Preface: Again this is one of those blogs, where if you haven’t seen Season 1 of Dexter, you really shouldn’t read this anyway. I mean you should… but only AFTER you watch Season 1.
Seriously, go away. Go watch it right now. And then you can earn the right to read this blog.
I mean, I really tried to word this so I wouldn’t give anything away, but you never know…
Okay, here goes…
Last week, I finished reading Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. This is Book One from the book series upon which the television show was based. The book was well-written, but I much prefer the television show. I felt like the television show had more leeway to breathe and develop interesting character arcs. It really capitalized on the emotional and dramatic potential of the book. The show goes places the book doesn’t.
Thanks to Jonathan’s blog entry on The Dark Knight and Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic rivalry as well as Jeanne’s astute observations during TDK, I realized that this could possibly be yet another example of mimetic rivalry woven all throughout Dexter, although perhaps on a microcosmic and not a macrocosmic scale, the way it seems to be in Dark Knight.
“Mimesis” means, quite simply, “imitation.” Girard’s theory is that rivalry develops when we mimic or imitate other people’s desires. Like Jonathan summarized, “This naturally creates ever-building conflicts (which he calls scandals), and these scandals mount and mount until a moment when there is so much intrasocietal tension that people come to the verge of the “war of all-against-all”, since the only logical conclusion of “mimetic rivalry” is murder.”
Dexter is fascinated by the work of the mysterious Ice Truck Killer (whom I’ve affectionately dubbed “Icey”… Yes, I’ve affectionately dubbed a serial killer. Pray for my soul). Dexter admires Icey and is enthralled by the possibility of someone just like him out there, an elegant, more refined, “playful” and daring version of overly-cautious self. In a sense, Icey also is fascinated by Dexter. I found it interesting that in the book, Icey is described as actually looking exactly like Dexter. There’s definitely a theme of dualistic rivalry throughout, although not quite of the epic proportions in TDK. Both Icey and Dex desire the same “object,” which is to find validation for their twisted nature. The desire to be “free” to embrace their true selves.
I don’t think the rest of Girard’s theory perfectly meshes with Dexter, but it certainly is interesting to think of how their mirrored desires makes them enemies in the end, rather than allies. They are the same, whereas one has a code and the other one doesn’t. Like the Joker, Icey sees Dexter as bound by the rules of society. In the jail scene, Joker tells Batman that he doesn’t need to live by the code or the rules he’s made for himself and that he shouldn’t have rules. Joker also tells Batman that they are alike and that Batman is not like the cops and shouldn’t talk like them. In a way, Joker and Batman have more in common that Bman would like to admit. But the thing that separates them is the code.
Same as in Dexter.
Anyway, reading the book made me want to rewatch the last couple episodes of Season 1 and I found myself having way more sympathy for Icey this time around. I think the first time I watched it, I was so disturbed and disconcerted by his kidnapping of Deb (which, granted, is call to be disturbed and disconcerted) but I feel like I kind of missed the other narrative thread running through the story…
…Which was this idea that Icey and Dex found both identity and isolation in their roles as serial killers. Icey was only being “playful” with Dex in the way he was kind of “courting” him throughout Season 1. But it was the only kind of playful that can possibly exist for a 4 year old boy, traumatized by seeing someone slaughtered before his eyes and carrying the bloodbath around with him for the rest of his life.
I think it was interesting because as twisted and distorted as this might seem from our perspective, Icey’s desire to be validated by Dex (and vice versa) is really not any different than the fundamental human desire: which is to be seen and known as we truly are and not rejected. And more than that… to embrace who we really are in light of that acceptance.
Some might call experiencing that sort of relationship “love” although I don’t know if love as we understand it necessarily translates into serial killer lingo.
But in the end, that’s all that Icey wanted. That’s all Dex wanted.
So yeah… definitely felt more sympathy for Icey this time around. Weird.