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Title: Dissecting the dark defender : approaching vigilantism in American history, society and culture through Dexter
Author: Smith, Madeleine
ISNI:       0000 0004 5917 9201
Awarding Body: University of Hull
Current Institution: University of Hull
Date of Award: 2015
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[From the introduction]: Vigilantism. Its act or mere mention can have a polarising effect, provoking fear or excitement, disapproval or endorsement, and even imitation in the American public. Vigilantism features regularly in American history, news reports and popular culture references alike, a subtle yet pervasive feature of American life. It is also often highly political, prompting contemporary debates amongst critics and politicians into issues such as self- defence and gun laws, rising crime and social breakdown, and suggests a tendency of the American people to employ or resort to violence. Such debates are not new, however, with outspoken critics on each side of the argument. Ted Robert Gurr, for instance, writing from a conservative perspective, argues that recorded crime rates in America have been inconsistent and are artificially inflated. He states that such claims are exaggerated and have supported a wider perception of American society as being an overtly violent one (1989: pp.21-54). Although Gurr aims to challenge the perception of violence as being generally high in America, he wrote his initial essay for a government report into violence during the 1970s, suggesting a potentially biased perspective. Such an approach ignores the significance of particularly persistent forms of violence in American society, like vigilantism. In contrast, and writing specifically in relation to the often overlooked prevalence of vigilantism in American life, Arnold Madison argues that vigilantism is a persistent feature of American history that will continue to efface American society until the nation’s proclivity to employ violence in such a manner is confronted (1973: p.214). Such opposing outlooks and approaches make clear that vigilantism is a controversial issue that causes extreme responses on both sides of the political spectrum. More so, it can often encompass or be related to other complex social issues, such as anarchism, terrorism and even euthanasia. This highlights the problem of classification surrounding the topic and suggests its applicability to many often conflicting and controversial aspects of modern life. As such, vigilantism is not often recognised as an entity worthy of discussion in its own right, and is often shied away from completely. This thesis will demonstrate how Dexter (Cr. Jeff Lindsay and James Manos Jr, Showtime Networks, US, 2006-2013) is a highly pertinent text through which in-depth, nuanced and wide-ranging discussions of vigilantism are possible, and can inform future subsequent research on the topic.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Film studies