Book Review: The Psychology of Dexter by Bella DePaulo

9309687Title: The Psychology of Dexter

Editor: Bella DePaulo

Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays, Pop Culture

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon (Paperback), Amazon (Kindle)

Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Dexter Morgan: Police forensic analyst. Family man. Serial killer. And the star of Showtime’s most-watched series, Dexter.

Aimed at Dexter devotees and armchair psychologists, The Psychology of Dexter takes on the psychological complexities of the popular series with an eye towards insight and accessibility. It analyzes not just the title character, but his family, coworkers, and even his viewers. What makes Dexter tick? And what makes a show about a serial killer so appealing to those of us at home?

From the implications of faking normalcy (could it be behind Dexter’s still-in-progress emotional growth?) to where the show weighs in on the psychological debate between nature and nurture, The Psychology of Dexter gives fans a peek inside Dexter’s psyche.

This book is a collection of essays written by psychologists about the television show “Dexter”, about a serial killer who works is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro police department. “Dexter” is one of my all-time favorite shows, mainly because the main character is so complex. Dexter is a serial killer, but he’s also a colleague, a family man, a devoted brother, a good son. But there’s this dark side to him, this desire to hurt and kill, that could end up being his own undoing. The show is very well-written, and the writers definitely know their subject matter. Because I love the show so much, I was intrigued to start this collection of essays.

Most of them were very good, detailed, offering thorough explanations of why Dexter or his fellow characters do certain things. Each essays provides its own mini-analysis, and sometimes even the experts don’t agree, which shows psychology, in particular the psychology of psychopaths, or serial killers, or what can bring people to become serial killers, isn’t all that easy.

I particularly enjoyed the essay talking about Dexter suffering from PTSD during his childhood, and that most of what Harry interprets as behavior typical for a serial killer is, in fact, behavior typical for a child suffering from PTSD. Even though I have no psychology background except my brief course of law psychology at university, I always believed that Harry was for the most part responsible for Dexter turning out the way he is. Why Dexter may have had all the ingredients of a serial killer, he also had all the ingredients for a traumatised child. But by offering him a code, a way to let go of his anger – that was not healthy at all, killing people hardly ever is – Harry turned Dexter into a serial killer. I felt like this essay in particular hit it spot on, but there were several other essays that were also eye-opening, or had me nodding at every passage.

My major pet peeve? There’s a lot of repetition and redundancy that could’ve been avoided. The authors use the same hooks, sometimes practically the same sentences, and some psychological things are explained three, even four times.

Another intriguing essay explored why viewers are so entranced with Dexter Morgan, and some even see him as a hero since he only kills ‘the bad guys’. How can a serial killer become a hero? I enjoyed reading this essay, although I already had plenty of thoughts about that myself, some of which were repeated here.

Overall, this was a good read, and a must for fans of the show.