Babies on TV serve as props for their parent's character development. On reality TV, babies are dreams come true and cute fashion accessories (for celebrity moms) or evidence of bad behavior (teen moms). On Dexter, toddler Harrison exists solely as a plot device to anchor daddy Dexter to the non-sociopathic world, and on Up All Night, baby Amy helps her hard-partying parents embrace adulthood. So, who exactly is doing the parenting here? Will the real parents please stand up?
Dexter is a bit of a so far mess this season, isn't it? I'd watch Michael C. Hall do just about anything—I can never quite get over how different Dexter Morgan is from David Fisher. But one of the problems this show has always had is that each season it sets the bar for intense plotlines a little higher, and as with the fabulousness of last season's twist ending, the writers have usually proved themselves capable of exceeding expectations.
The fourth season of Dexter premiered this Sunday, and I was rather more excited about it than I would like to admit. I started watching back in the day because it was Michael C. Hall, and I was a Six Feet Under fan from waaaaayyy back, and I made it my business to ensure that the wonderful actors of that show continued to be employed for the forseeable future. As it turns out, Dexter was about as different a role from David Fisher as one could hope for, and I still loved Hall anyway. And then Dexter turned out to have a fallible narrator, which is a favorite literary device of mine. And then, also, it turned out to be bloody. And it had Julie Benz (Darla from Buffy and Angel)! Also there were Latino actors who were not total background characters! I've been hooked ever since. It's camp, and camp can be thoroughly enjoyable when it's as well-written and acted as Dexter is.
But that aside, I tend to have a lot of difficulty justifying my love of Dexter to myself in feminist terms. The macabre is not terribly woman-friendly, after all. Horror movies tends to feed on the startling contrast between blood and really hot blonde chicks, and there's more titillation in it (pun intended), one supposes, than anyone would like to admit. I don't know what makes us morbid; I do notice, though, that the ratio of men to women of my acquaintance who hate horror, and don't like "dark" themes in their arts and entertainment, is roughly 1:1. So perhaps it's an experience that's less gendered than I might otherwise be inclined to say.
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 acting like one of the guys.