Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
Dexter is a crime drama that aired on Showtime in 2006, and to be honest, I have always noticed how homophobic the show was and it has always bothered me.
That said, it's sad that I have to put a disclaimer here, but Dexter is actually one of my favorite shows like . . . Ever. I very rarely discuss movies and TV shows that I don't like.
Liking the show, however, doesn't mean I'm not allowed to criticize it. If you don't agree with me or think my analysis is wrong, X out of the article and move along. I don't write my articles to argue with people but to entertain them. Shitty comments will be removed.
For those staying, allow me to unpack exactly why Dexter can sometimes be offensive.
Yes, I Remember Isaak
To get this out of the way, yes, the show has a gay character, Isaak Sirko, who appears in Season 7 and Dexter appears to not care at all about him being a gay Russian mob guy.
But I always felt as if this was tacked on later in the show after the writers were criticized for having their characters repeatedly say and do homophobic things. I felt like they added Isaak to prove they weren't homophobic.
No one wanted them to prove they weren't homophobic, though. We just wanted you to stop being homophobic. Stop having the characters continuously say homophobic things. It's not that hard.
I realize there's a difference between a character being portrayed as homophobic and the writers themselves being homophobic. I am a writer. Of course I would understand this.
But I can't escape the feeling that the writers were homophobic themselves and were simply using their characters as a mouthpiece. Otherwise, why give Dexter a change of heart all the f****** way in Season 7?
Having a character who is bigoted in some way has to serve a point. Usually, when a character is racist or sexist just for the hell of it, that means they are being used by the writers as a mouthpiece.
Dexter and Deb are homophobic just for the hell of it. It's not an integral part of their backstory or their character development. They say and do homophobic things because the writers are homophobic.
Dexter's Homophobic Comments
In the show's pilot, Dexter is driving his car and doing the "Tonight's the night" monologue where he's hunting for a killer to kill. He makes an off-hand comment about how he's not gay and has a "sensible" notion of sexuality.
This is homophobic.
I remember always hating that line from the pilot (and all the subsequently homophobic lines thereafter), but I remember deciding to ignore it and just watch the show anyway. I mean, if I were to stop watching every show that had something offensive in it, I'd have nothing to watch. That was my logic at the time.
Now I have a no shit policy. Meaning, I no longer take shit from anyone -- not even a damned TV show. I am no longer going to glance over racism or sexism in my entertainment. If a show portrays that continuously, I will now allow myself to feel some way about it.
I guess I'm just tired of shrugging and ignoring things that are harmful to me.
"Ha ha, lesbians are funny!"
In season 6, Dexter goes to his high school reunion and meets his old girlfriend there. His girlfriend is now married to a woman, and it's played up as a joke.
As someone who dated a boy in high school because her homophobic mother -- and the entire homophobic world -- made her ashamed of who she was, I didn't find this funny at all. In fact, I found it f******* annoying that something that was such a tremendous struggle for me is being made light of.
The problem is, these jokes are being made by straight people, who have no idea what it's like to spend your entire life miserable and sexually repressed because of bigotry. My youth was wasted and I'll never get it back, will never be able to go back in time and give my love to the women who deserved it.
Straight people have the privilege of enjoying their sexuality without shame their entire lives. Then they turn around and mock us because they don't understand and don't care what we go through.
It's just shitty. And I'm just kinda tired of it. I just don't find my oppression funny.
With a Dash of Sexism
Not only is Dexter homophobic, he's also sexist.
In Season 5, he constantly patronizes Lumen. She wants revenge on the men who assaulted her and she wants to fully participate in helping Dexter kill them.
Instead of allowing Lumen to become an equal partner -- like Miguel back in Season 3 -- Dexter instead treats her like a child because she's a woman. She is not an equal. She is an inferior in need of his coddling. It becomes clear when he tells her to stay behind and watch the car that he is only pretending to include her in the kills just to pacify her.
Predictably enough, Dexter goes inside the house and is almost killed. He is rescued by Lumen, who beats the crap out of the man who is trying to strangle him. As ever, a woman must prove she is a capable human being and not an object to protect.
To be fair to the writers, they depicted sexism well, in that they showed Dexter being sexist and then showed how foolish he was for it. They did no such thing with his homophobia -- at least not until Season 7. Which is what leads me to believe that the writers were just homophobic.
Deb's Obnoxious Homophobia
When Dexter's not saying anti-gay things, Deb is.
I can't remember everything she said, but I know there were a few times during the first three seasons where she said some unfortunate things about gay people and lesbians in particular that I found annoying enough to roll my eyes.
In Season 5, Deb gets hit on by a gay tattoo artist nicknamed Micheal Angelo.
The tattoo artist hits on her in a very subtle way. When they are shaking hands, she squeezes Deb's hand and invites her to return to the shop some time. This is a very subtle, respectful way of flirting with someone -- and yet, Deb acts as if she was just groped by a six-foot man.
Deb is flustered, embarrassed, frightened, disgusted, and threatens Masuka not to talk about it. Deb. The woman who laughingly puts up with Masuka saying disgusting things to her all day, everyday.
Deb's disgusted reaction reminded me of all the straight women I've known, who treated me like a predator or something abnormal and nasty, when all I did was respectfully show an interest in them.
And when she's not cringing in horror at lesbians, Deb is calling her male friends gay as an insult, something which (sadly) was a popular thing to do at the time.
Again, I believe the writers were homophobic because there's no reason for Deb to be homophobic. It's not a part of her past. It's not a part of her character development. It serves no purpose except for the writers to express their homophobia, only to back peddle in Season 7 and try to cover it up as if it never happened.
My Feelings are Vaild
That's right. My precious "feels" are valid. When something offends me, I'm allowed to be . . . Well, offended.
I'm not "overreacting" and I'm not "oversensitive" and for the shitty comments I received, I'm not "imagining" this or "projecting." As a lesbian who has dealt with this all her life, I'm pretty ******* confident I can recognize homophobia when I see it, thanks.
I'm just tired of every aspect of my humanity being some kind of joke. I would love to be able to turn on a TV show and not have to sit there tensely waiting for something about me (race, sex, sexuality) to be mocked and sneered at.
I'm tired of racism. I'm tired of sexism. I'm tired of homophobia. As a black lesbian, I'm tired of dealing with all three. And I'm tired of my favorite TV shows reinforcing these isms by encouraging people to think and behave like assholes toward people like me.
All that being said, I just wanted to throw my opinion out there. I'm not actually writing angry letters to the writers or protesting the show or something.
What would it accomplish? Dexter and its homophobia has been off the air for years now. And given how horrible the final season was, that is probably a blessing in more ways than one.
© 2019 Ash