Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sweeney Todd in the blogosphere

I just got the strangest promotional email I've received yet. I get law-related link exchange "offers" from time to time, but this one referred to my entry on Law & Order: Special Letters Unit and suggested I'd be a good promoter of Showtime's new Dexter, a drama with a well-adjusted serial killer protagonist.

As it happens, I have already seen the first episode, which is available on Showtime's website. I may be a hypocrite, because I adore Sweeney Todd and I loved Profit (also about an eponymous multiple murderer, played with panache by Adrian Pasdar, who later starred in Blood Trail and now plays a sleazy politician on Heroes). But on Dexter we're asked to root for a guy who tortures people to death, which is okay because he is always careful to only go for bad guys. In a combination of CSI and snuff film, the depiction of the blood and gore is loving, though somehow we only see either screaming or consequences. That is, we never see Dexter himself sawing through a living limb -- maybe that would make it too hard for us to like him. When we get to know him better, perhaps that will change. The production values are great, but I can't help thinking that this is a very strange use of the term "values."

I love a lot of things about pop culture. But I wonder if there's a connection between the penetration of advertising to every corner of existence, from legal blogs to the formerly dark tunnels of the Washington Metro, which now feature ads from Target in a sort of kinetoscope effect, and the content of what's being sold. Dexter is our new enforcer, Hannibal Lecter has moved from bogeyman to protagonist, and we will measure their merit by their success in the marketplace.

Sweeney promises,

We'll not discriminate great from small!
No, we'll serve anyone,
Meaning anyone,
And to anyone
At all!

Showtime's marketing of Dexter delivers on Sweeney's promise.

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