In my unending (and possibly futile) quest to keep up with conversation around the office water cooler I’ve been catching up on the last few seasons of Dexter on DVD. I confess to being entertained. For the most part it comes across to me as an expertly-done black comedy, even if I find the flashback scenes to Dexter’s early childhood one of the most depressing things I’ve seen on a screen this side of Grave of the Fireflies.
And, just the other night, I got an ErogBloggable joke out of my viewing.
For those of you who don’t know the premise, Dexter is built around the adventures of an anti-hero, Dexter Morgan. Dexter is traumatized in early childhood by witnessing a horrific crime, and grows up to become a sociopath. He’s an unusual sociopath, though, because his adoptive father, a Miami police officer, recognizes Dexter’s sociopathy and successfully channels it by imbuing Dexter with a “Code,” a set of behavioral norms that permit Dexter to kill, but only other killers.
So Dexter ends up working as a forensic scientist for the Metro Miami Police Department, while at the same time functioning as a serial killer. It’s a complicated life, but for the most part Dexter successfully manages to deflect suspicion from himself by adopting a normal, nice-guy persona.
Except that not everyone is fooled. Dexter has an on-the-job enemy in one Sergeant James Doakes, a profoundly troubled soul but also the only cop in Miami who suspects that Dexter is Up To No Good. And this conflict sets up my bloggable moment.
The relevant piece of script I’ve transcribed as follows (I have omitted one line of dialog and made one description sort of vague to avoid spoilers):
INT. DEXTER'S LABORATORY - DAY DEXTER is viewing his computer screen. DEXTER (V.O.) I'll be okay. I followed the code. The stalk was good. [Dialog line omitted to avoid spoiler.] Or maybe I took pity on my victim. CLOSE-UP: DEXTER'S COMPUTER SCREEN Shots of one of Dexter's would-be victims. DEXTER (V.O.) I mean sure he's a heinous killer, but he also bumps into walls. BACK TO SCENE Sergeant DOAKES enters the laboratory. As he does so, Dexter hastily changes the view on his computer screen to a topless blond woman. DEXTER Hey, sergeant. (snaps his fingers) Thanks for supporting the bowling team. DOAKES Fuck you. Where's my blood report on the Maynard victim? Dexter hands Doakes a folder containing a report, which Doakes then leafs through. DOAKES (glancing at Dexter's screen) So what's that, a titty site? DEXTER Oops. Caught me. DOAKES Bullshit. What the hell were you were you really doing in here? DEXTER (pointing at the screen with two fingers) The tits are right there. DOAKES Yeah. But in ten years you've never rented a single porn title. DEXTER Huh. (smiles, turns to face Doakes) How would you know? Call me an office crazy but your humbling interest in my personal life could be misinterpreted as harassment in some circles. DOAKES So report me. Doakes starts to leave. DEXTER (V.O.) I could think of easier solutions. DOAKES (while leaving) Nice tits. Doakes leaves, closing the door behind himself.
Now of course Doakes’s line about Dexter’s viewing habits or rather lack thereof has an obvious surface meaning: “I know you don’t look at porn, so I know you’re up to no good in here,” and also serves to reveal something about Doakes’s character, namely his doggedness in trying to figure out Dexter.
But as I saw this I read a second layer of meaning under Doakes’s comment, to the effect that in today’s day and age, it is your not being interested in porn that is evidence of your being a dangerous creep. An intriguing comment about the mores of today that the writers might slide this in as a joke, and expect the audience to get it!