Tuesday, December 20, 2011


SPOILERS throughout for shows featuring incest tropes.

The budding incest subplot on Dexter is making this TV addict a little grumpy. I thought about leaving the show if they follow this through, but you know I won’t because we’ve been together so long, baby. Maybe you think my visceral reaction is attributable to cultural taboos and my own squicks and hang-ups, as at first I thought it was. But then I examined it a little deeper and realized that this irritation is not about incest. After all, I did not mind Octavia and Octavian in Rome or Cersei and Jaime in Game of Thrones. Jimmy and Gillian in Boardwalk Empire freaked me out for a minute but that was just because I didn’t think the show would go there until a bit later.

So, what is the problem? The problem is two things. The first thing is that the incest trope has been done on each of those HBO programs I just mentioned. On True Blood as well, when Vampire Beel banged the bejeezus out of his great-great granddaughter. Did the big men at Showtime notice a correlation between HBO’s incest subplots and its Emmy nominations and issue an order to Scott Buck? 100 percent more sister-fucking than that damn vampire show, or it’s curtains for you, Buckaroo! The decision seems tacked on, a conclusion to an emotional arc that never existed before twenty seconds ago.

Which brings us to thing number two: this development is not a logical progression for these characters. Octavian was always into Octavia, and her seduction of him made sense in the context of their story. Cersei and Jaime were fucking from day one; their sexual relationship is an important part of their characters, and it ties into the larger narrative. The implication that Jimmy and Gillian had such a relationship came early in their series, so when the setup got knocked down, it was inevitable and meaningful to Jimmy’s character and to the story.

When, in Dexter’s five previous seasons, has Debra’s behavior ever indicated sexy feelings for her brother? Debra justifies the delusion that she has always been into him with the men in her life, whom she says are either just like Dexter or nothing like him at all. So, either your boyfriends have stuff in common with your brother, or they don’t, and that’s your case for brother-fucking? Let’s see if this adds up.

Biney the Mad Prosthetist is Dexter’s biological brother, and the two of them lived through the same trauma, the chainsaw murder of their mother. They have a lot in common, and I’m positive that this will be the writers’ primary piece of evidence in their defense. There was that dude she met at the gym, who IIRC was just a nice guy. Deb sabotaged that relationship because she was still fucked up from the Biney thing, and who could blame her?

Lundy, I think, is the great love of Deb’s life, and it is he who disproves the case for brother-love. Sure, Lundy had things in common with Dexter—an eye for detail, intense curiosity, passionate drive—but the old man was his own man, a lion for justice. Debra, Lundy, and Dexter had one thing in common: they hunted murderers obsessively. Deb likes men who have the job in common with her because it is convenient to get the nookie this way; this does not make a case for brotherly love. If anything, Lundy is a better example for daddy issues (another post altogether).

Then there was Anton, who was another nice rebound dude. I guess the writers will say that Anton has nothing in common with Dexter and that’s why she dated him, because brother-fucking! But seriously, you can’t have it both ways. Deb likes to rebound with the teddy bears, who salve her wounds until she is well enough to fuck up the relationship. After Lundy died, Deb ended up with Quinn, who satisfied part of the teddy bear thing and part of the convenient partner nookie thing. Quinn and Deb were good for each other; they brought out the best in one another. That the show runners decided to break them up so Deb could feel sexy feelings at Dexter is a betrayal of her character.

It seems to me that, for five years, the writers were very careful to not imply incestuous emotions between the siblings. Even when Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall were a real-life couple, there was zero sexual chemistry between them onscreen as these characters. Their relationship was something I really loved, because it illustrated how an adoptive relationship can be the same as a blood relationship. Now the show runners seek to undermine that idea, and for what? Isn’t the revelation that her brother is a murderer enough to propel Debra’s character through the next couple seasons?

You made a bad decision here, Buck. I hope you realize that before next season, and Brother Chuck the psychiatrist and her subplot posthaste.

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