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September 05 2007

TWoP interviews Julie Benz. Mr. Stupidhead asks not-so-stupid questions of Ms. Benz, mostly concerning Dexter, though her old vampire gigs are mentioned.

You know, working on Buffy and Angel, I was still, you know, emotionally young, still learning my craft, struggling with the pressures of it all, being overwhelmed by certain aspects of the business...all of that. At this point, I feel that...on Buffy and Angel, I was half-woman, half-child, approaching the work. Now I feel like a grown-up.

Ugh. I'm all for not over-editing interviews until they're pointlessly watered down, but that was painful to read. There exists a golden mean somewhere between over-editing and this sort of rote transcription, and the interview would have benefitted from finding it.
It was a long interview but it gave some great insight into her character on Dexter. If you haven't seen the show be sure to see it. It's great.
I liked the fact that the interview was so complete-it feels as if you really get a sense of the sort of person that she is. She is surprisingly direct in her responses- and does not seem to be making any attempt to be cool or ironic- she's endearingly serious .
Julie Benz has some great opinions about Dexter, which is totally my favorite show on TV right now. The first season has just come out on DVD, and it's an amazing show. Black humor, drama and a bravaura performance by Michael C. Hall, as well as some thematic similarities to Angel -- i.e. a man who tries to be and do good while denying his baser instincts that urge him to kill and bleed dry his victims. Only while Angel has his soul in place (most of the time), Dexter, a serial killer, has just an artificially crafted morality system that his step-father, Harry, drilled into him at a young age. And not to knock Boreanaz, but Michael C. Hall's great performance makes Dexter, the character, absolutely leap off the screen.

Plus, both Angel and Dexter are in lurve/lust/something with a character played by Julie Benz!


You know, I'm on camera with no makeup on, my hair unwashed, looking how I really look when I run around and am running errands and all of that.

This is ridiculously depressing because if that is what she looks like normally, then wow! Rita is a character that's a little rundown, the single working mother of two kids, struggling on her own, and she always looks and dresses a little frazzled, but Julie Benz always looks lovely.
Julie Benz was great, but the interviewer... eesh. I think (I hope) they were going for funny but it ended up just creepy.
Dottikin-Dexter's "artificially crafted morality system"-kind of something between a soul and a chip?
Ish toast, it's more like (to me) the way Data from TNG had a moral compass which was entirely "rule-based" i.e. he didn't actually have a moral compass because he had no emotions. One of the interesting questions 'Dexter' asks IMO is whether such a thing even exists or do we all "just" follow rules, except subconsciously rather than explicitly, according to "Harry's Code", as Dexter does ?

i.e. a man who tries to be and do good while denying his baser instincts that urge him to kill and bleed dry his victims.

I'm not totally convinced Dexter's got there yet, I don't think he "tries to do good", I think he operates largely according to his drive to kill while still "knowing" (via Harry) that some deaths are more acceptable than others (another question it asks: why is that true ? Or even is it to begin with ?). The thing with Deb was obviously a big turning point for him though (although we still don't really know if he "felt" what to do or was still operating by the code - choice or "programming" and does it even matter which ?).

I think (I hope) they were going for funny but it ended up just creepy.

That's the danger with direct transcripts, what's said off-hand and casually is given greater weight by the printed word and so can sound a bit weird (especially without other cues like tone of voice etc.). Even given that though, some of his requests/comments did seem a bit forward (assuming they're complete strangers to each other). Decent interview though, reasonably good questions I thought and i'd rather have a transcript than an edited version personally (though both ideally).

(and, avoiding spoilers, Rita is happier, more "whole", in the first couple of episodes of S2 which shows in her physical appearance as well - Ms Benz looks absolutely stunning)
But so not emotionless, though, Saje. Also interesting is the question of where the motivation to follow his code, or any code comes from? Purely self-protective? It doesn't seem that way to me.
Dexter is a great show. I started watching cuz I really liked David C Hall in Six Feet Under, and he is just as wonderful in this show. Part of me keeps expecting him to come out of the closet and have an affair with Doakes, but I think that just comes from missing his character on Six Feet Under. Julie is also wonderful. I won't pick it all apart, I'll just say it's very entertaining and I am really looking forward to season 2.
Well, I think the show projects him as being on a journey towards "full" humanity toast (part of the character suspense comes from wondering if he'll make it or if you even can construct a person from consciously built "pieces" like you can a model aeroplane) but he's a long ways off yet IMO.

For now though his motives are largely emotionless IMO (or at least what drives him is quite different to what drives us - have you seen the start of S2 yet ? Hilariously human while still being very him) and largely selfish. There is the whole element of him wanting to be a "real boy" though and it's hard to say if that comes purely from seeing what others have and feeling he ought to pursue it or if there's actually something within him that compels him in that direction, a "vital spark" if you like.
I'm so crazy about Julie Benz, think it's best to keep my voice mum at this point. Still, she's so fantastic!

Guess the mute control is broken.
Something emotional- not the expected emotions which would be driving us, but something with an emotional quality, nonetheless- often seems to me to both motivate and inhibit him, though he (and we) cannot identify it. Maybe what is absent is more like empathy, than emotion?

I have not seen the start of S2; I am looking forward to it.

[ edited by toast on 2007-09-05 20:35 ]
saje and toast, what draws me most to the show is the ambiguity of Dexter, the character. Since the show uses a lot of VO narration from Dexter's own mind, we're constantly reminded of how he's not a "real human" inside. How he doesn't have "real" emotions, how he doesn't understand human interaction, how he feels constantly outside the realm of human doings. But I don't know if I should take those evaluations of him at face value; I question whether he's a 100% reliable narrator.

There's a line somewhere, when Dexter VO's: "This is why I don't have emotions, because if I did, I would feel... this." And Michael C. Hall's face is utterly devastated. I wonder if Dexter really does feel nothing, the classic sociopath, or if he's "only" (only!) emotionally stunted and barren.

The show works for me because these questions are ultimately unanswerable, aren't they?
Ah, but it's all in the asking dottikin ;).

Yeah, fair play, "emotionless" is going too far toast, he does have emotions he just doesn't have empathy or what you might call an "inbuilt" sense of right and wrong (though as I say, among other things the show for me asks, does anyone ?) which means that his emotional responses, such as they are, are often completely inappropriate to us.

Not sure if it's an emotional quality that inhibits him (at least in his most significant inhibition, against killing "innocents") but as I say, it's one of the big questions for me i.e. is he "just" following an algorithm, a sort of flow-chart for mercy or is there something in there, albeit severely battered, that responds the way it should, that pushes him to do the right thing ? The genius of the show is, i'm not even sure which I want it to be ;).

Must confess I was weak and went ahead and got hold of the first two episodes of S2 and, without spoiling, suffice it to say that the season 1 finale seems to have been a significant turning point in his "project" (though he's still Dexter, still the monstrous psychopath we know and feel uncomfortable about loving ;). Shaping up very nicely with new threads opening up and old ones being continued in a consistent, believable way.

(and agreed, hilarious as it often is, his VO isn't to be trusted 100% though I think it's almost always a true representation of what he thinks he thinks)
I agree, dottikin that Dexter may well be an (unintentionally) unreliable narrator, especially as he seems to be hiding some things from himself. It is just so cool that he is a narrator at all- the view of an intelligent and reflective sociopath (or whatever you want to call him) from the inside, who is actually curious about why he is as he is is truly original, I think. I mean, there are plenty of stories of one sort or another told from the point of view of criminals and/or crazy people...but it is his persistent curiosity about himself (and the crazy humour of it) that gets me most. (Certainly plenty of monstrous people are self absorbed, but not so many are what you would call "reflective.")

Saje-I didn't really mean inhibiting him from doing the bad things-I agree that's not an emotional inhibition at all-I guess I meant more like something emotional seems involved in inhibiting him from understanding what /who he is, and from connecting with people.

[ edited by toast on 2007-09-05 22:56 ]

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