Misogyny and Parenthood in 810: “Goodbye Miami” & 811: “Monkey in a Box”

Deb Pool Blood

Debra decides to return to Miami Metro just as Quinn decides to dump Jamie. Dexter’s control over his life and the people in it continues to evade him. Just when he is able to pack his bags and leave for Argentina with Hannah and his son, he discovers that his need to kill does not outweigh his need to be with Hannah, thus allowing Daniel Vogel the opportunity to shoot Deb and Deputy Marshal Clayton.

Mornings with Mum: Why Breakfast Is No Substitute for Parenthood

Though Thomas C. Foster in How to Read Literature like a Professor proclaims that “in the real world, breaking bread together is an act of sharing and peace” (7), communion in Dexter always leads to chaos. Daniel (alias Oliver Saxon) responds no more favorably to Evelyn Vogel’s desperate attempt to reconnect with him over breakfast than Rita does to her ex-husband, Paul Bennett, when he brings donuts to Astor and Cody. They each seem to be offering peace; however, donuts and coffee in each case are mere band-aids to the real  issue. Dexter can even be incorporated in this conversation, for he, too, uses pancakes to appease Harrison and his imaginary elephant friend. These parents offer the most basic form of human sustenance to their children in hopes of reestablishing or reinforcing a pre-existing implicit promise of protection and reliability with their children. While Cody, Harrison, and Astor (to a lesser degree) fall prey to this tactic, Daniel scoffs in his mother’s face when he claims that making breakfast for him makes her feel like his mother again, for she “gave up that privilege a long time ago.”

Vogel Dead

Other instances of communion, like Dexter and Deb’s ritual of steak and beer as well as Hannah McKay’s assumed role as household chef at Deb’s, suggest troubling implications for each of Dexter’s relationships. Perhaps his relationship with Debra all along has merely been a front for survival: without steaks and beer, Dexter would die. Similarly, Hannah has turned to food as her modus operandi to survive through others’ deaths. Just as Dexter has used his box of crullers to win over the shallow hearts of Miami Metro, each of these instances are false peace offerings that either lure in potential victims or serve to assemble a believable facsimile of genuine relationships to further their malignant agendas.

Dr. Vogel’s initial breakfast with her son failed to appease, which, if successfully carried out, would have secured her life; her final evening tea was also an orchestration to win back his trust, but unfortunately, she has forgotten who her son essentially is. Because Daniel is no six- or eight-year-old child, her crumpets cannot erase the emotional or psychological damage inflicted upon her son. She fails to act with extreme caution around her son,  who understands, perhaps more than his own award-winning neuropsychiatrist mother, that any act of communion is a trap. Though Vogel is a “psychopath whisperer” who knows better than to appear vulnerable before one, she is still subject to Daniel’s subconscious scanning of her microexpressions, which Kevin Dutton posits is an innate trait of psychopaths (Hall). No act of communion, whether genuine or fabricated, may be processed without sensing Vogel’s indelible fear of her formidable son.

Mommy Issues, Misogyny, and the Perplexing Psychology of Dexter and Daniel Vogel

Even if Daniel were not a psychopath, Evelyn is foolish to think that a meal would repair the deep hurt inflicted upon Daniel  in locking him away and then subsequently embracing Dexter for the very things for which he was shunned. Surprisingly, Vogel’s psychopathic son is not a cut-and-dry serial killer either. We learn that Daniel was compelled to his surgical killings because his mother emotionally neglected him.

An interesting trend that has emerged these last few seasons is the emergence of serial killers and psychopaths who are not afflicted according to the textbook definition of their condition. From Brother Sam, who reformed his ways and found strength through faith, to Dexter, who has evolved over the course of these past eight seasons, we have gotten several perspectives on the so-called infamous psychopath. If anything, we have learned that the condition of psychopathy is a spectrum, a fact confirmed by psychologist Dr. Kevin Dutton (Hall). However, the one trait that has remained consistent among our smorgasbord of psychopaths has been childhood trauma and/or strained relationships with one’s mother. While Daniel Vogel, Arthur Mitchell (Trinity), Ray Speltzer, Brian Moser, Dexter, and (more recently) AJ Yates are the more notable psychopaths with “Mommy issues,” Dexter does not overtly display misogynistic traits like his colleagues.

Foot Fetish

Dexter’s most notable relationship, regardless of sex, is with his sister, Debra. While we would like to ignore some of Dexter’s behavior toward this beloved character, let’s review some of our eponymous anti-hero’s least attractive behaviors:

  • Dexter’s harsh critique Deb’s dexterous profile (pun intended) of the Ice-Truck Killer in favor of his own intentions, thus destroying her first chance at rising in the field
  • Misleading his sister, and thus Miami Metro (and vice versa later on), in efforts to save the “big fish” for his table, which renders countless hours of Deb’s time futile
  • His general insensitivity toward Deb’s work ethic and innate sense of justice
  • His split-second decision to manipulate her into helping  him cover up Travis Marshall’s murder at the church, having little concern for the emotional repercussions of such a cumbersome favor
  • Taunting his sister to arrest him upon discovering his truth when he was one hundred per-cent certain that she could never bring herself to actually arrest him, despite her sense of justice and  morality
  • Capitalizing upon her profound attachment to him to throw Maria LaGuerta off of his track in the climax of season 7, thus forcing her to jeopardize not only her career, but her life
  • His imposition of housing  Hannah McKay, a wanted fugitive, in her home, despite the threat it posed to her life and career (once again)

Dexter has significantly interfered with Debra’s career and life under the mantra “the less she knows, the  better;” however, when we remove his actions from our complicated feelings regarding their relationship, this is a fairly misogynist sentiment. The degrading and subjugation of women in any case must, at the very least, be subject to speculation of intention. Let’s not forget that Dexter’s very first kill was a woman: the nurse who was sedating Harry to death before his eventual suicide.

Hug

The way in which Dexter handled Hannah’s presence in season 7 adds to my building suspicion of the series’ lurking misogyny. Dexter’s projection of Harry incessantly warned Dexter against associating himself with Hannah, the thought-consuming succubus. Even Debra, a fellow woman, warned Dexter against this femme fatale, who he eventually dealt with by crossing her and having her thrown in jail for his own safety when she was no longer convenient in the grand scheme of juggling all of his commitments. Though Hannah was not nearly as unstable as Lila West (alias Lila Tournay) of season 2 was until the end of season 7, she was yet another unstable female character that threw a wrench into Dexter’s grand scheme. Though these murdering mistresses are loathed for “kill[ing] their husbands or lovers” (Parker 2), Dexter conveniently has his masculinist excuse of being devoid of all feelings and empathy whatsoever. Whereas Hannah and Lila are punished for their attempted threats on the lives of Dexter and his family, we are manipulated to condone his decision-making, even when he becomes responsible for these women’s deaths, as well as the deaths of Debra and Rita.

Rita and Lumen’s existence complicate Dexter’s perplexing regard for women, especially since his relationships with both women are so deeply rooted in his childhood trauma and his guilt regarding the deaths of both his mother and his wife. Rita is intentionally kept in the dark about Dexter’s psychopathy, but this does not stop psychologists like Bella DePaulo and Nigel Barber as well as author David Barber-Callaghan from placing partial blame onto Rita herself for selecting such a man with whom to share her life. Rita is spared her life because, and only because, she does not fit the Code. Lumen, on the other hand, is not subjected to Dexter’s cutting courtroom for assisting  her in enacting justice on the perpetrators mainly because Dexter refuses to take blame for his own actions. His indirect responsibility for Rita’s death is too much for him to handle, and so in helping avenge Lumen’s attackers, Dexter feels as though he is giving back to the universe and setting the world back on its axis once again, thus exonerating himself from blame.

Shipping Container

One would think that watching your mother die before your eyes would create a certain compassion for women; however, this does not seem to be the case. When it is revealed that his birth mother’s involvement with her father was the reason for her brutal murder, and his unfortunate “rebirth,” somehow Dexter can rationalize shifting the blame of his situation onto his mother, for it was her actions that ultimately led to his trauma.

“Mother chose the wrong son… again.”

Though I could go on for hours with Dexter’s transgressions against Debra as well as the other misogynistic threads that run through the series, I am still hung up on the fact that out of Dexter’s 61 on-screen kills, only 7 (including Debra) were females (that’s a mere 10.29 per-cent as compared to Brian Moser and AJ Yates, whose rates are nearly 100 per-cent, and Trinity at 75 per-cent). Daniel Vogel is an interesting case, considering the fact that Cassie Jollenston and Deb are his only female on-screen kills, the rest of his victims being male, though he does admit that his longest relationship was with a woman who was chained to his radiator for three weeks. Though Daniel is profoundly afflicted by his mother’s actions, he shows no affinity for killing women, whereas Brian Moser only targeted women. Had Dexter not been given a Code, perhaps he would have turned out a little bit more like his blood brother than anticipated.

Seeing as Daniel and Dexter are more alike than meets the eye, it comes as no surprise that Evelyn was just as disgusted with Daniel as Harry was with Dexter upon first seeing them in action. Their deaths are also similar in that Dr. Vogel knowingly invites her vengeful son into her home, which is just as good as a suicide. When Vogel is killed before Dexter’s eyes, however, he is devastated, for she is the third mother (figure) – Laura and Rita being the first two – to die before his eyes, or as a consequence of his actions. The writers have made a point to parallel Harrison’s behavior with Dexter’s irrational logic regarding the Dark Passenger and the degree of autonomy he attributes to himself; however, Vogel’s death gives him the first wake-up call in the series of shocking blows that will lead us to the series finale: he is no longer a child, nor is he under Harry’s direct guidance. Though Dexter has lived his entire life attempting to save his mother and redo the past, he has also strove to break away from his father and defy his expectations. I will argue next week that it is Dexter’s uniquely American vengefulness toward his father that ultimately gets Debra killed. It is the ultimate victory to kill  his sister, when Harry’s greatest concern , above all, was keeping Debra and himself safe.

Argentina: The Many Metamorphoses in Miami Metro

Argentina might promise a fresh start for everyone involved, including Debra, but  Dexter’s childishly selfish desires threaten to repeat the past. It is as if we have been thrown back four or five seasons (Deb being shot in the side once again, the first time by Christine Hill, daughter of Trinity and Dexter returning to the site of choir director Mike Donovan’s kill room, intending to put down Saxon like a dog there) to a time before Dexter’s truth was known to Debra, before she and Quinn had their falling out, and before Dexter posed such a morally-compromising threat to his sister. Though Dexter has always believed he was “better than” in the hierarchy of serial killers (which he created) and has now believed he has overcome his urges, his projection of Harry urges: “You can’t escape who you are.” Whether or not this is meant to suggest that Dexter and his loved ones are doomed regardless of his move, or if it suggests that Dexter was never  meant to become a serial killer, is irrelevant. What matters at this point in time is that Dexter is that the longer he stays in Miami, the more likely it is that some loose end that he overlooked years ago is bound to come back and bite him, as Quinn and LaGuerta nearly did several times. With Daniel Vogel reminding him that he has a son, step children, a sister, and a girlfriend at risk, Dexter can no longer afford to remain where he is after all of the waves he has caused (pun intended again).

“Maybe one day, not so far from now, I’ll be rid of the Dark Passenger.” – Dexter (412)

Dexter sees Daniel as the immaculate serial killer he himself once was, which is further reinforced by Daniel’s God complex, as suggested by his attitude toward his mother and her treatment of him, his flashiness in parading around Miami Metro, as well as the set-up of his chair (which restrains his victims in a Christ-like position)

Saxon's Chair

Dexter’s projection of Harry realizes that Dexter’s kills have been personal fora while, signalling that something has fundamentally changed within Dexter, whether it is his mindset or his capacity for feelings. As easy as it has been for Dexter to degrade himself and lurk in the shadows of society, it is just as difficult to recognize that he has actively participated in the enactment of the monstrous part of himself he once believed he could never escape.

“There’s a human being in there. There always has been. Even if you can’t see it.” – Debra

Debra has undergone considerable metamorphosis as well. While she has hit rock bottom this season, she has also come afloat (I hate myself for this one) once again and has decided to return to Miami Metro. Though she is no longer innocent in any sense of the word, it seems as though we have regained a wiser, yet lighter-hearted Debra Morgan that we came to love over the course of the past seven seasons. However, her perspective on the world has forever changed, especially regarding her brother. While in the station, Dexter and Debra are pictured wearing green and red, respectively.

Red Green Shirts

If you pay attention in popular films, from The Avengers to the Harry Potter series, you will find one common trait: the opposition of red and green. Whether we are talking about Thor and Loki, Gryffindor and Slyterin, or Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, there tends to be a consistent opposition in this color motif. Interestingly, we see the same opposition illuminating the abandoned mental institution in which Daniel Vogel has set up camp. It is interesting that Dexter’s counterparts, Debra and Daniel, are neatly brought together through the use of lighting. Dexter and Brian were also pictured as opposites, each donning green and red, respectively.Red Green

Dexter: “What’s the alternative, Arthur? Leave? Disappear? Fake my own death and start over again?”
Arthur Mitchell: “No, you’ll still be you.” (412)

Brothers

Breadcrumbs

Upon watching the series for the first time, I missed a very important “Easter egg” that would have given me a better shot at correctly predicting the series finale. When attempting to sell The Slice of Life, Dexter tells his potential buyer that it is equipped with an emergency life raft, which offers a little more insight into how Dexter managed to escape Hurricane Laura; however, the fact that he rode out the literal and metaphorical storm in a plastic life raft seems somewhat ridiculous.

Memorial Service F. Storm

The shot just outside of Dr. Vogel’s memorial service (pictured above) suggests that a “Father M. Storm” presided over the mass, which is interesting when juxtaposed with the fact that Hurricane Laura is threatening to destroy Miami. These two ghostly or supernatural influences seem to suggest the religious connection of Dr. Vogel and Harry as being Dexter’s guiding spirits, as well as Dexter’s looming childhood trauma (as indicated by the hurricane sharing his birth mother’s name).

Dana L. Wilson as Detective Angie Miller, Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan and Desmond Harrington as Joey Quinn in Dexter (Season 8, episode 11) - Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime - Photo ID: Dexter_811_1350
Dana L. Wilson as Detective Angie Miller, Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan and Desmond Harrington as Joey Quinn in Dexter (Season 8, episode 11) – Photo: Randy Tepper/Showtime – Photo ID: Dexter_811_1350

Debra dons this nautical-themed shirt, which heartbreakingly foreshadows her demise.

Dexter: A Comedy

Debra: [to Deputy Marshal Clayton) “Well [the ER nurse] needs to get her fucking eyes checked, ’cause I haven’t been blonde since a very bad freshman year.”

Original Predictions

Here is where you can find my original analyses of 810: “Goodbye Miami” and 811: “Monkey in a Box.”

Overview

And now to put a “number” on this episode. Dexterity (neat-handedness, puns, trickery, clever sayings, placements, etc.) will judge all of the small things that I pick up on. The higher the score, the more fun I had picking apart the episode for hidden clues. Entertainment (how much I laughed and enjoyed the episode) will judge how excited I was on average throughout the episode, as well as after it for the upcoming episodes. “Xtremity” (how dramatic, but also how believable the episode was, edge-of-the-seat, white knuckles the “holy shit” factor) will judge just how jaw-dropping the episode was.
Dexterity: 8
Entertainment: 8
Xtremity:  9
DEX-Factor: 8.3

Works Cited

Barber-Callaghan, David, and Nigel Barber. “Rita’s Rocky Relationships: Is Dexter Any Better than Paul?” The Psychology of Dexter. Ed. Bella DePaulo. Dallas: Smart Pop, 2010. 193-205. Print.

DePaulo, Bella. “Deception: It’s What Dexter Does Best (Well, Second Best).” The Psychology of Dexter. Ed. DePaulo. Dallas: Smart Pop, 2010. 65-78. Print.

“Dexter’s Kill List.” Wikia. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Aug. 2015. <http://dexter.wikia.com/wiki/Dexter%27s_Kill_List>.

“Dexter’s Kill Room.” Showtime. Showtime, n.d. Web. 4 Aug. 2015. <http://www.sho.com/sho/dexter/extras/dexters-kill-room>.

Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading between the Lines. New York: Quill-HarperCollins, 2003. Print.

Hall, Michael C., and Kevin Dutton, perf. “Rubin Museum of Art Special Presentation with Michael C. Hall.” Prod. Tim McKenry and Rubin Museum of Art. Dexter: The Complete Series. Prod. James Manos, Jr. 2013. Showtime, 2013. Blu-ray disc.

Parker, Juli L., ed. Representations of Murderous Women in Literature, Theatre, Film, and Television: Examining the Patriarchal Presuppositions behind the Treatment of Murderesses in Fiction and Reality. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen P, 2010. Print.

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