Dexter’s Raped Crusader

If you’re not a fan of the show (or familiar with the premise), here is a quickie overview:  Dexter Morgan is a Miami Homicide blood spatter analyst AND serial killer who has honed his expertise in the service of vigilante justice.  We love him.  In Season 5, Dexter inadvertently saves a young woman from a gang of sadists holding her captive.  Enter Lumen, expertly played by Julia Stiles, the latest addition to a cast of narcissists, sociopaths and dysfunctionals.

Lumen relays her experiences with her captors to Dexter and enlists his help in revenge-murdering the pack of creeps who raped and tortured her.  There is a lot of duality in the revelation of Lumen’s character so far – broken/empowered, victim/survivor, docile/dangerous.  The complement to Dexter is believably developed:  we excuse Dexter for being a serial killer because he targets the unforgivably evil and we excuse Lumen for being vindictive and bloodthirsty because she only targets her rapists.

TV fantasy-land aside – I think the show does an above-average  job of accurately depicting the agony of rape trauma syndrome and PTSD.  She expresses a heady mixture of anger, fear, and confusion.  She obsesses about her bodily safety and is plagued with flashbacks.  A standard airport security pat down, seen through Lumen’s eyes, is a surreal and belabored process that leaves her (and the audience) tense, panicked, and out of breath.  In the real world, someone in her position needs extensive counseling and a loving and supportive social network.  But this is Dexter’s world.  Lumen will purge her anger and counsel her grief on a cathartic killing spree with the cops at her heels and Miami as the backdrop.  I can’t wait.

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About Kate:
Kate is a public policy expert with a vintage dress obsession.


  1. Kate, I think Lumen’s character is deliciously complex. When she attacks one of her rapists and keeps yelling at him that he knows what he did, I wanted to cheer for her. Don’t get me wrong . . . I’m not condoning that type of revenge. But I wonder if Dexter has finally found his match. And I wonder if they will stay together. Everyone Dexter has loved, with the exception of Deb, has died. I can’t wait to find out!

  2. I also like Lumen’s character and I heart Dexter.

    One of the interesting things about the presentation of PTSD in the show is that it falls in line with the criteria for PTSD in the APA’s DSM III. In that version of the DSM in order for one to have PTSD one has to have “experienced an event that is outside the range of human experience”(this is taken out in the DSMIV) In “Not Outside the Range: One Feminist Perspective on Psychic Trauma” Laura S. Brown argues that PTSD requirement quoted above is based on male human experience. “The range of human experience becomes the range of what is normal and unusual in the lives of men of the dominant class; white, young, able-bodied, educated, middle-class, Christian men” (Brown 101). Traumatic experiences are those that are sudden, unexpected, often connected to war, and ones in which the human perpetrator (if there is one) is someone we don’t know. This understanding of trauma ignores or glosses over the common experience of sexual assault of girls and women because statistically it is not outside the range of human experience, it often happens in the private realm and at the hands of people we know (102-103).

    It may seem at first glance that Lumen’s experience is like those that Brown is trying to make visible but I’m not entirely sure that it is. Lumen is raped beaten and tortured by men she does not know. The show depicts the events in a way that makes them appear to be “outside the range of human experience.” The show presents the events or created the events this way so that the audience (myself included) can stomach and cheer for the Lumen and Dexter’s actions. We can thus continue to ignore or forget the everyday experience of sexual assault by people we know. The show manages to make rape visible at the same time that it makes it, as a common experience for many people, invisible.

    I’ve been reading a lot of trauma theory lately. These are just some rambling thoughts.

    P.S. I do love the show :)

  3. I. Love. Dexter.

    And I am a HUGE Julia Stiles fan. So of course when I saw that she would be on the show, I was psyched, and I definitely have not been disappointed. I think her character is incredibly complex (though that is par for the course throughout the show) and I’m really fairly pleased with the fact that we have a great representation of a survivor of a horrid sexual assault experience in a show that certainly doesn’t claim liberal activist women has it’s target demographic.

  4. The parts of Dexter that I like and am attracted to is his unique sense of right and wrong and the way he goes about making things balance out in his mind. I applaud the writers of the show for coming up with such twisted behavior – but worry about them and the actors who portray the heinous characters as well as Dexter. I wonder if while rehearsing and playing the roles and while conjuring more mayhem from otherwise innocuous air they are polluting their minds to an irreversible state.
    I cringe as the chances of Dexter getting caught become more and more imminent. Episode weeks are too long in between.
    I wonder what the anthropologist, scientist and so forth of the future will think of our society when they find the Dexter archives.

  5. I don’t know that Dexter is going to get caught yet, but I do thing that they’re setting it up where Dexter is going to kill Quinn. That’s just my prediction, though.

  6. modestmousette says:

    Very interesting analysis, leoshan.

    It made me think of Rita in Season 1. Her rape/abuse at the hand of her husband was much more “within the range of human experience.” However, Rita’s trauma wasn’t explored as much as Lumen’s this season (perhaps because it WAS within the range and therefore not as “entertaining”???).

    I love the show and I’m glad it inspires interesting dialogue.

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