On Dexter

Rethinking Dexter

By Lisa Firestone

In season one, Dexter entered therapy with the purpose of getting close to a homicidal psychologist. When a fellow patient asked him how he liked therapy, Dexter candidly replied, “I’m a sociopath; there’s not much he can do for me” (“Shrink Wrap,” 1-8). Although he was half kidding, the statement is indicative of what Dexter truly believes about himself. He is convinced that there is no way he can stop his violent urges, and why shouldn’t he be? However, there are two problems with Dexter’s assumption that he is an incurable psychopath. First, while he exhibits certain destructive characteristics in line with psychopathology, Dexter also exhibits traits that argue strongly against a psychopathic diagnosis. Second, even if Dexter is a psychopath, it is a common misconception that this diagnosis is untreatable. Despite his insistence that “there’s not much he can do for me,” I believe Dexter Morgan has been far too hasty in diagnosing himself as a lost cause.

The Misdiagnosis

At first glance many of Dexter’s personality traits could be interpreted to be in keeping with a diagnosis of psychopathy. Psychopathic traits are evident in his lack of empathy, his glib and superficial charm, and his emotional disregard for his victims. However, Dexter’s other diagnosable symptoms, such as social awkwardness in intimate relationships and a lack of sex drive, diverge from the picture of a classic psychopath who is casual and calloused in personal and romantic relationships and quite often promiscuous. Where the typical  …

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