Author Jeff Lindsay Discusses Why Is Dexter So Popular

Via Dexter Morgan is the most sympathetic serial killer since Norman Bates, and the star of a Showtime TV show, series of novels and forthcoming Marvel comic book series. CBM's Ed Gross sits down with his creator, Jeff Lindsay, to explore why Dex is so damn lovable.

I have to ask something about this whole Dexter thing lately – do you suddenly find yourself on the defensive, that people are taking this whole thing too seriously and blaming the character for too many real-world incidents?
Jeff Lindsay: From the very beginning, one of the questions we got from reporters was, “Whatabout all the terrible feedback?”, but there hasn’t been any. There have been a couple of people, mostly in the lunatic groups. There’s one group in Kentucky that has, like, 11 members and a fax machine, whose name is at the bottom of every petition that asks, “Is Dexter the tool of the Devil, stealing your children’s souls and dragging them into alleys and making them drug addicts and killers?” I’m sorry, but these people need parenting help, not veto control over TV and books. Read the full interview after the jump...

I also wonder as I look at Dexter – you've got book #6 out, the 6th season of the TV show just ended, a game online, you're doing a comic book – does it ever feel like the whole thing is growing TOO big? Years ago I interviewed Robert Bloch and asked him his feelings about all his novel Psycho had inspired. He responded that he doubts Mary Shelley ever envisioned Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.
I never expected it and that's the truth, so it surprise me daily. You know, my agent keeps calling me daily and saying, it's an icon now, it's a cultural icon now, it's iconic – it was an answer on Jeopardy, Nancy Grace used Dexter to tease a headlining story – a Dexter moment. My comparison, rather than to Mary Shelley, because I'm so butch, I think of myself as Edgar Rice Burroughs, and you can go all over the world and anywhere, any language, any continent, and say “Tarzan,” and someone will do the Tarzan “yell.” And if you said to those say people, “Edgar Rice Burroughs,” they say, “What?” Well he's the guy who invented Tarzan, among other things, but no one knows that – Tarzan got bigger than him. Dexter has, too, and whether it's good or bad or indifferent, it's not really for me to say. It's out there now. You know, I think my overwhelming reaction is still surprise – I had no idea it would go this way. I originally thought, “This is a cool idea for a book, no one will read it,” and that was it. Who would really want to read more about a sympathetic serial killer? What a dumb idea.

It's strange that a serial killer could endear himself to people in a sympathetic way.
It is, and in retrospect, I can come up with a lot of really cool, intellectual reasons why it happened, but at the time, I was amazed and maybe a little bit appalled –like, what's wrong with people?

Okay, let’s put this in your hands. Why is Dexter so popular?
There's a couple of reasons – and I think the main one is we all have a “list.” And when I say this in front of a crowd, they're like, “Oh come on," and say, “M’am, did you drive to work this morning? And how about you, sir, did you take the subway, did someone cut in line, step on your toe, smoke where they aren't supposed to?” So everybody has the list. My brother just had something in his work situation, where if he had been Dexter there would be a new body, but we're not Dexter. None of us are. For the most part we take a deep breath and stack the boxes, but it's really nice to think of someone who does have a list and takes care of things. With the Casey Anthony thing, which at first I was upset about – not the trial, I mean about the reaction – a couple of those things went viral. You know, let Dexter take care of Casey – it was huge – and that's what people like about it. It's having the bully on your side to finish your battles for you. People love that. If someone bothers you, you can say that's all right, Dexter will take care of this, and the people like that.

So there’s an element of wish-fulfillment there.
Right, and we’re also fascinated by storytelling. What’s the beginning of storytelling? “You guys won't believe what happened to me, I was stalking this Mastodon, when a Saber Tooth Tiger jumped out of tree, missed me by two inches, I go running, what do I see, a wild boar with rabies chasing me all the way” – that's story telling. Well, OK we don't have Mastodons and so on now; we've outgrown all of those other creatures in the dark and now we've got a new one – a serial killer. It's the thing that goes ooga booga and jumps out at you.

Look for more from Jeff Lindsay soon.

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  1. Dexter is so popular because he connects with real people.
    - We all have secrets that we dont want people to know
    - Some of us are more guarded than others, especially around work when snoopy co-workers come along and want to know everything about your personal business
    - the stress/anxiety (of not only being a serial killer), but trying to juggle family, work, children and keeping those people happy..being pulled thin for this and that.
    It really is someone (other than the serial killing) we can all relate too. RC

  2. Exactly 3:33

    I am sure we all feel like we are aliens, that we don't fit in with other people.

    We all have our DP's too... those things, that if we can't get under control, will kill us. Whether it is alcoholism, drug abuse, anger, sexual addictions, overeating - whatever.

    Dexter is so powerful, in fact, because it is so over the top, and so "not realistic" that the metaphor is universal for everyone. When you try to make a show realistic, it becomes too personalized, whereas a fantastic or absurd show can speak to everyone. Catcher in the Rye may be critically acclaimed as one of the greatest novel of all time, but it's too personal and it will never be as influential on society as Lord of the Rings. The same goes for Citizen Kane vs Star Wars, or any other applicable scenarios. Mythology just has more power than reality. This is the reason people turn to religion for aid.

    I think of shows that attempt to be realistic as "personal dreams" individual experiences told in a story. Even non-fiction it works out to be the same. But non-fiction can also become myth! King Henry, Washington, et.

    "Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the particular troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth, the problems and solutions are directly valid for all mankind." Joseph Campbell... The Hero of a Thousand Faces.

  3. Something's wrong up in your head MR. D E X ... ♥

  4. An obvious question they should have asked him was what's his opinion on the incest storyline in the tv series.

    Does Jeff Lindsay have Facebook or Twitter? Someone should ask & post a screencap if you get a response.

  5. Anon at 7:13

    He wouldn't give an opinion like that. Remember, his Deb and Dex are way different from the show, but yea... even in the books there is some odd stuff from time to time. In book five Dexter is drugged and has relations with a college girl while fantasizing about Deb.

  6. i personally find dexter interesting because like he, i lack some understanding of being socially "correct".
    we all wear masks. dexter's mask is obvious as we know who he really is. he is not unrealistic. i would say he is too realistic actually.
    deep inside we all understand that what he does is in some way normal because he saves lives. remember superheroes like batman, spiderman, elektra, and so on. they fight with evil not in a budda-style, you know. tyhey save their closest ones before they are hurt. and quite often a superhero starts being a superhero after a death of someone close to him.
    dexter is modern superhero is some way. as batman he has no superpowers but he does kill his enemies. of corse he also kills good people sometimes but imagine - batman kills someone who works for villain for money to help his family, that person isn't a typical evil, he is a worker.

    so we love dexter because he is realistic superhero.
    ok, it must be i am the only one who sees it like that but what is evil and what is good - there is no strict line between that.

  7. 11:38

    I am sorry, but nothing about the show is remotely realistic. Not the psychology (Meaning once you go through trauma, you will automatically "kill" even if people raise you right). Not the magic clown bag with his two tons of plastic shrink wrap. Not his ability to teleport through Miami traffic, or sneak around invisible, or make bodies ride the gulf stream to nowhere, or knock people out with M99 in 2 seconds, or not kill at least 20% of the people he drugs with the M99.

    Come on... you got the superhero/comic book thing right. The realism just isn't there though.

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