America's favourite Serial Killer: "Dexter"

The Creation of Sympathy in the Perception of Criminals in Television Crime Narratives

Master's Thesis, 2009

53 Pages, Grade: A ("excellent")



1. Introduction
1.1 Object of Research
1.2 Research Design and Structure

2. Theoretical Rationale: What do we know about crime?
2.1 How to gain Knowledge of Crime and Criminals?
2.1.1 Social Constructionism
2.1.2 Frame Theory
2.2 The Conception of Criminals and Serial Killers
2.2.1 in non-fictional Media Texts
2.2.2 in fictional Media Texts – The Conventions of Crime Genre

3. The Series »Dexter«: Background and Content

4. What is Dexter?
4.1 Analysis of the Character Dexter Morgan
4.2 Analysis of Media Devices in »Dexter« in their Significance of Sympathy
4.2.1 Sound: Voice-Over, Soundtrack, Speech
4.2.2 Image: Close-up, Flashback
4.2.3 Narration
4.3 Frame Analogy, Intertextuality, Paratextuality

5. Conclusion: Summary of Findings and Outlook

6. References


1. Introduction

1.1 Object of Research

Crime is seen to be a problem of “evil and pathological individuals” (Doyle 1998: 97) with a deficit of human touch. The society easily assigns criminals to an external group of people far away from the own family and peer group. Therefore, a categorisation of ‘them’ and ‘us’ can be indicated as a quite common habit. However, the police in particular and the justice system in general as a special category acquire a position of in-between: Their task is to manage the balance between the evil and the good, between them and us. This basic understanding of good and bad is not only projected to that what we might call our every­day life, our reality – also fictional media productions dealing with the subject of crime are mainly based on this distinction by deriving the contained ‘knowledge’ of crime from a knowledge we built up in our real life considering also the mass media1. Thereby, it often concerns a self-referential knowledge where a system refers to its own established pool of knowledge of a certain subject. In this coherence, the media contribute to a large extent to our understanding of crime so that one might have sometimes difficulties to delineate real facts from fictional inventions. Commonly, criminals are seen as a deviance of the social norm. They are different from the average of the society. Generally, they are indicated as outsiders, strangers, or loners along lines of class, gender, and race who appear impulsive, maladjusted, irrational, animal-like, aggressive, and violent (Blackman/Walkerline in Jewkes 2008: 45).

Especially, the media can be held responsible for such a stigmatisation. As unfamiliar as the issue of criminal experience among the average citizen might be, the widespread is the fascination with this subject. Previous research has revealed a variety of reasons why crime exerts such a fascination over the audience – regardless, whether the story is fact like crime news or fictional products like novels, television series, movies etc. Crime sells. All above, the worse and juicy a delict appears the more it guarantees an attraction of interest among the audience (viewers as well as readers). Hence, it is no coincidence that media organisations dealing with crime news established so-called “news values” (cf. Jewkes 2008) for this purpose which are criteria to determine a criminal event as newsworthy or not. The same can be applied to the field of fictional crime: All new experiences (visual or personal) going beyond our hitherto knowledge and (media) experience of crime attracts higher attention. This can be ascribed to a subconscious process of reconciling our thitherto knowledge of crime, criminals, and criminal acts with the new media transferred input. To put this aspect in terminology of social constructionism, one can say we try to structure our knowledge in terms of frames – to set that what we already know about something and what we may regard as ‘fact’ into a frame of reference by organising and categorising pre-existing knowledge, experience, and new information.

It is similar when we read a crime novel or watch a crime series or movie where we are forced in a way to make a statement about the presented plot to designate it as common or unusual / extraordinary just because of our understanding. This means we reconcile our knowledge of criminology and previous plot templates with the story and its content that we are watching or reading at that moment. The more the negative difference outweighs our current knowledge of crime in general and crime narratives in particular, the higher is the chance to ‘overstrain’ our present frames. This can either result in complete denial of the new strand or generates an interest that attracts a sort of fascination with the new.

In this context, the U.S. television seriesDexter(2006) may be indicated as a quite uncommon conception in comparison to the general (narrative) crime genre broadcasted recently, because it seems to go beyond all acknowledged frames to categorise the evil or a ‘typical’ serial killer. The protagonist of this series, Dexter Morgan, does not fit in the stereotypical characterisation of serial killers at all that the media want us to acknowledge at all: At first glance, he seems not in the least being deviant from the social norm; he is neither an outsider nor foreshadows any violent or aggressive attitudes. The total opposite is the case: He is employed as a blood spatter analyst at a police department, appears smart, respected, polite, and sharing a sort of ordinary social life with his girlfriend and her kids. Maintaining pretence of being a good guy can be denoted as a typical feature of serial killers in crime narratives. The difference is his selection of ‘preys’: He kills only the guilty, murderers who have slipped through the cracks of justice and who have deserved it to be murdered in his opinion. This conveys almost the impression thatDexter– colloquial spoken – whirls and mixes up all existing frames which deal with our understanding and conceptions of the evil, criminals in general and serial killers in particular, of both the fictitious and the ‘real’ world.

Against the background of the high success of the series in America2 (1.1 Mio. viewers in December 20063) a certain fascination might also be derived from this unusual concept. Furthermore, by observing my own while watching the series I realised a sort of sympathy is evolving with the character Dexter Morgan. ‘Sympathy’ means here a sort of emotional bonding of one person with another one whereas this emotional state is only a one-sided process. While feeling sympathy we perceive our opponent in a positive, well-disposed manner regardless if we had ever had personal contact or not. To feel sympathy does not mandatory mean to identify with the respective person. Nevertheless, the discovery I made let me feel quite odd, because it is actually not ‘acceptable’ or just not comprehensible to feel sympathy for a serial killer; above all, he (Dexter Morgan) constantly reminds 'his' audience that even he perceives himself as a monster. After some conversations with friends and checking discussion forums, blogs, and fan sites I found out a lot of viewers apparently feel the same like me. Some even go so far to admire the character Dexter.

The fascination with horror, the evil, or with crime per se has been investigated in miscellaneous ways within the academic field as well as the media’s intrinsic effect on audience’s perception of crime and criminals. The subject of law and order in relation to the mass media constitutes a further field of academic investigations. Researchers, who set the focus on crime series, have mainly investigated how criminals are presented in general (Surette 2007; Sumser 1996) or how enforcement authorities deal with the problem of crime in relation to effectiveness of criminal justice policies (Cavender/Fishman 1998). Of course, a wide range of studies of the media’s influence of violent television programmes on the audience has been conducted (Kid-Hewitt/Osborne 1995; Smolej/Kivivuori 2006) as well as general studies of identification with protagonists of television narratives (Cohen 2000; Stam/Raengo 2005). The feeling of sympathy for a character in fictional narratives has been investigated primarily either on a more general level (Kozloff 1988) or in specified case studies (Livingstone 1990); yet, the creation of sympathy for a criminal character (here: serial killer) in television crime series seems to have not been explored as a subject per se. This results mainly from the perspective the most crime series are told from. At this pointDexterdiffers much from the general crime genre, because the protagonist is simultaneously the narrator of the story, i.e. the most part of the story is presented from his point of view.

Therefore and due to the fact that the seriesDexter– as a relatively new format on the broadcast market with no comparable crime series at the moment – seems to have been barely researched and because no studies of the series in the context of sympathy could be found my research interest is focussed on the research question

- How to create sympathy for a serial killer?
including the following subordinated questions
- How do we know what we know about crime and criminals?
- Does the form4 of representation of the series contribute to an effect of sympathy or

is sympathy just a question of the right frame?

The primarily purpose of this thesis is not just to investigate the representation form of the seriesDexter; rather to identify certain elements to clarify the question why Dexter as a character, as a killing monster, is apparently able to activate a process of triggering sympathy among an audience. As the quick check of blogs, fan pages etc. has shown this sympathy can even tend to cause fairly deep emotions, not to call them love. In addition to that,Dexterseems to exert a fascination over the audience that almost captivates. Now, can the audience be able to bridge the repugnancy of the own personality5 and the killing character Dexter Morgan to feel a sort of sympathy in the end? If so, which devices used in the series to present the character Dexter Morgan contribute to this assumption?

1.2 Research Design and Structure

The analysis is drawn upon the theoretical background of social constructionism linked to the field of frame theories. These theories enable it to find out how we know what is ‘bad and good’, what we know about the field of crime and, when do we characterise someone as a criminal person. With this knowledge the next step is to identify contemporary media frames of criminals and serial killers respectively. Hereby, it is important to make a difference between fictional conceptions of criminals / serial killers (in the realm of entertainment media) and of those conceptions based on ‘facts’, i.e. what do non-fictional (yet media) conceptions (news, reality based programmes, documentaries etc.) consist of. Since the seriesDexterseems to be in contrast to hitherto existing media frames of serial killers, the idea is now – after giving a short summary of the series’ content – to reconcile these existing frames with the serial killer conception of the character Dexter Morgan who is promoted as “America’s favourite serial killer” by the broadcast station Showtime Networks Inc. For this purpose an analysis of salient / dominant stylistic devices in representation and narration style is conducted which seem to be significant for a correlation between the representation of the character Dexter Morgan and an interpretation promoting a creation of sympathy or rather an inner conflict of ethical dichotomy among the audience. Furthermore, the analysis is intended to verify if the alleged sympathy is not even manipulated or influenced by factors not emerging from the series’ concept per se but by media texts originated from, e.g. merchandising campaigns or other media productions or genres. In the end, the findings obtained by the preceding analysis are questioned in context of the general effect and power of frame building concerning the perception of serial killers in the media.

Due to restricted time and space the here presented study is focussed on the first season ofDexter, first aired on 1st October 2006 and presented by the pay-tv channel Showtime Networks Inc. I.e. only the American original version is taken into account. A further reason why only the first season is chosen is that it can be assumed that an alleged effect of sympathy might be most noticeable here, because of the series’ innovative character in the range of television crime series broadcasted that period. The first season consists of twelve episodes which are broadcasted in a weekly cycle during the primetime period. Even though the series is based on Jeff Lindsay’s novelDarkly dreaming Dexter(2004) the novel is only considered as general background of informative character. Moreover, this study is drawn on media conceptions / frames of crime and criminals based on previous findings from an English-speaking scientific background. Since no reception analyses will be conducted, statements about the viewer and audience according their perception ofDexterrefer to my experiences with and perception ofDexteras well as to my subjective assumptions in their general meaning for the audience or the single viewer.

2. Theoretical Rationale: What do we know about Crime?

As mentioned in the introduction the purpose of this thesis is to find out indicators of the series Dexter for triggering sympathy for the serial killer Dexter Morgan and how these are able to influence a graphic rendition (Darstellungsart) and in the end the perception of a character. To answer this question it is helpful to have a look at theories that help us to understand how we gain our knowledge in general or of a certain subject (here: crime) and all above how our knowledge is influenced or guided by certain parties. In the case of crime the theory of social constructionism is a good starting point, as it has found its consideration in the field of criminology before. Relating the theory of social constructionism to frame theory this chapter points critically out how criminals are commonly presented in the mass media on both non-fictional and fictional levels. In conclusion this chapter is intended to support the overall analysis to demonstrate the difference of what we already know about criminals (i.e. serial killers) and to what extent this knowledge drifts apart from the serial killer profile presented in the series. Furthermore, these theories are the basis to show which elements of ‘typical’ media frames of serial killers are used in combination with elements that are eventually alien to genre.

2.1 How to gain Knowledge of Crime and Criminals?

2.1.1 Social Constructionism

Social constructionism sets knowledge in context to what we understand as real or as our reality. ‘Knowing’ what reality is allows the recognition and differentiation of fictional and non-fictional content. In the case of crime such differentiability enables us to separate the knowledge of what the media present us as real crime in, e.g. crime news6 and what is presented as entertaining crime, i.e. fictitious crime cases in crime series or movies. To explain the concept of social constructionism it is reasonable to start with the construction process of reality.

Thus, following the concept of social constructionism, reality is a socially created product of personal experience and of knowledge that is gained through social interactions (Surette 2007: 31). Speaking generally, social constructionism is focussed on human relationships and their ways of affecting perceived realities among people. These relationships are primarily active and cooperative and as a result produce shared meanings, which can be indicated as commonly accepted ideas, interpretations, and knowledge in sense of a cultural consensus (ibid: 32). Although, the process of social constructionism is coined by social negotiation of meanings within a culture, its product, the idea of reality, comprises still “highly individual elements” (ibid: 31). This is due to the sources from which individuals acquire their social knowledge. According to SURETTE, four sources can be identified (ibid: 32): personal experience, significant others (like peers, family and friends), other social groups, and at last all kinds of institutions and organisations. As already stated, reality is based on knowledge and experience; therefore, SURETTE further indicates three kinds of reality: the experienced, the symbolic, and the socially constructed reality (ibid.). Experienced reality means the directly experienced world and is therewith fairly limited because of the individual living environments an individual is acting and experiencing in. Due to the very closely made experiences this reality has a powerful influence on an individual’s constructed reality (ibid: 33). For instance, crime as a social construct becomes much more real for someone if this one has made the experience of personal victimisation. This experience enables the subject to develop knowledge of how fatal a particular crime can be or not. However, as SURETTE argues, the “crime-and-justice experienced reality” (ibid.) is not widespread, even though the media seem to transfer a contrary image leading to the next sort of reality, the symbolic reality. In this category of reality experiences and therewith knowledge are not made by oneself but are derived from the knowledge of other people, institutions, and the media (ibid.). This mediated knowledge is shared symbolically and collectively by the belief that events, facts, and things are true and do exist, proved by pictures, literature, statistics, and reports (ibid.).

The media take on a dominant role when it comes to symbolic reality. In the case of crime, they deliver images and definitions of certain crimes, give impressions of stereotypical offenders and transfer a picture of how gruesome and proximal an incident can be as well as ‘telling’ us when a social behaviour is deviant and a law transgressed. The most of us gain their knowledge of crime from the media due to the lack of personal experience. BROWN denotes this also as a “media generated knowledge” (Brown 2003: 15-6): transformed and transmitted medial experiences as a sort of self-referential knowledge (ibid: 18). In other words, we can learn from media representations what crime and law consist of (ibid: 33), but on the other side media also delimit our knowledge of crime, since they determine what we get to know.7 Hence, the ambition of everyone is to get an imagination of what ‘reality’ is; therefore, we mix our experienced and symbolic reality in order to construct our own subjective reality – a socially constructed reality that directs social behaviour as a result of negotiations of similar social realities (Surette 2007: 34). These negotiations can also be described as a competition of social constructions, i.e. an enforcement of one of different descriptions and explanations of conditions and alleged facts of an event (here: crime) (ibid: 34-6). Summing up, social constructionism can be easily described as a sort of a ‘guideline’ for the world: How to behave and in what to believe.

The media play a quite important part in the competing process of social constructions, since they function as a sort of filter in consideration of their own values (ibid: 35). News values like threshold, proximity, violence, simplification (including symbolisation), and spectacle or graphic imagery (Jewkes 2008: 40-61) influence how an event is presented and how it becomes known to the public. ‘It’ (the story) has to sell and what the media is promoting can be indicated without further ado as a “functional truth” (Kovach/Rosenstiel 2007: 42), i.e. the media are acting in their own favour. The media machinery as a device for public attention does not only create and adopt certain social constructions in favour to get a story / event / ‘truth’ publicly accepted; the media is rather used by so-called powerful groups (Surette 2007: 35) to get their own versions of reality (i.e. a particular crime as a general social problem) prevailed; even though this might mean that those powerful groups or institutions have to follow partly the media constructions and have to agree to a compromise.

The reason to get a social construction dominant over others is complex. As already implied the media’s aim is to flourish a respective message to create a reality on which they can refer to at a later date (see above: self-referential knowledge), a creation of a world that is coherent in itself and make it seem like truth. Supporters of a specific social construction as authorities of the society, i.e. institutions, opinion leaders, and moral entrepreneurs (Jewkes 2008: 67) often have the aim to prevail a specific social policy direction like criminal justice policies. Those supporters refer on the one hand, to the media’s reality (because the media promoted a crime as it appears to the public – in its definition and extent) to gain public favour and on the other hand, to their own reality and therewith to their own interests of gaining prestige. Thus, the media create their own reality and claim makers as well as owners of social problems and issues do the same, but in comparison with the media’s promoted reality (Surette 2007: 36-8, 46-7). Crime as a symbolic event and social constructionism as an interpretative disquisition.

Narratives, not as fully developed social constructions but as a ‘tool’ of social constructionism are predominantly used by the media to quickly establish characteristics about criminals and criminal events. One characteristic criterion is the ‘artificially’ generated recurrence and regularity of specific types and situations (ibid: 42), so that a “cultural stock of narratives” (ibid: 43) gets established which influences the socially shared image and knowledge of crime in reality and fiction. We can find stereotyped images of serial killers, heroic crime fighters, the highly innocent victim, and the “innately evil predatory criminal” (ibid: 42). To have an influence on the defining process of those images and knowledge means to have the power to create social reality of a society for many people (ibid: 54). Furthermore, the symbolisation of crimes and criminals is linked to frames; this theoretical concept as well as its meaning for our understanding and perception is illustrated in the following sub-chapter.

However, a problematical or difficult issue to work with the methodology of social constructionism is to define which entities exactly are social constructs. Is it our experience, an idea, language, institutions or bodies (Hacking 1999: 28)? Further, one may not ignore the proceeding interaction among the different entities in a social process / phenomena as an important element to cover the complete extent of it. In HACKING’s example of the child viewer of television (ibid: 25-8) he demonstrates the complex interactional coherence between a “certain classification” (ibid: 27), the “children themselves” (ibid.) and “their ways of being children” (ibid.). This example shows also the high level of abstraction as a result of this methodology: children are not longer children, they are transferred into categories or in other words, subjects become objects.

In coherence with social constructionism, an interplay with intertextuality is identifiable. Intertextuality means the relationship between media texts which presupposes a range of textual knowledge to be able to recognise this correlation whereby it is not mandatory to be familiar with a specific or the same text (Fiske 1987: 108). Being able to ‘read’ intertextuality enables the viewer or reader to make interpretations of a respective text, to make a meaning of it (ibid.). Deriving from that, intertextuality contributes strongly to our understanding of crime (Doyle 1998: 95). Due to a lack of direct personal experience with crime, viewers establish knowledge from previous media experiences in watching movies or series about typical characteristics of a typical criminal offender (or here: serial killer), how he/she behaves and what makes him / her evil in comparison to “good people”. Referring to DORFMAN, MARSH/MELVILLE argue that most of the public form their opinions about crime out of what they have watched or read (Marsh/Melville 2009: 1). These former experiences enable viewers to interpret similar media productions according to their underlying story lines.

2.1.2 Frame Theory

The process of social construction in general and of crime and justice in particular provides sets of pre-packaged constructions. These pre-packaged constructions can be defined as frames which are “fully developed social constructions template[s], that allow to categorize, label and, deal with a wide range of world events” (Surette 2007: 39, 42) and to place them in a societal context.

Going back to the roots of frame theory, we can refer to GOFFMAN who defines frames in conjunction with the general organisation of knowledge and experience as a cognitive construction of knowledge (Scherpelmann 2003). It is a simplifying device for individuals to recognize, understand, interpret, and assort occurring events and experiences as well as the world per se in the end (Surette 2007: 39). Or to put it simply, frames are schemata of experiences which help us to perceive and comprehend situations meaningful. This means, frames can be seen as definitions for situations and play an important role in the right recognition of events. The use of such frames takes place unconsciously when trying to arrange a situation or event in already existing frames. Further, the concept comprises specific intercultural expectations towards the present participators and their behaviour, the physiological environment, and the extent of subjective involvement (ibid.). Thus, “definitions of a situation are built up in accordance with principles of organization which govern events – at least social ones [...]” (Goffman 1974: 10-1). Following GAMSON, frames exist at different “levels of abstraction” (Gamson et al 1992: 385): at a cultural level in form of competing different interpretative packages in order to frame ongoing issues; within media forums in form of media interpretative packages supplied by competing interpretative packages; and within the public discourse constructed on the basis of any combination of frames emerging from interpretative packages. These packages contain the internal structure of a frame, but are applied to a particular issue or event (Gamson 1988: 221-2).

Additionally to this cognitive approach, we can find an approach about discursive structural frames (van Dijk 1977) where individuals organise contents and themes of discussions and, on a higher level, are able to make sense of the information they are provided with. This perspective helps to analyse how people construct and therewith understand narratives and issues, for example expressed in public debates or as performed communicative purposes (van Dijk 1977: 153).

Other scholars like REESE define frames as socially shared organising principles which are persistent over time and work symbolically and structure the social world in its meaningful sense (Reese 2001: 11). That frames should be persistent over time can be seen critically, since frames are built upon meanings and meanings are cultural negotiated conventions influenced by public discourses. Images, for example, are part of both, public discourses and cultural negotiations, but lacking of fixed meanings, because as GAMSON argues, cultures do not assign to fixed meanings to images (Gamson 1995: 87); they have the power to frame and later reframe.

Transferring the concept of framing to the media, frames can be defined as a selection of “some aspects of a perceived reality” (Entman 1993: 52) in order to “make them more salient in [the] communication text” (ibid.). Media frames organise the world for the ones who manufacture texts (journalists construct news) as well as for the ones who receive these texts (Gitlin 1980: 7). That means, the media select some events to report and then select a thematic framework within which they like to report them. Therefore, reality has been filtered, since that what media present is not reality, but a construction of reality. GITLIN put this aspect as following: “Media frames are persistent patterns of cognition, of selection, emphasis and exclusions by which the symbol handlers routinely organize discourse whether verbal or visual” (ibid.). That is why PAN/KOSICKI recommend to study framing “as a strategy of constructing and processing news discourse, or as a characteristic of the discourse itself” (Pan/Kosicki 1993: 57).

As already marked, frames in general and media frames in particular have the power to define reality. Due to the condition resembling a competition of ‘veracity’ and public encouragement, media frames can call attention to some aspects of reality while ‘suppressing’ other elements, which might lead audiences to have different reactions. So, a social construction of reality can often occur invisible between the lines. Frames in news texts are the “imprint of power” (Entman 1993: 56), because they are able to register identities of actors or interests competed to dominate a text. “Thus, the power of frame can be as great as that of language itself [...] the concept of framing directs our attention to details of just how a communicating text exerts its power” (ibid). In other words, media texts like news stories can be described as an arena of framing contests (Carragee/Roefs 2004: 216): the winner contributes strongly to the construction of meaning and therewith (another media generated) reality.

Media framing is not a one-sided process only emanating from the media side. The audience is likewise involved, because it relies on the same “shared repertoire of frames in culture” (van Gorp 2007: 61) as the media. VAN GORP argues that framing involves an interplay between the textual level (which are frames applied in the media), the cognitive level (which are schemata among the audience and media operators), the extramedial level (which is the discourse hold of frame sponsors) and the available stock of frames in the respective culture (ibid: 64). DE VREESE (2003) identifies two classes of media frames: Firstly, the generic media frame which is related to news values and determines the grammar of news. This frame is communicated in conflicts, economic consequences and moral duties. The second class is the issue specific media frame, which is related to a concrete news story.

Frames in the field of crime and justice as they exist, ease the processing, labelling, and understanding of crime for individuals who hold the frame’s view of reality (Surette 2007: 39). The process of cognition is prevalent here as well: The recognition of certain features of an already existing crime type enables individuals to assign the occurrence of a new criminal event or criminal act to this category and frame respectively. Therewith, the frame fulfils also a function of providing a ‘list’ of possible causes or explanations of the emergence of such an event, since such elements are already built into the existing frame (ibid.). What takes place is a settlement of what is already known and acknowledged as reality and what appears familiar by trying to comprehend a new event. It is important to note that frames are not mutually exclusive, i.e. supporting more than one frame is not unusual as well as in reverse, (criminal) events can be differently constructed by using different frames (ibid.: 40-1). SURETTE presents five crime-and-justice frames developed by THEODORE SASSON (ibid: 39-42):

1. The faulty criminal justice system frameregards crime as a result of an inaccurate law and order system. Its symbolic representation is carried out by repeat offenders or by the image of “inmates passing through a revolving door on a prison” (ibid: 39).
2. The blocked opportunities frameconsists of a depiction of crime as a consequence of inequality and discrimination, like unemployment, poverty, and education. The symbolic representation is hold by dead-end or low-paying jobs.
3. The social breakdown frame: Family and community disintegration, exploding rates of divorce, and out-of-wedlock births favour emergence of crimes on the one side; and on the other side permissiveness, unemployment, racial discrimination as well as loss of jobs and income. Crimes are symbolically represented by challenged traditional family values, gangs and loitering in public spaces.


1 In the following the term “media” substitutes the long term “mass media” without changing any meaning.

2 as well as in Europe, but due to the restricted space this work is focussed on the U.S. broadcast market and its audience.

3 owtime_hit_series (viewed 14 May 2009).

4 The “form” of a film, series etc. is according BORDWELL/THOMPSON to be understood as an overall organisation in sense of a pattern (not just a cluster of moments) in order to serve a formal function (Bordwell/Thompson 2008: 4). This pattern mostly consists of devices (i.e. lightning/visual/sound effects, cut, semiotic/linguistic tools) to transport a certain message or to appeal in a certain way.

5 Provided that the average viewer does not have any grave criminal background: “the viewer is constituted as the normal citizen” (Ellis 1982: 169).

6 A so-called over-reporting of unusual crime events (as murder) is significant for the mass media (Jewkes 2008: 37, 49, 55) and should be kept in mind at this point.

7 This brings up the question, do we really know what is real or do we just know what ‘one’ let us know about reality?

Excerpt out of 53 pages


America's favourite Serial Killer: "Dexter"
The Creation of Sympathy in the Perception of Criminals in Television Crime Narratives
Stockholm University  (JMK - Department of Journalism, Media and Communication)
A ("excellent")
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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767 KB
Master Thesis
crime series, Dexter, serial killer, sympathy, social constructionism, frame theory, media frames
Quote paper
M.A. Jasmin Teuteberg (Author), 2009, America's favourite Serial Killer: "Dexter", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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