The police drama has long been one of television’s greatest staples. Each week, they present us with difficult morality tales where the rule of law and modern ethics ultimately triumph. This process of educating the public is incredibly important, especially at a time when it’s getting harder and harder to engage in national discourses on the consequences of living in a society without faith. Yet one show has conspired to recklessly corrupt this vital learning process.
“Dexter,” a program running on cable’s Showtime network, has become very popular due its fast-paced action and graphic violence. The central character is named Dexter Morgan and he serves on the police force in the tumultuous and ethnically diverse city of Miami, Florida. The storylines here follow the arc of many others of the same ilk with one incredible exception: Dexter is a serial killer.
A serial killing police officer? Of course, that premise makes no sense. The show itself is a mess of unbelievable plotlines, blood-drenched footage, illegal activities and unnecessary nudity. The main actor is gruff and scroungey, a sort of “hipster” version of Law & Order’s Lenny Briscoe. When he’s not dispensing dry one-liners, he’s parading around the clubs and beaches of Miami with a self-satisfied, facetious grin. He always knows more than everyone else (since no one is aware that he’s really a serial killer) and this knowledge gives him a maddeningly pompous attitude. Most mature viewers would surely be turned off by such arrogance, but the young and trend-driven of this country have flocked to Dexter in droves. Possibly, they see him as a mirror of their own conceited and immoral psyches. He is there big and bare-chested on their tv screens giving a seal of approval to America’s youth as they cruise dark streets in the dead of night for some outlet for their terrible urges. Many children today will follow this man down his moral dead ends, desperate as they are for a slap in the face, a kick to the groin just to feel one little jolt of life. That is how vacant our young people have become for they have forsaken the deep moving passion that comes with faith, with having a sacred and personal relationship with the Creator of this world.
What a terribly pathetic end for a tradition that has meant so much to so many. You need only think of the humanity shown by our Kojaks and Columbos of yesteryear. They were fallibly human, after all, yet still woke up every morning to punch the clock and solve crimes. The police drama has even served as a mimeograph of the most dramatic changes in our culture– with Barney Miller, Hawaii 5-0 and Cagney & Lacey escorting the upheaval and integration of society safely into our living rooms. In recent times, Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue taught us the perils of the modern urban environment, a jungle so dark and violent that the idea of masculinity itself became a vital essence of these shows. This premise of virility is incredibly important because we forget the sexes are different. Men are physically abler than women and brute strength befits the male role as protector and leader. Sadly, the current crop of crime series has maliciously skirted this issue. We have female investigators starring on Bones and The Closer, uptight effeminates on Monk and The Mentalist, and those who mock moral authority on NCIS and Fringe.
Of all the police dramas on television today, there is only one man who can stand up to the tyranny of Dexter Morgan’s conceits. Oddly enough, he is another Miami investigator– David Caruso of CSI: Miami. Caruso exhibits an unbreakable strength in the face of relentless perversion. Deep and contemplative, he has the voice of a man who has genuinely seen it all in life. Whereas Dexter has fastidiousness about his home and workspace, Caruso has no femininity in him. He is solid and well built, consistent and dominant. No subordinate ever gets the better of Lieutenant Horatio Caine and they all know better than to try. On the other hand, the hipster Dexter stumbles through love affairs with domineering women, becomes flustered when someone touches his computer and always fails to stand up like a man when a public situation demands it. Rather, this smooth-chested transgressor prefers to operate in secret, stealing away in the middle of the night and lurking in warehouses like a common sex criminal. From a sunny balcony or a glistening beach, such pretense would most likely bemuse our favorite CSI star. With the slightest tilt of his head and a reflection in his impenetrable sunglasses, one can just imagine Horatio Caine summing up the ultimate failure of Dexter as a character, as a police officer and even as a man with a single, brilliant sentence.