Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Dirty Deeds

And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones
Excitable boy, they all said

Well, he's just an excitable boy

--Excitable Boy
, Warren Zevon

We can't let you go. You're dangerous to us.

Don't fight it, Miles, it's no use.

Sooner or later, you'll have to go to sleep
--Invasion of the Body Snatchers

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create

And time for all the works of days and hands

--The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot

The world
needs a wake up call, gentlemen...
we're gonna phone it in

--They Live


"They Live" was a classic zombie movie about keeping people blinded to reality. It should be remembered for the vapid enthusiasm of the television commentator:

"The feeling is definitely there. It's a new morning in America... fresh, vital. The old cynicism is gone. We have faith in our leaders. We're optimistic as to what becomes of it all. It really boils down to our ability to accept. We don't need pessimism. There are no limits." Sound familiar? All of this, if you just keep the reality glasses off. Right-o.

Here's your pop culture fix, with a national security slant. Don't say Ranger doesn't try and raise the discourse level above that of the madding crowd.

Dexter is a new, slick series on commercial t.v. about the titular Dexter, who has the asocial affliction of being a serial killer. It is o.k. though, because he only kills other killers. He is an avenging serial killer. In these vigilant days, it is a simple and attractive premise.

Instead of buggering up the judicial system with his likes, he is employed as a Darwinially well-adapted fixture of society. Extending the fitness theory to the biological level, Dexter is a macrophage, an organismal garbage man. And of course, per Hollywood, Dexter is preternaturally good-looking, young, intelligent and engaging.

As childhood background, Dexter ends up in the care of a police detective who recognizes Dexter's proclivities and channels them into his current constructive homicidal behaviors, i.e., scouring the streets of killers. The youth is trained early on in the art of the kill.

Now, Dexter too works in the employ of the police as a crime scene blood-spatter expert, giving him the inside track on tips to facilitate his righteous serial killing. There is a not-so-subtle subtext that sometimes, the good guys (=police) must do some bad things to effect justice.

Torture under the aegis of government, anyone? John Yoo as script consultant?

However, one disconcerting aspect of Dexter's clearing of the dead-enders is that he takes glee in their destruction. Dexter stalks and kills in the name of justice, but he tortures them before their demise as a sociopath is wont to do. Reveling in murder and mayhem outside of the boardroom generally is not kosher. Typically, he dismembers the victim's bodies, disposing of the remainders in a shrink-wrapping.

Dexter's psychopathology is justified by the vendetta-like nature of his kills. Though attractive, Dexter is a sociopath, despite his self-deluded and convenient justifications. The program is symptomatic of a shifting morality in the U.S. viewing audience, and it occupies a key Sunday night viewing slot.

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) infects the media yet again. In effect, Dexter is following VP Cheney's injunction that to defeat terrorism, it is necessary to walk on the Dark Side (Don't do it, Luke.) The U.S. has now walked that dark side, so as embodied by this series, it is not a stretch to believe that good is the result of evil.

If the evil is directed at achieving their perverted interpretation of good, then evil has become a good. It is Neitzche's mad and arrogant transvaluation of values come home to roost. But the ubermensch doesn't much care.

For the simple mind inclined to see every battle as a Manichaean struggle, it is simplicity itself for good to employ evil to its own end. Ho, ho Silver and happy trails, to you. In this show, Dexter-cum-Cheney is a hero because he has fashioned a higher good out of dirty doings.

The father figure in Dexter is GHWB, former CIA director clearly versed in dark side etiquette. As on the show, he has taught his son how to sublimate his murderous impulses into acceptable channels. Terrorists and accused terrorists are bad, so you can torture, kidnap and kill them with impunity; in fact, with societal approval. Or at least, implicit approval. This is the era of don't ask, don't tell. Just don't get caught, for that is the cardinal sin.

Like Dexter, George W. Bush presents as a hale, well-met fellow, but underneath he is an unprincipled killer. Unlike Dexter, he tortures nations vs. individuals, per se.

The remaining characters also analogize nicely to the current paradigm. Dexter's sister is a fledgling homicide detective with an inkling of Dexter's after-hours romps. Her character equates to Condoleeza Rice: she is striving, hungry for acceptance and success, and will do anything legal to climb the career scaffold. But in her silence, she is the unwitting tool of Dexter in his murderous pursuits.

Dexter's girlfriend and her children reflect the U.S. population at large. She struggles to hold her family together as a single mother. Dexter hides his unsavory reality from her by presenting himself as a loving and caring individual. She buys into his persona as America has bought into Mr. Bush's version of reality.

Dexter and GBW are heartless, unfeeling murderers walking amongst us while pretending to be normal functioning beings. It is a vision of America straight out of a George Romero nightmare. We the viewers and we the voters have bought into the illusion of goodness.

How much longer will Americans play the dupe?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry it was way over my shallow head, but I do believe that the revolution will be on TV but everyone will be watching American the Stupid. This reminds me of the movie V. I hope we wake up soon but I don't think I'll live to see it and no I don't plan on dieing soon.
Everything is on schedule, please move along.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at 10:28:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

i don't believe this was over your head.It's all rather simple if you look at it closly. jim

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 9:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys said...

I have a friend who was a mad fan of this show...but I don't have Showtime. When it finally appeared on CBS, I saw about four episodes and was absolutely creeped out. Thank you for pinging out why in a way my own mind was squirming away from...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 11:06:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i number dexter among my guilty pleasures. knowing all of those things you pointed out, it is still good entertainment.

(oh look! another missing white girl! gotta go!)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 11:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Rick98C said...

Between Dexter and 24 they've got it all pretty much covered.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 11:13:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Yes, 24 and Dexter--a complete diet for a comfortably numb nation.

Throw in a side of "Lost," so you don't feel so, um, lost, and "Survivor," so you can feel your life is pretty good in comparison. . .

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 1:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

This point you make bothered me until i came up with the construct for this blog. Like MB i find it entertaining and likeable which is exactly my point. I can guess why both MB and myself like it but i won't bore you with details. jim

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 5:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Publius said...

Damn! Yet another reason to frequent the old ranger's site. TV reviews! Man, I'd never even heard of this program, but now it's on my list of "Must See (Not) TV." Reason: I might like it too much. And Puritan that I am, I deny myself guilty pleasures.

Actually, Jim, I think you've put your figure on the inexplicable (to me) popularity that George Bush has for a certain segment of our population. If you look at our history, you'll see how Americans have always been attracted by the vigilante, the lone wolf out there dispensing justice without recourse to such things as "laws" administered by effete men who don't stand tall. Real men don't need no stinkin' laws.

Of course, the reality that GWB and most of his henchmen are sniveling cowards who'd blanch at the sight of blood is beside the point. Once the story line gets locked in, nothing else matters.

George Bush as John Wayne. Or, "Shane, Shane, come back. Shane, come back." Yeah, that's the ticket.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 10:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

hello publius,

Think of us as your TV Guide for the gun-toting set.

We haven't lost the frontier mindset, though that line is usually dictated by the OnStar system in the bad boy's (or girl's) SUV. It is why guys like Malcolm Forbes could suit up in leather and ride their iron ponies and not seem farcical.

Can roping steers get into a nation's collective mindset? Is that heritable? You say you cleave to the Puritan and "deny [yourself] guilty pleasures." So like Adam Ant asks, if not Dexter, what do you do to exorcise your love of things vigilante?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 11:26:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

sorry publius--only I would ask such invasive questions! (Forgot to sign in under my own name.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 11:27:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

this is not my first tv review.we did a few on the Unit.Although i never watched 24 we also have commented on it.
America is living out High Noon with gwb as the marshall.
Dexter actually is disturbing in it's premise and popularity. jim

Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 9:17:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Rick98C said...

You should check out 24... it's more in your face than Dexter. I admit I have only seen bits of it because it sickens me, but I've read many a review.

Bottom line is that it keeps pushing the idea that torture, while abhorrent, is necessary.

Goebbels never even dreamt of stuff like this.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 9:25:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Rick, i can't watch 24 b/c i don't have cable or direct tv or whatever. i don't even have long distance service on my phone.nor a cell phone. i use the public library computer.in short i'm not a 21st century man.
i get 3 channels on rabbit ears and they are snowy but i watch dexter anyway.
thanks for your guidance and participation. jim

Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 9:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys said...

Lisa & Jim: Oh, I see the entertainment value; I think what squicked me on even that was the fact that Dexter himself sees it all as a kind of "game"...specially played against the "Ice Truck Killer" whom he refers to as a "friend." (My personal bet--that doctor his sister is seeing is the killer!) I don't watch "24" or "Lost" either and hate "reality shows" with a rare passion, Lisa, lol. I have enough real reality, thanks.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 10:49:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


"Goebbels never even dreamt of stuff like this." A profound statement. And all done under the guise of being a good.

When people check their brains at the door, they don't have to feel that "icky" feeling labrys speaks of.


It feels icky when Dexter when calls people "friend" b/c he really means it, but in his pathological terms. Like the old Loony Tunes: "Come here Tweety Bird; I'm a NICE puddy tat." I like you, b/c I want to eat you.

Friends are things to be exploited. nationally this plays out as our attempts to exploit the Iraqis, and vice versa. Very pathological.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 11:01:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Publius said...

"You say you cleave to the Puritan and "deny [yourself] guilty pleasures." So like Adam Ant asks, if not Dexter, what do you do to exorcise your love of things vigilante?"

Good question, Lisa. I'm certainly no Puritan, but I do fancy myself somewhat of a child of the Enlightenment. Just seems to me there are some things that adults with my background and education do not do. I was taught from an early age to resist succumbing to easy indulgence; it's a constant battle between the easy wrong and the hard right. There are tons of philosophical texts addressing this very subject. And, no, before you ask, I'm not religious at all.

Actually, when I spoke of love of things vigilante, I was speaking in the collective cultural sense. I personally don't have much love for that sort of thing, especially when it comes to real-world as opposed to play acting. But when I do feel a need to exorcise demons, sometimes I venture onto someone's blog site and just type, type, type, getting it all out. And I play golf and work out sometimes. And I drive my 560SL way too fast. And I drink and smoke cigars. The trick to me is to avoid doing things that infringe on others.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 8:23:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thank you, Publius. Now I know you a little better. Like me, you would find watching this drivel an assault to your intelligence. You are too politic to say it, but I am not. To me, religion clashes with Enlightenment ideas, and the latter is more, well, enlightened.

Vigilantism holds no fascination for me, either. It is the perpetuation of negative energy, something everyone can ill-afford. It is good you write, because what you have to share is important. Even if it weren't, writing is the healthiest of outlets, I think. Plus exercise, which I must do more of.

The prime directive is to not infringe upon others, as you say. From there, one can ascend to assist, etc. But first, do no harm.

Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 10:55:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there!

I have to say, I have watched Dexter several times but I never put this much thought in to it.

I did take Lector's side on things in the Jody Foster movie, so I do kind of see Dexter's point of view BUT the comparison between him and Dickie is weak in my mind.

Unlike Dickie, Dexter knows he's a sick ass individual. Unlike Dickie, Dexter knows he will be caught and punished.

Maybe one simularity would be that Dexter is humored by the fact that none of the dummies around him can see his nature. I'm sure that Dickie chuckles daily at the stupidity of the sheep around him.

Furthermore, I think Dexter will revel in his own demise just as much he revels in his victim's demise.

So, while they may be similar I don't agree with you Jim, Dexter and Dickie are miles apart. Sorry.

But here's a question for you: Which is worse? - telling some ass to drop dead or telling them to frickin kill themselves? Try the later and find out....you'll be amazed. Hmmmm.... I love America - we're so morally superior!


Karen/Antique Lady

Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 2:32:00 PM GMT-5  

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