Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Delight that is Dexter

I know it's wrong, because it is the worst kind of stereotyping, but we do 'create' the author of any text in our head as we consume the text. A cartoon is a text, like any other, and when we read a cartoon we create an author for ourselves who is not the empirical author, but the person we think would be the perfect author of the cartoon. In this way, people imagine the cartoonist behind The Adams Family, Charles Addams, to look as creepy as his creations and maybe even to have a Lurch-like voice.

Okay, so maybe Charles Addams could look a little as we imagined, bad analogy. Anyway, what I tend to do is completely stereotype people by what they read, or don't read (I apply the literary theory of unwitting testimony to people as though they are texts), what they watch or don't watch, and what they find funny or don't find funny. I think this form of prejudice is fairly universal and that came home to me when Woody Allen's character Alvy Singer stereotyped his girlfriend, Allison Portchnik (who, incidentally was played by Carol Kane who played Granny in The Addams Family Reunion, phew, la-di-da), within seconds of meeting her. And speaking of Annie Hall and Woody Allen, that's another litmus test.

So, I read The Guardian, and I hate it. I read The New Yorker, and it irritates me. I read Playboy, for the cartoons and the articles. I like graphic novels, literary criticism, fiction, and comics. I like some comic strips, including Tintin and I'm a fan of Line-Clear cartoons, Manga, and Anime. I watch Ugly Betty, CSI, Six Feet Under, King of the Hill, Newsnight Review, Desperate Housewives, etc. I have French movies like Diva and Death in a French Garden in my collection of DVDs, along with Dutch and German films and none of these are dubbed. I have all Woody Allen and the Coen brothers movies. I think I'm a real clever clogs. But here is the really disturbing thing, I look at a funny cartoon, or better yet a funny and clever cartoon, and I picture, well, I think I always picture me. My ideal cartoonist, much like the one in the Hap Kliban cartoon with groupies and things, appears to be myself. Even when the cartoon is drawn by a woman, she is a sort of mirror-image of me, in my mind at least.

So, the latest thing all the 'me's'' (this could be mes' - which looks odd) out there have to like to be in my me club of ideal 'me's', is Dexter. Dexter has finally aired here, in the UK, on FX, and it is a delight. It is in its second week and no doubt just like Sex in the City, Six Feet Under and Desperate Housewives (all of which we love) it will be hated, until it is hugely popular, by the stupid British TV critics.

Dexter is the perfect ant-hero, a serial killer who takes out bad guys, and works as a sort of CSI. Like Rumpole of the Bailey, Dexter is an expert in matters of the blood, but then Rumpole never kept his own slide collection of trophy samples at home.

Now, I have to confess to whizzing ahead and watching the entire first series, and it is a complete delight from beginning to end - a hugely guilty, visceral, pleasure, Dexter is television at its best. The show is a Showtime original starring Michael C. Hall (from Six Feet Under) as Dexter Morgan, who works as a forensics analyst specializing in bloodstain pattern analysis for the Miami Police Department, and who is also a serial killer.

Much like I can be hooked on a comic by the covers, like Dave McKean's covers for Neil Gaimen's The Sandman, I was instantly hooked on Dexter right from the opening credits. There is a poetic beauty to the opening credits of Dexter, where the simple innocuous tasks of shaving, cooking bacon and eggs and dressing are given an air of menace because we know what Dexter is capable of, it is like a Dance Macabre and symbolizes the tension that runs throughout the show as Dexter assumes his many masks of normality. I could not, not watch.

Dexter is based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, which all of you 'me's' now have to read to stay in my club, and I was delighted to hear that the second season of Dexter is set to premiere in the US on September 30th this year - not that there could ever have been any doubt that another season would be shot.

If you don't like Dexter, along with everything else that makes you me; then you are out of the ideal me club.

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