CBS is planning to use Dexter to fill the programming hole left by the writers’ strike. (Dexter is a Showtime series now in its second season.) The Parents Television Council thinks this is a bad idea, claiming CBS is driven by "corporate greed" and that Dexter turns a serial killer into a hero.
This is the sort of thing that gives the Right a bad name. Dexter is not a celebration of violence. It does not encourage us to admire a serial killer. Only a knucklehead or an opportunist would suppose otherwise.
Dexter offers an absorbing what-if study. What if, it asks, evil were domesticated for good. It tells the story of a young man who kills animals without remorse. His adoptive father, a policeman, understands that he has a choice: to turn his son in or put this pathology to a useful purpose. He chooses the latter course, effectively creating a "secret weapon" in the war on crime. His son is a monster who now kills monsters like himself. His pathology is now a thing of discipline and purpose used against pathologies that have no discipline or purpose.
So there is something sociologically interesting about Dexter. But it is also a chance for moral self scrutiny. We are startled to find ourselves empathizing with a man who has no idea what empathy feels like. We catch ourselves briefly rooting for a guy who is a monster, plain and simple. Dexter is not a celebration of violence, but a chance for us to contemplate it and our response to it. (The NBC’s series Life is a second opportunity of this kind.) (Have another look at the poster for the show [above]. I believe that’s what they mean by the phrase, "dead hand of competence.")
Somehow one feels contemplation is not a strong suit at the Parents Television Council. I wondered whether the people at Parents Television Council watch television. Do they actually have a television? Now that popular culture is our culture, and now that programs like Dexter and Life take on "big questions," it is time to treat the likes of Parents Television Council as they philistines they manifestly are.
Hibberd, James. 2007. Parents Television Council Denounces CBS’s ‘Dexter" Plan. Ad Age. December 5, 2007. here.