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The Box's Crush of the Week: Deb from Dexter

Of all the lady cops on TV, Debra Morgan from Dexter is my fave. She's a dedicated cop with a very dirty mouth whose aggressive police work often intimidates male co-workers. But Deb (played by Jennifer Carpenter) is more than just another woman playing one of the guys.

She's tough,

 

without being asexual,

 

and she's not afraid to speak her mind.

She may carry herself with bad-ass swagger, but Deb also wears her heart on her sleeve. She gets pissed, she gets sad, and she lets everyone know how she's feeling. She's in touch with her "femininity" insomuch as she shows emotion and gets giddy about guys, but that's not really attributed to her being a woman. It's just part of the character as a whole. And the fact that her aggression makes her more traditionally masculine than her seemingly mild-mannered brother, Dexter, isn't presented as an oddity—it's just the (ungendered) nature of the characters.

Dexter's leads tend to transcend type, and when a character does seem to be fitting in with a  gender stereotype you can usually be sure there's twist is in store. They have complex motivations that take unexpected turns, which is probably why this unlikely story of a sympathetic psychopath and his relationships within the police force manages to resonate with viewers.

Season 3 of Dexter just ended, but this is a show I recommend checking out on DVD, and not just because it's fun to hear Deb swear. Unlike most shows that come out of the suspense/horror/crime drama genres, Dexter does not feature excessive violence against women. Dexter's an equal opportunity serial killer (this is explained in the first episode), and sexual/fetishized violence is not in the picture.

Dexter may not be a purposefully feminist show, and Deb may not be a purposefully feminist character. But it's so refreshing to watch crime drama that's scary and smart, and that doesn't treat women like victims (more than men, at least). Plus, you gotta love a fabulously profane lady cop with heart.

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Comments

6 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Major Girl Crush

I have had a major girl crush on Deb since I saw the first episode. It actually shocked me that she was so multi-faceted.

Deb

I love that you've brought up Deb from Dexter: she's a fascinating character (and yes, a stunning actress)--but as a character, a mix of naivete and chutzpa: she's a truly multifaceted character. Just analyzing WHY she became a cop is another posting: I suspect she gets her own show next.

Deb

Granted, I'm only half-way through Season 2, but I sort of loathe the Deb character. Sort of meaning that I actually logged on to write this, that is. I've brought this up with friends before, and I feel pretty alone- she just seems like such a complete dingbat to me.

Crush on the Box!

Seriously, every crush of the week is someone I love! I am so happy you are posting these. Keep it up!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

What about Laguerta and...what'sherface?

Deb is a great character, fully realized in both her strength and weakness. I'm less comfortable with the two rival homicide lieutenants, Laguerta and her rival, whose name I can't remember for the life of me. The latter is incapable of doing her job because she's overly emotional, and the former is manipulative and power-hungry.

I am by no means suggesting that the show has any obligation for every (or any) character to be the bastion of professionalism and maturity, and I'm not quite ready to call sexism just yet. I'm mostly just saying that sometimes those characters make me a little squirmy.

Women of Dexter

I'm with you. Laguerta's rival is Esme Pasquale - and oh, my sweet Darwin, how do they ever portray her. After being so deliciously deluded into loving the show (precisely by its gender-balanced array of strong characters) , Esme's performance was literally difficult to watch. I felt a bit like I feel when i watch the Sopranos - uncomfortable and defeated - vicariously, on her behalf, on my own behalf, and on behalf of all women.

Equally, Laguerta gets a **really** bad rap. I can't think of any/many male characters with similarly grave (and purely malicious) flaws. Doakes' brutishness is founded (because of his justified suspicioness of Dexter), and Lundy's initial apparent hard-assedness turns out to be just commitment to his work. Matsuka's greatest foible is his obsession with sex, which the show suggests is just a manifestation of the insecurities he tries so hard to disguise as his tough-guy disrespect of women. (This actually presents another problematic and offensive stereotype - that of the impotent or poorly endowed and thus insecure Asian man. Don't even get me started on that one.) Though she has her redeeming qualities, all of the male character's foibles (not flaws) pale in comparison to the way Laguerta is portrayed.

And though Rita's character eventually becomes a strong one, and addressing issues like marital violence is crucial, she's a tragic character in many ways. And Lila? Ohh, where do we begin....

But I started reading this very article because i *do* so love Deb. I've had a major crush on her forever, but I didn't realize it until I heard someone else verbalize it. I knew I really liked her in the show....but no, it's true. She's a badass in every sense of the word and I LOVE her.

I agree with the above posts - the show is refreshing, and I find myself wanting to see it over and over again - i think that, unconsciously, this is precisely because it generally *doesn't* offend me. I suppose you can say that the strength and prominence of the positively portrayed characters (at least with regard to whether I want to watch the show or not) still manages to eclipse the misogyny.

~N