Criminal or Protector? That is the question…

According to our class lectures, semiotics is the study of how social production of meaning is constructed through a system of signs. Signs include words, images, sounds, gestures and objects.

Ferdinand De Saussure the signified and the signifier together make up the sign. The linguistic sign unites a concept with a sound-image, which is defined by Saussure as the physical sound but as the psychological imprint of the sound upon our senses.

The Showtime series Dexter first aired in October 2006, which was based on the novel “Darkly Dreaming Dexter” by Jeff Lindsay.  The series is a serial drama, which includes genres of crime drama, suspense, horror, and mystery.

Dexter appeals to younger and older audiences alike. I know that every Sunday that it airs, my brother, who is younger than me, and my father, who is a lot older than me, all have an interest in the show.

Dexter Morgan is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department who leads a double-life. When he’s not assisting solving murders, he acts as a vigilante and kills those who slip through the system.

Dexter needs to satisfy his desire and need to kill; rather than kill a random person, he kills the people he feels deserve it.

Born in blood. Dexter repeats this thought in his mind, as he witnessed the brutal murder of his mother and was left to sit and cry in a puddle of her blood.

Harry Morgan, a detective at Miami metro at the time, rescued him and raises him as his own. At a very young age, Harry knew something was different about Dexter, so he trained him how to interact with other people.

Dexter structures his killings around “the code of Harry,”  a body of ethics and procedures devised by his adoptive father to make sure that Dexter never gets caught or killed by another serial killer.

Dexter’s attachment to his foster family, Harry and adoptive sister, Debra, and later his wife, Rita, his stepchildren, Astor and Cody, and eventually his biological son, Harrison, all complicate his double life, making him question his need to kill.

Throughout the television program’s opening credits, there are many signs that have ambiguous meanings. Dexter begins his day by waking up and smacking a mosquito that is sucking his blood. He slaps and kills the mosquito showing his dominance. Dexter then heads to the bathroom where he starts to shave, and unlike a normal person who uses shaving cream, he cuts himself and lets the blood drip slowly down his face and into the sink.

The noise of the blade hitting his hairs makes me cringe! Then it goes right into him cutting through a plastic bag with some type of meat. Every single time it makes me think it’s one of his victims he had killed in the previous episode. It makes you wonder is Dexter a carnivore?

The order he makes his breakfast is unusual, you usually make everything then sit down to eat. That is why it is confusing because he cuts up the meat then cooks it in the pan and then moves on to making his eggs.  The Tabasco sauce that he adds to the eggs may also make you think it’s the blood left over from the meat he just prepared.

The delicacy and precision Dexter shows while getting ready for the day mirrors how he is with his killings. If you don’t do things the same way, and the right way, something WILL go wrong!

According to the article read in class, Fiske’s three codes of TV relate to Dexter in various ways. Level one is reality; appearance, dress, make-up, environment, behavior, speech, gesture, expression and sound.

Level two is representation; camera, lighting, editing, music, and sound, which transmit the conventional representational codes of conflict, character, action, setting and casting.

Level three is ideology, which are organized into coherence and social acceptability by the ideological codes such as individualism, patriarchy, race, class, materialism, and capitalism (Fiske, 1987).

Dexter’s appearance makes him to be perceived as a normal, down-to-earth kind of dad with hopes and dreams for his children. The environment is warm and welcoming, a lot of travelers come and go from Miami, but Dexter lives and kills there.

His behavior is in a way hard to understand, but then again if you saw your mother murdered and you were soaking up her blood, you’d be messed up in the head as well. It is very hard for Dexter to communicate his thoughts and emotions; he often does this through his killings.

The view from the camera is close-up and personal. The producer really wants you to get to know Dexter; feel what he feels. The lighting is either really bright or really dark I order to create a difference in mood. The sound adds a lot, especially with Dexter shaving his face, cutting the meat, cutting the orange and grinding the coffee.

Throughout all five seasons so far, Dexter has shown individualism. It is really hard for Dexter to think about other people until something major has happened. But I won’t spoil it for you! Dexter isn’t materialistic, and class and race do not matter to him. On the show, there is a diverse group of cast members from different cultures.

So why is it so important that we critically examine media text? It is important to critically examine media texts so that you can properly inform others about different types of media. I hope that my criticism of Dexter will help you to understand why other people in society are so drawn to this character and maybe influence you to start watching it. I hope I’ve got you HOOKED!


Fiske, J. (1987). The Codes of Television (pp. 1-13). London, and NY: Television
Culture. (Reprinted from Television Culture)


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