When I was a kid my cousin Phil gave me a copy of Street Fighter II. I’ve got the memory of a f***ing goldfish so I can’t exactly remember what led to my parents taking it away from me, but my Mom informed me that after playing it non-stop for the duration of the weekend, when I returned to school the following Monday I “wouldn’t stop punching the other kids”.
A similar situation arose when the then-WWF’s “Attitude” era first started making waves, and we were all staying up way past our bed times to watch Stone Cold & Friends beat the snot out of each other. Gleefully ignoring the “Do NOT Try This At Home” pre-roll that aired before every show, we took to the playground to host our own Raw, until we almost killed a kid by DDTing him onto the concrete floor. That was the last time we all got to stay up late.
Over a decade later I found myself being struck by a case of man-flu for a week. With nothing to do but lie on my back sobbing looking like one of those grotesque abominations from Alien Resurrection, I decided to watch Dexter. I rarely watch television, and whenever I do it’s usually to see Bear Grylls create a makeshift kayak out of used condoms and his own faeces, but I was repeatedly informed that I NEEDED to watch Dexter, just like I NEEDED to inhale oxygen at regular intervals.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, it centres on Dexter (played by a creepy Michael C. Hall), a bloodstain pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department with a rather niche hobby – he’s a serial killer. The good kind, though, if there ever was such a thing; his killing is limited to other killers, meaning that he can satisfy his bloodlust whilst also providing a “service” to the citizens of Miami. If you haven’t already seen it then you NEED to. It’s really rather good.
A key component of Dexter’s success as a series is just how much it can make you empathise with him, even though he’s an (almost) cold-hearted killer. He feels detached from society, finds it difficult to express emotion and views people as nothing but superfluous intrusions of his own personal space. In one scene he finds himself unwillingly dragged to a Yoga class by his girlfriend, and as the teacher tells him to “be as beautiful as golden flakes of dust”, he is secretly trying to decipher how he could kill her without anyone else in the room noticing. I defy any man to tell me that they have not found themselves in a similar situation.
Somehow, as I sat in bed for the week surrounded by tissues (for my runny nose, pervert), I managed to sit through three whole seasons of Dexter. With only my phone for company and melodramatic Facebook status updates concerning my deteriorating physical state my only contributions to the outside world, I became a bit too emotionally involved with the show.
After my health improved and I substituted the sweaty confines of my room for the real world, I started to envisage myself as the star of my very own serial killer drama series. In the same way that, acting under the firm belief that I was Ryu, I once Shoryuken-ed my then-best friend Sean right in his nose, I found myself opposing a particularly unhelpful store clerk in the supermarket and wondering how I could best dispose of him using only the contents of my shopping trolley. After staring wistfully at the frozen chicken, I eventually decided against it.
While my murderous aspirations only went as far as staring at humanity scornfully, I was still somewhat impressed that my imagination was still almost as vibrant as it was when I was 7, even if I now envisioned myself as less ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin’ and more ‘Stone Cold Killer’ (Do U C Wut I Did Thar?) So what are my thoughts on people like Jack Thompson, the anti-video-game activist who lobbied fervently to get games like GTA, Bully and Mortal Kombat banned in the United States? Surely after having seen how violent media can affect an individual I’d sympathise with his cause?
Well, no. No I do not. Because while I emulated the behaviour of the wrestlers as a kid, it still carried a PG-13 age classification that meant that I shouldn’t have been watching it in the first place. The same goes for video games: all three games listed above are either rated M for Mature or T for Teen. What does this mean? It means that the only people who should be allowed to play it are either mature gamers or f***ing teenagers. If kids are playing it then it’s the parents fault, not the game developers.
I find the kind of outright intolerance to mature content employed by the Australian government to also be idiotic. While my (admittedly slightly worrying) obsession with Dexter made me have grandiose illusions of bludgeoning ignorant supermarket staff with poultry, had I actually bludgeoned him that would’ve made me a mentally ill individual rather than the logical, responsible adult that I am.
Much in the same way that if you visualise boning that hot girl you know it doesn’t mean that you’re just going to start dry-humping her in the middle of the mall, just because you watch a drama series about a serial killer it doesn’t mean that you then want to murder every imbecile who you cross paths with. Even if their name is Jack Thompson.