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An American Antihero: Democracy's desire for Dexter's decadence

A brief analysis of what drives the popularity behind Showtime's "Dexter" in America

Maxwell Mensinger

on 29 November 2010

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Transcript of An American Antihero: Democracy's desire for Dexter's decadence

An American Antihero: Democracy's desire for Dexter's decadence What is ? The Overman The Last Man Nietzsche's various characters The Free Spirit found ONLY in Thus Spoke Zarathustra as a character I teach you the Overman! Mankind is something to be overcome. What have you done to overcome mankind?

All beings so far have created something beyond themselves. Do you want to be the ebb of that great tide, and revert back to the beast rather than overcome mankind? What is the ape to a man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just so shall a man be to the Overman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame. You have evolved from worm to man, but much within you is still worm. Once you were apes, yet even now man is more of an ape than any of the apes. Overman is an elusive concept Overman (übermensch) = MYTH outside TSZ ...however... Overman-like (übermenschlich) qualities are quite real THEY INCLUDE: striving to overcome temporal limitations guilt regret transience striving to overcome perspectival limitations one's preferences feelings beliefs That's all we really know for sure, because remember, outside TSZ, the overman is a... Alas! There comes the time when man will no longer give birth to any star. Alas! There comes the time of the most despicable man, who can no longer despise himself...They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loves one's neighbor and rubs against him; for one needs warmth...No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wants the same; everyone is the same: he who feels differently goes voluntarily into the madhouse.

Like the overman, only appears as a character in TSZ The last man (last men) is the most excellent HERD ANIMAL which means: 1) the last man is the same as everyone else in the herd 2) the last man must exist FOR the herd 3) the last man does not seek truth or strive to overcome anything 4) the last man is a sick moralizer but that's not all the last man satisfies all these characteristics a character defined in the Gay Science exists as a human being is NOT an overman [One] could conceive of such a pleasure and power of self-determination, such a freedom of the will that the spirit would take leave of all faith and every wish for certainty, being practiced in maintaining himself on insubstantial ropes and possibilities and dancing even near abysses. Such a spirit would be the free spirit par excellence. (Nietzsche GS 290) The free spirit has the following characteristics >>> 1) the free spirit strives to overcome his limitations, both temporal (like guilt or regret), and perspectival 2) the free spirit's will perpetually works to overcome, discover, and express raw, creative power, and though he may falter, his ambition and will to power remains strong 3) the free spirit abandons “all faith and every wish for certainty” for he is “practiced in maintaining himself on insubstantial ropes and possibilities,” and is comfortable “dancing even near abysses” (Nietzsche GS 290) 4) though a free spirit recognizes his limitations, he still takes full responsibility for his actions, therefore imposing his will over the limitations by sapping their influence over him You may still be wondering... What is Dexter? is Dexter a last man? >>> no is Dexter an overman? no is Dexter a FREE SPIRIT? >>> yes The code is mine now, and mine alone. So too are the relationships I cultivate. They're not disguises anymore...My father might not approve, but I'm no longer his disciple. I'm a master now, an idea transcended into life. And so this is my new path, which is a lot like the old one, but mine. To stay on that path, I need to work harder, explore new rituals, evolve. Am I evil? Am I good? I'm done asking those questions. I don't have the answers. (Dexter “The British Invasion”) ...which leads us to our next inquiry... America in a nutshell Society is repressed "anti-natural morality...which is to say almost every morality that has been taught, revered, or preached so far, explicitly turns its back on the instincts of life...[and] condemns” life affirming instincts (Nietzsche TI 174). in other words absolute, individualistic freedom is replaced by civil freedom think Freud People feel trapped in their jobs depression sets in “formation of a herd is a significant victory and advance in the struggle against depression,” for within a community, “a new interest grows for the individual [which] lifts him above the most personal element in his discontent, his aversion to himself” (Nietzsche GM 135). This liberation only goes so far People's captivity becomes unbearable nihilistic
last man -ish Americans are limited in two major ways: Lawfully Economically Lawfully: Legislature creates laws Executive executes laws Judicial protects and punishes Citizens are extremely alienated from each of these processes Economically: Two specific factors: 1) The 2008 economic crisis made Americans feel powerless over their lives 2) The American Dream Social mobility though promised feels almost nonexistent Even the suburbs suffocate most people's creativity and culture Though it promises happiness, suburban culture is mass produced and unaesthetic In other words
MORE REPRESSION WHY is Dexter so popular? This still, however, leaves one question for me to address... In particular Americans of all sorts are, according to these premises, frustrated by society in their freedom and expression There are several potential reasons why Americans
(Dexter's main audience)
like Dexter Efficiency? Americans do not participate directly in American government as mentioned before, they haven't authored or enforced the law in any significant way If people naturally long for civic participation and mutual duties, then Americans' alienation from such responsibility explains why they appreciate Dexter This argument, however, is somewhat Rousseauian It doesn't take into account the visceral repression of animalistic liberation as expressed by Nietzsche Therefore, this only serves as a superficial explanation...we must look further... Transgression? Dexter, unlike Americans, isn't psychologically bound to the laws and economic restrictions that his fans suffer Though Dexter pursues justice out of genuine bloodlust and love for his craft... Americans subconsciously (and often consciously) brood over their confinement Dexter has release Americans have ressentiment against society This theory, then, assumes that Americans watch Dexter to watch society suffer to take revenge It is an unhealthy enjoyment BUT considering the fact that Dexter is a Nietzschean free spirit, I hesitate to say that Americans' enjoyment is entirely borne of ressentiment Ressentiment then, is only a factor, not a complete explanation Dexter the artist? The dangerous 'NO!' to life >>> [I]deas are worse seductresses than our senses, for all their cold and anemic appearance, and not even in spite of this appearance: they have always lived on the 'blood' of the philosopher, they always consumed his senses and even, if you will believe us, his 'heart'...philosophizing was always a kind of vampirism...What is amor [love], what deus [God], if there is not a drop of blood in them? (Nietzsche GS 333) The cold realm of ideas saps the blood from the individual, detaches them from beauty, and leaves them cold and desolate Whatever is beautiful, strong, energized, BLOODY, is creative Dexter, his knife a paintbrush, his victim a palette, expresses himself without remorse He cleaves through peoples' societally given artificiality (clothes, race, gender, job, family, etc...) and indulges in blood Though somewhat limited, as all conceivable humans are, as a free spirit, he constantly strives to overcome his limitations, exercising his craft in the most unfettered way possible It is this liberty, this creative perfection, this free spirit that motivates American fans to keep watching Though somewhat burdened by ressentiment, Americans also admire Dexter's superabundant will to life as represented by his craft and his passion Americans' enjoyment is therefore part healthy, and part unhealthy It appears then, that we have an answer to the question: "Why is Dexter so popular in America" or at least says this theory
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