On Dexter

The Angels on His Shoulder

By Jeremy Clyman

Dexter is a likable serial-killer of killers. This is a statement of the obvious. But let’s not let this single characteristic–the tendency to kill–dictate our view of his entire identity. Just for a moment, suspend this rather startling, perhaps horrific point, as it distorts our view of who he truly is and what he truly wants. Suspending judgment helps us to realize that the true function of Dexter’s midnight murders is to assert an excessive need for control on his surroundings. He kills because he doesn’t want the family of a killer’s next victim to endure the trauma and loss he suffered as a child. And this relentless cycle of death is driven by an equally relentless search for identity. Questions of identity are often lurking behind the expression of excessive needs. In other words, Dexter feels such a strong desire to control his outer world (bringing justice to murderers) because it helps to appease the sense of inner chaos he feels over not knowing who he is.

Dexter is in his early thirties and yet he is a blank slate when it comes to answering the question “Who am I?” More than enough psychological studies indicate that the answer to this question involves other people, namely significant attachment figures (a.k.a., friends and family). Identity is more a reflection than anything else. Who we think we are is significantly informed by the feedback we receive from others.

Thus, to a degree, the evolution of Dexter’s identity is in the hands of those  …

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