Monday, October 1, 2012

Lila Isn't Anti-Feminist (Dexter)



(See also the video version)

I cannot understand why so many feminists hate the character of Lila in Dexter season two, as she seems a fairly accurate depiction of a female psychopath on a show about a male psychopath who frequently interacts with other psychopaths as he puzzles at the world. I mean, I get that her actions in faking a rape as an attack and her general abusive demeanor play into anti-feminist stereotypes about how all women have a unique capacity for behaving in such a negative way when the mood strikes them, but the reason these stereotypes exist is because such behavior is frequently performed by female psychopaths. The writers clearly did their research into psychopathy, and Dexter paraphrases psychopathy-expert Dr. Robert Hare when he acknowledges Lila as a psychopath like him with the words “you know the words, but you can’t hear the music” as a metaphor for their limited understanding of empathetic feelings. As I praise the show when it accurately represents Dexter’s psychopathy and criticize it when it does not, I likewise praise the accurately psychopathic depiction of Lila. I don’t believe that the feminine psychopathic traits have a uniquely anti-feminist nature when applied to all characters in all situations, only that they frequently end up as anti-feminist when used in non-psychopathic characters. That is not the case of Lila.


In the context of the show, the negative traits are treated only as the individual traits of a certain psychopath and not traits of all women. Debra is an example of a well-adjusted, respected female character, and she can smell something off about Lila the first time they meet. When Lila goes to buy the date rape drug, the dealer comments that she’s not his usual buyer, which is an acknowledgement from the show that most uses of the date rape drug are real rapes committed by men and that Lila’s use of it is bizarre. As the non-psychopathic female characters are treated well, I don’t find the show’s use of the traits at all problematic.

In his book Snakes in Suits, Hare talks about how gender roles are responsible for how so few women end up being diagnosed with psychopathy (or antisocial personality disorder), instead getting narcissistic personality disorder and similar non-psychopathic diagnoses. People just don’t think of women as capable of being psychopaths because they associate the aggressive and apathetic traits of psychopathy with masculinity, but things are improving as the years go by. Thanks to feminism, people are getting that there’s more to women than the stereotypes, and the media is starting to reflect this. Hare says he is grateful for this change because it’s alerting people to the threat represented by psychopathic women. It’s ironic that these more accurate depictions are being flamed by feminists.

I presume that a lot of these feminists just don’t have a good understanding of psychopathy and the fact that psychopathic women exist. This is weird to me because it seems like feminism is closely linked to social psychology, and you can’t study psychology without at least brushing the subject of psychopathy. I suggest these feminists who criticize a show about psychopaths for accurately depicting a psychopath return to their studies of psychopathy, because they are clearly lacking important information.

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