In recent pop culture, there has been an increase in the so-called “lovable bad guy” characters — the anti-hero. The anti-hero is described as a character who often lacks in social niceties, courage, idealism, and morality.
One of the most extreme and comedic characters of the anti-hero is probably Marvel’s Deadpool. He is the perfect representation of the anti-hero caricature and like all caricatures, all of his lovable flaws are put under a magnifying glass making everything seem out of proportion spiced with self-deprecating humor most people can relate to.
On the other hand, we have the tortured characters, the exiled characters, our Dexter Morgan and the Joker.
Here we are going to focus on Dexter’s character from the first few seasons before everything went downward spiral.
Although it seems they have incorporated themselves into society like, let’s say, normal people, something in them doesn’t quite let them be just like everyone else. Apart from the obvious instinct to kill, if we analyze these characters from a psychological perspective we can understand why they are exiled from society both outward and inward and why we can relate to them.
What we see very often in the anti-hero storyline is their lack of an innocent childhood. Dexter’s mother was brutally slaughtered in front of his eyes and as for the Joker in the last movie starring Joaquin Phoenix we see that he was constantly beaten by many men his drunken mother would bring home. This is, to say the least, not a very healthy environment for a growing child.
The psychological trauma and the consequences of malnourishment can both be seen in each of these characters. They were both outcasted as soon as they were born. And although Dexter’s mother was murdered how can you explain to a child that his biological mother didn’t abandon him on purpose?
Many psychologists claim that what we learn in the first 5 years of our life is what we carry for the rest of our lives. So how can Dexter and Joker be a part of society and act as though they are perfectly normal?
Dexter mentioned several times that thanks to the code of Harry he was able to live his life with a facade of perfect normality. He had a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, never liked to meddle in other’s people business and some would say that he was even shy.
The same goes for Joker. Although people generally found him to be very creepy he still had a job at least and was able to be a part of society in some way. But the very important underlying question here is the question and taboo of mental health.
Mental Health Issues
Although Dexter is textbook sociopath mimicking the “normal” behavior of other people, smiling when you have to smile, being sad when it’s expected of you, so on and so forth isn’t that what we all struggle to do every day?
Because we are taught from a very young age to be polite and not offend other people, by let’s say, not laughing at their joke, aren’t we also being ungenuine? Are social norms and standards really “normal” and are social expectations really necessary and how do they affect our mental health?
This was very clear in the newest Joker movie where we clearly see the stigma around mentally ill people how he puts it the worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.
And they do.
Dexter does everything in his power to keep that facade of a normal person. And although the definition of an anti-hero consists of having poor moral decisions both of them constantly question their actions and the actions of other people.
They both present a challenge to the standard of social norms.
What Is Good and What Is Bad?
The question of morality is the central question of ethics a branch of philosophy which is mainly focused on the question of the right way of living, the questions of right and wrong, good and bad, etc.
In the second season of Dexter, the Bay Harbor Butcher is finally discovered, or Dexter’s graveyard. People celebrated him as a vigilant of the town who gets rid of the scum of the world and throws them away like garbage on the bottom of the ocean.
People were starting to say that this man is a much needed hero, more effective than any police officer out there.
The same goes for Joker. People were starting to say, “finally someone has put a stop to the bourgeois and is starting to rebel against them”.
Neither of them wanted to become a symbol of some kind of rebellion, revolution or justice but people obviously taught that they are worthy of those titles.
The reason people loved them and celebrated them as some kind of symbol of justice is that they have moved the borders of morality. The line between good and bad is very blurred and can be interpreted in either way.
For the law and the social justice department they are deranged individuals who need to be locked up and for the people, they are a symbol of justice in the world.
But this presents a very dangerous line of thought because if criminals are just and the police and other government institutions aren’t doing their job we have a very serious problem.
To put it this way: we would all love for everything to work ideally and to live in a good and just society, but the actions of claiming that justice is much more important than just completing it.
So yes, Dexter and Joker both have a point, but the way they are dealing with that problem is a problem. A problem that would ideally be solved by destigmatizing mental health and actually trying to solve problems each society faces every day.
Why are we all Dexter Morgan? Well, we don’t go on manic killing sprees but the question of society’s construction, social norms, the questions of good and bad is something we all think about. Don’t forget to do your morning routine and put on a happy face.