Friday, October 26, 2012

Michael C. Hall + Kevin Dutton at the Rubin

What do psychopaths have to do with expert Buddhist monks? Good question, and one of the points that came up for discussion at the Rubin Museum's Happy Talk on Wednesday. This ongoing series brings together "experts and personalities" to talk about happiness --- and a few nights ago that included Dr. Kevin Dutton, who wrote a book about mad folks called The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, and Michael C. Hall, who plays one on TV.

Like so many psychopaths, Hall's Dexter demonstrates a shrewdness or sensitivity to weakness / vulnerability, as well as an ability to stay cool under pressure, one trait that Hall would like to steal from his fictional alter ego. But we all tend to envy psychopaths for their "don't care" attitude. They stay in the moment, demonstrating both a remarkable focus (just like Buddhists!) and ability to fixate on positive, rather than negative, outcomes. They are attuned to others (just like Buddhists!) They are decisive. They are goal-oriented. Super confident, they aren't interested in what others think about them or in manifesting social norms. One of the goals of Dutton's book is to help people understand that psychopathology exists on a spectrum --- and that not all psychopaths are crazy or own a henley-based kill suit.

Hall more than held his own, asking probing questions and thinking deeply about what it means to play a killer who's getting more human as the show goes on. He noted that the main reason Dexter has stubble isn't because Dexter hates the possibility of cutting himself, as Hall told the writers and producers, but because Hall was sick of shaving every day after years of being clean-shaven on Six Feet Under. And his best days on set? "I'm never more free or light than after I pretend to kill someone."

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