance between the evil and the good% between them and us. $his basic understanding of
good and bad is not only pro;ected to that what we might call our everyday life% our reality - also fictional media
productions dealing with the sub;ect of crime are mainly based on this distinction by deriving the contained
7knowledge8 of crime from a knowledge we built up in our real life considering also the mass media
1
. $hereby% it
often concerns a self-referential knowledge where a system refers to its own established pool of knowledge of a
certain sub;ect. -n this coherence% the media contribute to a large extent to our understanding of crime so that one
might have sometimes difficulties to delineate real facts from fictional inventions. 3ommonly% criminals are seen
as a deviance of the social norm. $hey are different from the average of the society. <enerally% they are indicated
as outsiders% strangers% or loners along lines of class% gender% and race who appear impulsive% malad;usted%
irrational% animal-like% aggressive% and violent (/lackman/=alkerline in 'ewkes 2!!1: >).
?specially% the media can be held responsible for such a stigmatisation. +s unfamiliar as the issue of criminal
experience among the average citi@en might be% the widespread is the fascination with this sub;ect. Arevious
research has revealed a variety of reasons why crime exerts such a fascination over the audience - regardless%
whether the story is fact like crime news or fictional products like novels% television series% movies etc. 3rime
sells. +ll above% the worse and ;uicy a delict appears the more it guarantees an attraction of interest among the
audience (viewers as well as readers). :ence% it is no coincidence that media organisations dealing with crime
news established so-called 4news values5 (cf. 'ewkes 2!!1) for this purpose which are criteria to determine a
criminal event as newsworthy or not. $he same can be applied to the field of fictional crime: +ll new
experiences (visual or personal) going beyond our hitherto knowledge and (media) experience of crime attracts
higher attention. $his can be ascribed to a subconscious process of reconciling our thitherto knowledge of crime%
criminals% and criminal acts with the new media transferred input. $o put this aspect in terminology of social
constructionism% one can say we try to structure our knowledge in terms of frames - to set that what we already
know about
1
-n the following the term 4media5 substitutes the long term 4mass media5 without changing any meaning.
$he primarily purpose of this thesis is not ;ust to investigate the representation form of the series6exterB rather to
identify certain elements to clarify the 9uestion why 6exter as a character% as a killing monster% is apparently able
to activate a process of triggering sympathy among an audience. +s the 9uick check of blogs% fan pages etc. has
shown this sympathy can even tend to cause fairly deep emotions% not to call them love. -n addition to
that% 6exter seems to exert a fascination over the audience that almost captivates. 0ow% can the audience be able
to bridge the repugnancy of the own personality
>
and the killing character 6exter Corgan to feel a sort of
sympathy in the endD -f so% which devices used in the series to present the character 6exter Corgan contribute to
this assumptionD
1.2 Research Design and Structure
$he analysis is drawn upon the theoretical background of social constructionism linked to the field of frame
theories. $hese theories enable it to find out how we know what is 7bad and good8% what we know about the field
of crime and% when do we characterise someone as a criminal person. =ith this knowledge the next step is to
identify contemporary media frames of criminals and serial killers respectively. :ereby% it is important to make a
difference between fictional conceptions of criminals / serial killers (in the realm of entertainment media) and of
those conceptions based on 7facts8% i.e. what do non-fictional (yet media) conceptions (news% reality based
programmes% documentaries etc.) consist of. .ince the series 6exter seems to be in contrast to hitherto existing
media frames of serial killers% the idea is now - after giving a short summary of the series8 content - to reconcile
these existing frames with the serial killer conception of the character 6exter Corgan who is promoted as
4+merica8s favourite serial killer5 by the broadcast station .howtime 0etworks -nc. Eor this purpose an analysis
of salient / dominant stylistic devices in representation and narration style is conducted which seem to be
significant for a correlation between the representation of the character 6exter Corgan and an interpretation
promoting a creation of sympathy or rather an inner conflict of ethical dichotomy among the audience.
Eurthermore% the analysis is intended to verify if the alleged sympathy is not even manipulated or influenced by
factors not emerging from the series8 concept per se but by media texts originated from% e.g. merchandising
campaigns or other media productions or genres. -n the end% the findings obtained by the preceding analysis are
9uestioned in context of the general effect and power of frame building concerning the perception of serial
killers in the media.
6ue to restricted time and space the here presented study is focussed on the first season of6exter% first aired on
1
st
Fctober 2!!2 and presented by the pay-tv channel .howtime 0etworks -nc. -.e. only the +merican original
version is taken into account. + further reason why only the first season is chosen is that it can be assumed that
an alleged effect of sympathy might be most noticeable here% because of the series8 innovative character in the
range of television crime series broadcasted that period. $he first season consists of twelve episodes which are
broadcasted in a weekly cycle during the primetime period. ?ven though the series is based on 'eff Gindsay8s
novel6arkly dreaming 6exter (2!!) the novel is only considered as general background of informative
character. Coreover% this study is drawn on media conceptions / frames of crime and criminals based on previous
findings from an ?nglish-speaking scientific background. .ince no reception analyses will be conducted%
statements about the viewer and audience according their perception of6exter refer to my experiences with and
perception of 6exter as well as to my sub;ective assumptions in their general meaning for the audience or the
single viewer.
2. Theoretical Rationale: What do we know about Crie!
+s mentioned in the introduction the purpose of this thesis is to find out indicators of the series6exter for
triggering sympathy for the serial killer 6exter Corgan and how these are able to influence a graphic rendition
(6arstellungsart) and in the end the perception of a character. $o answer this 9uestion it is helpful to have a look
at theories that help us to understand how we gain our knowledge in general or of a certain sub;ect (here: crime)
and all above how our knowledge is influenced or guided by certain parties. -n the case of crime the theory of
social constructionism is a good starting point% as it has found its consideration in the field of criminology
before. Helating the theory of social constructionism to frame theory this chapter points critically out how
criminals are commonly presented in the mass media on both non-fictional and fictional levels. -n conclusion
this chapter is intended to support the overall analysis to demonstrate the difference of what we already know
about criminals (i.e. serial killers) and to what extent this knowledge drifts apart from the serial killer profile
presented in the series. Eurthermore% these theories are the basis to show which elements of 7typical8 media
frames of serial killers are used in combination with elements that are eventually alien to genre.
2.1 "ow to gain #nowledge of Crie and Criinals!
2.1.1 Social Constructionis
.ocial constructionism sets knowledge in context to what we understand as real or as our reality. 7Inowing8 what
reality is allows the recognition and differentiation of fictional and non-fictional content. -n the case of crime
such differentiability enables us to separate the knowledge of what the media present us as real crime in% e.g.
crime news
2
and what is presented as entertaining crime% i.e. fictitious crime cases in crime series or movies. $o
explain the concept of social constructionism it is reasonable to start with the construction process of reality.
- completely disagree with almost everyone on this. - thought the ending was brilliant. 'ust because the writers
didn,t do what many expected% or felt 6exter deserved - to be found out% doesn,t make it bad. -n fact% in my view%
it makes it much better than if they had ended the show with 6exter getting fried in the electric chair. -n the end%
6exter finally reali@es that what he thought he was% a ruthless serial killer incapable of human empathy was
actually the illusion. +nd so% by making the ultimate sacrifice% becoming a non-person and leaving his son and
the love of his life% he believes it is the only thing that can make up for all the harm he has caused. :e has
banished himself to a life of emptiness out of love. $his is what none of us expected% and this is what makes it
exceptional.
JJJJJ 0ovels: 6arkly 6reaming 6exter K 6early 6evoted 6exter
/ased on 'eff Gindsay,s novels *6arkly 6reaming 6exter* and *6early 6evoted 6exter*% this crime thriller
follows 6exter Corgan% a forensic blood spatter expert for the Ciami Cetro Aolice 6epartment. $hanks to a
code instilled in him by his foster father% :arry% he hunts down people who have escaped ;ustice and makes sure
they don,t get away with a crime again./ased on 'eff Gindsay,s novels *6arkly 6reaming 6exter* and *6early
6evoted 6exter*% this crime thriller follows 6exter Corgan% a forensic blood spatter expert for the Ciami Cetro
Aolice 6epartment. $hanks to a code instilled in him by his foster father% :arry% he hunts down people who have
escaped ;ustice and makes sure they don,t get away with a crime again
Wh$ do $ou glaori%e serial killers in the edia!
-n: &otorious 'urderers and Serial #illers L(dit categoriesM
Cedia has only one pourpose of glamori@ing serial killers. Coney. $hese movies profit well. Cost of us have
seen the latest serial killers series named 6exter. - am not moved by watching a serial killer being the hero of the
youths. =hoever wrote this scrip is a high level -N fellow who studied serial killers and it,s traits.
- borrowed the dvds to study this fenomenon. - had to go through seasons having 12 episodes. +nd the writer is
right. 6exter is a low -N fellow who looks like a high skilled high -N fellow with 12 years of learning with his
carrer as a blood spatter analist. :e even had some kind of reatarted learning. /y age "% he could not pronounce
his brother,s name /ryan. +s - said before% - didn,t like this series but the writer had the right idea when he wrote
this script.
$he media protraits serial killers as highly intellingent. $hey need a e9ual intelingent detective to cath him. -n
real life% this is not true. Cost serial killers are caught by accident. $ed /undy was caught speeding. 6umb
mistake. $he son of .am was caught by leaving his guns showing from outside is car. 6umber mistake.
$he Onabomber did have a high -N. :e was caught not by a dumb mistake but by high thinking brain mistake.
$he Podiac also had a high -N and he was never caught.
<lamori@ing serial killers in the media is a bad practice and even more% it is increasing the Onited .tates serial
killers problem. Cany people believe media is producing serial killers.
Qes% i do agree that it has something to do with pecuniary reasons. ?veryone wants money% rightD +nd the best
way to accomplish that-in the media-is to feed the people what they want. .erial killers are fascinating and i
believe alot of people think so. $heir acts are gruesome and appalling. -t provokes a myriad of 9uestions. =hen
you read about specific serial killers% you would think something like this :*Fh myJ $his sounds like a horror
storyJ* Eor some people% murder feeds their intrigue. A?FAG? =+0$ $F I0F= and the media sees that...so
they play smart and decide to take advantage of our curiosity. $hat,s when we see documentaries of serial killers
coming out and then it progresses to movies.
)reoccu*ation with the Serial #iller : De+ter ,T- series.
Aosted by 0andini <odara Eebruary #% 2!1"
:ome
The dead body with which murder mysteries and police procedurals generally open is a multi-layered sign that
acts to trigger a wide variety of representations that allow the public to explore from the safety of an armchair,
the depths of human evil and the heights of human forensic ingenuity.i
Curder% whether on or off screen% has never stopped fascinating mankind and has led to much discourse in the
field of psychology and film theory. =ith the afore mentioned statement% Ralverde has explained one of the
many reasons that crime and murder hold such extreme fascination in the real world and on the screen. -n this
essay% we will explore this particular allure further% giving special attention to the popularity of the O.. television
series exter.
/efore we begin our foray into the psychology of exter7s fandom% it is important to note and understand the
definition of the term 4serial killer.5 /eing somewhat of a misnomer% a serial killer is not defined only by the
sheer number of kills over a period of time. $he motives behind the kills are to be taken into account. -t is
assumed% in popular culture% that a serial killer has serious psychopathic motives% i.e he kills for the sake of
killing. $his is best explained by Hobert 3onrath who writes%
Serial killing is usually not the expression of deeply suppressed rage, complete social alienation and
schi!ophrenia but simply a vital both visceral and at times intellectual drive to kill, an uncontrollable
pleasure that like any uncontrollable pleasure, thrives on repetition.
ii
Aerhaps one of the most famous serial killers is 'ack the Hipper. :is crimes were unsolved and he was never
caught. +t the time of limited forensic knowledge% there were many opinions as to who the killer might be. =ith
many theories emerging from the police force and from the public% there was much speculation regarding his
motives that accompanied these theories. Eor example% the atrocity and messy nature of the murders led to the
general opinion that such monstrosity cannot be committed by an educated man. =ith further forensic evidence
coming to light% it was then speculated that the killer had to have possessed some surgical knowledge since the
cuts made and the body parts removed from the victims were clearly the work of a professional. $his seemingly
eliminated an economic motive% opening up the possibility of a completely new kind of serial killer S the
psychopath. +s Ralverde puts it% 7$he history of the serial killer is thus intertwined with the history of
psychological knowledge used in the criminal ;ustice system.8
iii
$his knowledge gave rise to personnel in the
;ustice system like criminal psychologists that subse9uently gave rise to new angles and fresh plots in the crime
genre of film% television and literature.
.o what sets exter apart from other shows in the crime genreD Eor one% the series uses a number of film noir
conventions. $he bleak narrative% the anti-hero% the femme fatale% the pessimistic endings% flashbacks%
voiceovers% all of these feature in the series. 6exter is a blood spatter pattern analyst in the Ciami Cetro Aolice
6epartment and moonlights as a serial killer. +ll the characteristics of a film noir male protagonists can be seen
in him. :e is an 7L...M intelligent and maverick anti-hero who moves beyond the law in a dystopian city% seeking
out truth and dispensing violence where he feels it is ;ustified.8
iv
-n season 2 we also encounter the 4femme
fatale5. $he inclusion of a femme fatale in a film noir story line% alongside the anti-hero is a common feature.
Gila is everything that 6exter is% and more. .he is psychopathic% fiendishly clever and an agent of chaos.
6exter8s immediate attraction to her is inevitable since he sees himself in her. /ut her lack of structure and code
proves to get in the way of 6exter8s identity remaining a secret. .he moves from being a playful deviant to using
her deadly sexuality as a weapon in a very short span of time. $he classic format of the male protagonist getting
entangled with the femme fatale is played out in this season. +nd even though she goes to grave lengths to aid
him (in her own way)% even though he doesn8t necessarily wish to kill her% his code demands that he must% and so
he does. Gike with every femme fatale% this encounter with Gila could only end badly.
-n september 2!!>% 3/. aired the show "riminal #inds to over 12 million viewers. $his $R series uses the
police procedural format% concentrating on the E/-8s /ehavioural +nalysis Onit. Eor the first time there seemed
to be a show that concentrated on the criminal rather than the crime. 3riminal psychology thus plays a ma;or role
in the ability of abducting offenders. $his is duly noted by Cark .elt@er%
the concept of the dangerous individual, as $oucault traces it, involves a shift in focus from the criminal act to
the character of the actor, that is it involves the elaboration of a technical knowledge-system %capable of
characterising a criminal individual in himself and in a sense beneath his acts.&
v
=hile "riminal #inds goes beyond the generic format and into the mind of the criminal% exter goes a step
further and introduces us to the criminal point of view% a serial killer8s point of view. $he main character% 6exter
Corgan% is a blood spatter analyst in the miami metro police department. =hat is more% he moonlights as a serial
killer. +nd like any other serial killer% his victims have a certain profile S they are murderers that have slipped
through the cracks of the ;ustice system and roam freely. =hile not really a police procedural% the show does
bring to light the goings on of the rest of the police department. /esides% 6exter8s process of seeking out his
victims% cornering them% killing them and disposing of their bodies is a procedure in its own way and 9uite often%
6exter8s victims coincide with the offenders that the police department are trying to capture. $he use of forensics
and in particular% blood spatter analysis% is 9uite extensive. /esides bringing out the importance of forensic
science in the abduction of a criminal% the show also provides us psychological insight into the minds of the
killers% via 6exter. /eing a serial killer himself% he understands the mind of one.
/ut how much of 6exter do =? understandD +nd why do we find ourselves empathising with himD -s it even
rational to empathi@e with a fictional characterD -n response to this 9uestion% Curray .mith analyses what he
calls% the structure of sympathy% in his book entitled 'ngaging "haracters. :e states that the narratives of fiction
film generally evoke in the audiences% three levels of imaginative engagement with the characters. $he first one
is 4recognition5% the process by which we identify and re-identify characters. $his imaginative process is
typically automatic and simply a response to visual stimuli. +nd because this process is so involuntary% it does
not come under any scrutiny and can therefore be subverted and manipulated by filmmakers. =hen we first
encounter 6exter% we know he is not your average male protagonist. :is cold and distant demeanour throws us
off and we begin to suspect that he is much more than what he seems initially. +nd sure enough% we proceed to
find out his dark secret.
$he second level of imaginative engagement is referred to% by Curray .mith% as 4alignment5. /y this process we
start identifying with or relating to the character. .ince 6exter possesses traits akin to a psychopath% his facial
expressions are limited and his manipulation of his co-workers and even his sister 6eb would be lost on the
audience. -t would seem improbable then% that he could garner such affection from the viewers. :owever% the use
of first person narrative is% for example% a big part of the reason we are able to align ourselves to 6exter. =e are
constantly exposed to 6exter8s most intimate thoughts as he goes about his day to day activities% trying to fit in
with a species he does not understand. 6exter narrates as he makes conversations with his colleagues% revealing
his complete lack of genuine emotion while doing so. :e remarks upon his inability to interact with people
without faking the simplest gesture S 7Aeople fake a lot of human interactions% but - feel like - fake them all% and
- fake them very well.8
vi
:e narrates as he navigates through the most mundane tasks with ac9uired ease. :is
cold% detached manner is accompanied by his cold% detached voiceovers. $he only time we see or hear a hint of
excitement or feeling in 6exter is when he is on the hunt. $his narrative techni9ue is how we gauge 6exter8s
personality% or at least a part of it. +s we delve further into the series% we know more about him and how he
thinks% what makes him tick. 3uriously enough% while 6exter describes his actions in an impersonal manner% the
audience attaches meaning and emotion to it S the audience feels what 6exter should be feeling. $hus we are
able to see how 6exter views reality. $hrough the narrative device% we are exposed to the social order of the
world as he sees it and due to his disinterest% we are privy to an unbiased account of it. Coreover% through his
account% we are forced to view the world through the same unemotional lens% thereby revealing a great deal
about the human condition.
$he narrative construct thus creates a personal involvement in the show. 0o one in 6exter8s life knows about his
double life and we as the audience are in on this big secret% thereby creating a strong bond with him% although he
is only a fictional character. =e are also invested in the character. +s 6exter describes his actions% we are forced
to think about how we would react in those situations and how we have% at some point in our lives% tried to
achieve the same thing as he S to be accepted and to survive in this world. +s far as serial killers go% 6exter is
unusually aware of his flaws as a 4normal5 human being. :e reali@es that his lack of empathy and appropriate
social responses make him an outcast. =hile most psychopaths revel in their uni9ue ability to distance
themselves from the human condition% 6exter sometimes longs for normalcy in his life. 7Aeople fake a lot of
human interactions% but - feel like - fake them all% and - fake them very well. $hat8s my burden% - guess.8
vii
$his
desire to fit in is experienced by us all at some level or another. :e says% 7- always prided myself on being an
outsiderT but nowT - feel the need to connect with someone.8
viii
$he 4dark passenger5 that 6exter describes as
constantly accompanying and encouraging his every kill% is not altogether different from the inner demons that
take over our own decisions from time to time. $he thrilling plot lines and narrative format of the show
therefore% not only attracts viewers% but also forges a bond between them and the characters% a bond that is
subconsciously formed and made stronger as the show progresses.
-t would not be incorrect to say that 4allegiance5 (the third level of imaginative engagement) to the central
character has a great influence on the popularity of the show. +t this level of imaginative engagement% we begin
to morally evaluate and respond affectively to the character. -n her introduction to the book entitled The
(sychology of exter% /ella 6eAaulo states that 7exter may well be one of the most psychologically delicious
treats in television history.8
ix
-t is common to associate ourselves with the characters we see on screen. $hey are
after all a product of our own imagination. 0evertheless% it is less common to identify with a serial killer. /ut we
do it anyway. =e see a small percentage of our own desires and shortcomings% magnified in 6exter Corgan. -t is
perhaps easier to see our own demons acted out by someone other than us. $hat this 4other5 happens to be a
fictional character% makes it seem all the more harmless for us to indulge in them.
=e constantly sympathi@e with 6exter. +nd season after season% we root for him and mentally support him in his
efforts to evade capture. -s this because we perhaps see him as a vigilante in his own rightD -t is possible that one
of the main reasons 6exter has such an off-screen fan base is because he is acting out the vigilante in all of us. +t
the very least% it forces us to think about morality and its sub;ectivity. 6oes the end ;ustify the meansD $he
writers of the show have posed this 9uestion through :arry% 6exter8s adoptive father% who teaches his son to
redirect his violence in a constructive way. -s there such a thing as purposeful killingD :arry sure seems to think
so. +s a police cop himself% :arry knows the amount of murderers and other criminals that slip through the
cracks of the ;ustice system on a daily basis. -n 6exter% he sees the opportunity to make the streets a safer place.
.o why could he not have done this himselfD :e is certainly capable of doing so% having provided 6exter with
the tools% smarts and the 43ode of :arry5 that are re9uired for the ;ob. /ut killing does not fit into :arry8s own
ethical code. Core importantly% killing does not fit into society8s ethical code% a society which :arry is very
much a part of and in facts serves to protect. 6exter% on the other hand will never be a genuine part of the society%
as :arry had decided long ago. :e is therefore taught to harness his killer instincts. +s :arry explains it%
)hen you take a man*s life, you*re not +ust killing him. ,ou*re snuffing out all the things that he might become.
-s a cop, . only fire my weapon to save a life that*s a code . live by. /illing must serve a purpose. 0therwise,
it*s +ust plain murder.
x
=atching 6exter live through the 43ode of :arry5% we find ourselves 9uestioning and evaluating our own
individual codes.
$o be convinced of 6exter8s moral high ground is not an easy task in and of itself. :ow can the 9uestion of a
moral high ground even arise while referring to a serial killerD Qou cannot care for something you don8t
understand. Ieeping this in mind% the show has painstakingly tried to make us understand 6exter. =e are given
glimpses of his past% starting with the horrific murder of his mother that he had witnessed% along with his older
brother% as a child. :is thirst for violence as a teenager under :arry8s roof is portrayed with the use of
flashbacks. +ll of the things that triggered% encouraged and harnessed his killer instincts are laid out before us.
=ere it not for this biography% were we not made to witness the 4making5 of a serial killer% we would not have
been able to understand why 6exter is the way he is. -f we had been exposed to his past simply through
voiceover narration% we might not have felt like we were a part of his ;ourney from childhood to his present
situation. $he importance of these flashback se9uences are highlighted when 6exter (along with the audience)%
encounters other serial killers on his hunts. =e see his victims as people who deserve what they get. =e see them
as the villains in each story. $his is because we don8t understand what contributed to the psychopathy of these
serial killers. =e see them as different from 6exter because we understand 6exter. -nterestingly% while this
knowledge that makes us empathi@e with him and convinces us that he is different% it makes him believe that he
is a killer% much like his victims. Gike them% he has his own rituals. $he cut on his victim8s cheek% the drawing
and collecting of that blood on a slide% the waking up of the unconscious victim to a collage of their crimes and
the final stab of his knife% are all part of a ritual that he has perfected over the years S 7Areparation is vital. 0o
detail can be overlooked and the ritual is intoxicating: duct tape% rubber sheets% necessary tools for play.8
xi
6exter
refers to himself as a monster. 7Cy sister puts up a front so the world won8t see how vulnerable she is. Ce% - put
up a front so the world won8t see how vulnerable -8m not.8
xii
-t is this coldness that allows him to be unperturbed
for even a second when his victims cry out for sympathy and forgiveness in their final moments. +nd it is
perhaps our vulnerability that makes us cling to any traces of humanity in him. -t is perhaps our vulnerability that
allows us to forgive him when he accidentally kills an innocent. =e are ;olted back to reality however% as he
explains in a clinical manner how he can 7L...M kill a man% dismember his body% and be home in time for
Getterman. /ut knowing what to say when his LmyM girlfriend8s feeling insecureT :e8s L-,mM totally lost.8
xiii
=hen we are not busy being made to understand the mind of 6exter and identify with him on certain levels% we
are given a sliver of what he understands of society and conse9uently% of us. =hile we may ponder about what
makes him a serial killer% 6exter ponders about what makes us human. .ocial interactions% feelings% emotions
and behaviours that arise from them% are all things we take for granted. Heading facial cues and wanting human
contact is something that we never consciously think about% since it is so obvious. -t is the basic nature of
mankind. /ut what of the person that all of this does not come naturally toD 6exter can see pain% even understand
it% but he cannot feel it. -n his monotonous voice he tells one of his victims how he too is empty. /ut to cope with
it he explains that 7Qou pretend the feelings are there% for the world and for the people around you. =ho knows%
maybe one day they will be.8
xiv
=hile there is no doubt that the 46r.'ekyll5 part of 6exter8s personality is fascinating and has much appeal% his
4Cr.:yde5 too holds a certain charm and lovability. $here is much to be said of the dark humour that is
employed by the writers on the show% perhaps in the bid for some comic relief. 6uring a 0arcotics +nonymous
meeting that 6exter attends% a woman recounts her battle with addiction% narrating how she would 7L...M kill for a
vicodin.8 -n response% he thinks 7Gightweight.8
xv
$here is something endearing about 6exter8s childlike responses
to most human interactions that are ;uxtaposed with his raw power and clinical ability to kill. $his man who can
kill another and dispose of the body without so much as a batting of an eyelid% fumbles the most basic social
interactions. +nd right in the middle of all his awkwardness% when he charms his way through with a little ;oke%
we smile a little% even though we know he is faking it. ?ven when 6exter is his most cynical self when
perceiving his fellow human beings% we find it captivating. $his is partly due to the humorous content of his
cynicism and partly because it is compelling to see a man with 9uestionable morals demonstrate the hypocrisy in
people% moreover% doing it with a legitimate argument S 70eedless to say - have some unusual habits% yet all
these socially acceptable people can8t wait to pick up hammers and smash their food to bits. 0ormal people are
so hostile.8
xvi
:e is struck by how often he has encountered selfish and evil actions carried out by people that are
branded 7normal8 by society. Ff mankind% 6exter observes%
espite having considered myself a monster for as long as . can remember, it still comes as a shock when .*m
confronted with the depth of evil that exists in this world.
xvii
$o add to the 9uestion of morality% exter poses to us another theory S 6exter as the dark defender. -t has already
been established that 6exter is an anti-hero. 3ould we perhaps go a step further and hail him as a .OA?HheroD
:ow is he different from any other masked crusader that we see in comic books and fiction filmsD $hey too
protect the masses and they too ;ustify their actions by the outcomes they achieve. 6o these fictional characters
differ from 6exter because they are a product of a situation that was out of their controlD /ut then so is 6exter. -t
could be argued that he is simply a victim of childhood post-traumatic stress disorder% having witnessed his
mother hacked and murdered in front of his eyes and remaining in a pool of her blood for days before :arry
could rescue him. .uch intense trauma would render anybody emotionally crippled and stunted for life. -ndeed%
when he attends a therapy session% he says% 70o wonder - felt so disconnected my entire life. -f - did have
emotions% -8d have to feel this.8
xviii
=hatever our stance on 6exter% whether we believe that 6exter is human% superhuman or an anti-hero% it is safe
to say that he is a compilation of insecurities% complexities and% when you dig deep enough% emotions. :e is
therefore% ;ust like us. =hat makes a personD =hat gives us the licence to call ourselves human beingsD -t is
ironic that we are compelled to ponder this 9uestion by a man who refers to himself as a monster.
-n exter% the line between a 4monster5 and a 4human being5 is blurry at best. +nd 6exter Corgan seems to
walk this line. $he best example of this blurry line can be seen in the title se9uence of the show. -t depicts
6exter8s morning routine as he gets ready to go to work. :owever% due to the use of close-up shots% it is easy to
mistake this routine for a murderous ritual. $he wrapping around of floss on his fingers mirrors the way in which
6exter chokes his victims with a rope or a string. $he same effect is achieved when he ties his shoelaces. $he
cutting up of a slab of meat for breakfast mimics the way in which he slices up his victims8 body parts. $he drops
of blood that fall into the wash basin as he accidentally cuts himself while shaving are similar to the drops of
blood that he collects as trophies from his victims. $he se9uence evokes a response from the viewer at a bodily
level and magnificently illustrates how things are never the way they seem% you ;ust need to take a closer look.
$he show portrays the range between good and evil through the inclusion of other characters in 6exter8s life% for
example% 6eb (:is adoptive sister) and Hudy (:is real brother and also a serial killer). =hile 6eb represents all
that is good% Hudy represents an evil that is so permanent that :arry had declared him a lost cause and did not
adopt him along with 6exter. 6exter falls somewhere in the middle. =hile he is a killer% he is also a protective
father to :arrison% a caring brother to 6eb and an obedient son to :arry and 6orris Corgan. =e are constantly
given hope that 6exter might have some human left in him after all. $he alignment and allegiance to his
character arises out of the human tendencies that he begins to develop. :is growing affection for the people in
his lives% make him seem like less of a lost cause. -n a 0arcotics +nonymous meeting he reveals to the group%
. +ust know there*s something dark in me. . hide it. "ertainly don*t talk about it. 1ut it*s there. -lways. This 2
ark (assenger. 3ow when he*s driving, . feel 2 alive. 3alf-sick with the thrill, complete wrongness. . don*t
fight him. . don*t want to. 3e*s all .*ve got. 4othing else could love me, not even 2 especially not me. 0r is that
+ust a lie the ark (assenger tells me5 1ecause, lately, there are these moments that . feel connected to
something else. Someone. .t*s like 2 the mask is slipping, and things, people, that never mattered before, are
suddenly starting to matter. .t scares the hell out of me.
xix
$his is what makes him one of the most engaging characters a television show has had to offer in a long time.
=hat becomes of the definition for the word 4serial killer5D =ith exter, we see for the first time% perhaps a less
negative connotation to the meaning. -t even romantici@es to a certain extent% 6exter8s profession% both by day
and by night. -f we ever re9uired proof that there is not much by way of distance between a 4psychopath5 and a
4human being5% if we need to be reminded that serial killers are simply the worst manifestation of the human
condition% we must keep in mind that 6exter was borne out of the imagination of the author 'eff Gindsay and the
product of the environment we live in. 6exter is not an outcast% 6exter is all that we fear and loathe about the
evils of the human race. Fur subse9uent love for 6exter and our acceptance of his actions is perhaps a subtle
way of forgiving ourselves as a species. - would like to conclude accordingly with Hobert 3onrath who aptly
sums up the constant preoccupation with murder and serial killers% a preoccupation that seeps into our lives and
in media:
.f television is the social subconscious, a sort of serialised super-ego that reflects our hopelessly linear cultural
stasis, then the serial killer, who functions in the same mode of repetition, is the most logical, dysfunctional,
psychotic extreme of which we, seriali!ed victims, are capable.
xx
Asychopathic serial killers are ruthless executioners who stalk their prey and dispatch them% often by the most
sadistic means. $heir victims% by definition% number in the tens or% in extreme cases% even the hundreds. 6exter is
a stellar example of the psychopathic serial killer. Gike others of his ilk% he can be charming% insightful% and even
soft and gentle at times. .imilar to many killers with predatory inclinations% 6exter hides behind the respectable
coat of family and work. /ut in common with his psychopathic brethren% he delights in ritualistically dissecting
his victims and then keeping a trophy of his handiworkUin 6exter8s case a small glass slide of their blood.
6espite their commonalities% 6exter does not 9uite fit entirely into the serial killer species. :e is the Hobin :ood
of serial killers and is unlike some of the other villains in the show% motivated as they are by sexual thrills or
desires to brutally dominate other human beings. $he fictional psychopaths in the 6exter series have no
aspirations to wipe the evil-doers off the planet. 6exter alone is cannibalistic in his pursuits he kills his own kind
rather than seeking the marginali@ed or defenseless. $hese killers% who eventually ended up as 6exter8s own
victims% did not give a damn about the ideology of those they killedUonly about their victims8 physical
attributes and how those characteristics fulfilled their murderers8 dark and horrible fantasies.
/ook Heview: $he Asychology of 6exter by /ella 6eAaulo
6exter Corgan: Aolice forensic analyst. Eamily man. .erial killer. +nd the star of .howtime8s most-watched
series% 6exter.
+imed at 6exter devotees and armchair psychologists% $he Asychology of 6exter takes on the psychological
complexities of the popular series with an eye towards insight and accessibility. -t analy@es not ;ust the title
character% but his family% coworkers% and even his viewers. =hat makes 6exter tickD +nd what makes a show
about a serial killer so appealing to those of us at homeD
Erom the implications of faking normalcy (could it be behind 6exter8s still-in-progress emotional growthD) to
where the show weighs in on the psychological debate between nature and nurture% $he Asychology of 6exter
gives fans a peek inside 6exter8s psyche.
$his book is a collection of essays written by psychologists about the television show 46exter5% about a serial
killer who works is a blood spatter analyst for the Ciami Cetro police department. 46exter5 is one of my all-
time favorite shows% mainly because the main character is so complex. 6exter is a serial killer% but he8s also a
colleague% a family man% a devoted brother% a good son. /ut there8s this dark side to him% this desire to hurt and
kill% that could end up being his own undoing. $he show is very well-written% and the writers definitely know
their sub;ect matter. /ecause - love the show so much% - was intrigued to start this collection of essays.
Cost of them were very good% detailed% offering thorough explanations of why 6exter or his fellow characters do
certain things. ?ach essays provides its own mini-analysis% and sometimes even the experts don8t agree% which
shows psychology% in particular the psychology of psychopaths% or serial killers% or what can bring people to
become serial killers% isn8t all that easy.
- particularly en;oyed the essay talking about 6exter suffering from A$.6 during his childhood% and that most of
what :arry interprets as behavior typical for a serial killer is% in fact% behavior typical for a child suffering from
A$.6. ?ven though - have no psychology background except my brief course of law psychology at university% -
always believed that :arry was for the most part responsible for 6exter turning out the way he is. =hy 6exter
may have had all the ingredients of a serial killer% he also had all the ingredients for a traumatised child. /ut by
offering him a code% a way to let go of his anger S that was not healthy at all% killing people hardly ever is S
:arry turned 6exter into a serial killer. - felt like this essay in particular hit it spot on% but there were several
other essays that were also eye-opening% or had me nodding at every passage.
Cy ma;or pet peeveD $here8s a lot of repetition and redundancy that could8ve been avoided. $he authors use the
same hooks% sometimes practically the same sentences% and some psychological things are explained three% even
four times.
+nother intriguing essay explored why viewers are so entranced with 6exter Corgan% and some even see him as
a hero since he only kills 7the bad guys8. :ow can a serial killer become a heroD - en;oyed reading this essay%
although - already had plenty of thoughts about that myself% some of which were repeated here.
Fverall% this was a good read% and a must for fans of the show.