Writing Deeks: The Pain Behind the Humor
Marty Deeks’ humor is a charming personality trait, but it’s also a defense mechanism, a shield he uses to keep people from seeing the darker aspects of his personality. We spoke with our panel of fan fiction writers to find out what they think he’s hiding behind those jokes, and how it affects the way they write him.
She expects him to break the tension with an effortless smirk and a humorous quip; she expects him to playfully call her out on her doubting his confidence. Furthermore, she expects that confidence, she expects that humor because that’s who Deeks is… on the surface, anyway. Kensi knows there’s a lot hidden beneath, but that’s exactly what it is– hidden.
For aslycsi1315, Deeks is a man “very dependent on his humor to hide the trauma he has endured in his life.” She gives examples from Season 5 such as when “his emotional wall collapses [in ‘Impact’] and he falls from being able to talk to his team to complete isolation,” and “when the idea of Kensi actually being dead pushes him way over the edge and into torturing someone” [in “Spoils of War”]. She sees his playful exterior as an effort to mask the self-doubt that results from such experiences. “Deeks is the happy, fun ‘semi-agent’ on the team on the outside,” she describes, “and yet he clings to being just a cop from an agency that hated him and privately battles trying to be the best on a team of experienced agents and a SEAL.”
Sweet Lu views Deeks’ humor as a coping mechanism he’s used his entire life: “He can laugh in the face of everything that happens and that may go back to his childhood pain and his method of dealing with what he was going through. He survived and I believe it was his humor that helped him do that.” Kadiedid sees him using it now “to deflect questions but also as a barrier to keep people at arm’s length. Maybe he does it subconsciously or maybe it’s intentional. He’s a complex character.”
This had been his life. He had faced unreasonable violence so early in life that she was certain he wasn’t surprised at all by the violence he’d witnessed tonight. It was familiar. It had been a part of him almost from the beginning, making her even more curious as to how he had been able to laugh in the face of those men tonight. She understood that there were many ways to deal with fear and confrontation, and humor was one of them, but as she looked through the hospital records she wondered how he had not been ruined by the brutality rained down on him by his own father through most of his childhood. What had that done to him that she couldn’t see behind those blue eyes and cocky grin on the news footage? Some were able to hide their wounded souls and she wondered if he might be one of the more adept at it, presenting a friendly confidence while harboring a dark pain pushed down deep and kept hidden.
For Jessica237, the ability to laugh off life’s cruelty has, more than any other trait, inspired the Deeks she writes. “My favorite characteristic of Deeks’, after a fair bit of thinking about it, is probably his ability to just roll with whatever comes at him. On the surface, it seems as if almost nothing ever brings him down. Teasing jabs from Callen and Sam and Kensi, comments from ex-girlfriends (‘I hope you get paralyzed in a car accident,’ [from ‘Crimeleon’] for example), personal and professional setbacks, Lt. Bates looking right at him and saying ‘I guess you don’t belong there either’ [from ‘The Debt’]– Deeks just seems to compartmentalize it all and push forward. It’s sad in a way, because it sounds like it’s something he’s had to learn how to do, because it’s what he grew up with, it’s all the disparaging comments he took from the LAPD, all that. Somehow he’s learned to take all of that, push it aside, and cope with humor, and while it sounds awful to me to say I love that about him, I really do love that about him because it hints again at his past. It hints at everything that shaped him into who he is today.”
“You put on a very entertaining show for the world Mr. Deeks.”
Deeks smiled. “You think I’m entertaining?”
“I do. I also think you are kind, smart, strong, brave, determined and lethal when need be. But the face you show the world masks many of those qualities. Quite intentionally. It is what makes you an excellent undercover operative. It also makes it difficult to properly know you.”
“You know me Hetty. Everyone at work does.”
“We know you as much as you allow us to know you. And that’s true of all the members of this team. It is why you are all so good at what you do. But you use your humor to keep people at an arm’s length. They can’t hurt you or disappoint you and you can’t unintentionally do the same.”
Deeks looked down. “I think you’ve been spending too much time with Nate.”
Jessica237’s Deeks “tends to be quietly unhappy. To the rest of the world, he seems fine – excessively sure of himself, joking around, making fun of himself and others (good-naturedly, of course), always with a smile and a joke every day, to quote the store owner from ‘Personal.’ My Deeks uses that as a defense mechanism- if he’s always smiling and joking, no one ever really sees what’s under the surface. And it has always worked for him, because (and this is so sad, to me) no one before has ever really cared enough to search any farther beneath the surface. So he successfully hides everything away, but unlike Kensi, that doesn’t make him feel better. Sometimes, he wishes that the others could see just how much some of their comments hurt him. Like ‘Really? Deeks? That’s the best they could do?’ in ‘Fame.’ He doesn’t linger on that though – when times are good, they’re really good for him. It’s only during the bad times, the lonely times, that he tends to withdraw and linger on that. Sort of like how he withdrew and hid himself away after the Sidorov ordeal.”
“This is what I try to write with my Deeks,” she continues, “the way he effortlessly takes everything that everyone throws at him, while delving into just how deeply that hits him in a way that just really can’t be written out in canon because writing and television are two different mediums.”
Deeks may use his humor to keep people from learning some of his darker secrets, but some writers also see him using it to protect himself from further hurt. Jericho Steele describes his Deeks in this way. “He wants to trust those around him with everything but seems to bear the marks of betrayal and prefers to hide behind his jokes and laid-back attitude,” he says. “It takes a lot of work to get past all of the aliases that he has used for so long to hide the real him. He’s been burned before, either by his family or someone he trusted deeply, and if that type of betrayal happens again… he might slip into one of his stronger/darker personas and never come back out again.”
Internally Deeks sighed. He’d been doing it so long, covering up what he really thought or felt with humor and making himself the source of derision before others could, that it was painfully natural. A good shrink would probably say he used humor to deflect away from uncomfortable situations.
Most of the time it didn’t bother him too much. He was confident enough about his abilities as a cop to not care what most everyone else thought. Most of the time he thought he was a decent enough guy. He wasn’t entirely sure he was a good man. There were enough secrets, enough black in whatever blank, white page he might have been, that his slate would always be shaded with grey.
On the Season 5 DVD retrospective, Eric Christian Olsen talked about Deeks’ hidden side. He said, “I think there’s a darkness in him, that they’re exploring, and I think that he has emotional repercussions from what happened to him as a kid. I think there’s a lot of rage inside of him. All the torture stuff, the PTSD…” For the next couple of weeks, we’ll delve more deeply into the world of Dark Deeks– at how our writers relate to his pain, and how they see their Deeks evolving to match new traumas experienced by the TV version. Don’t let all the darkness get you down, though… Densi fun is on the horizon!
Want to Read More?
To find the stories quoted above, follow these links:
Jessica237, “A Lack of All Things Routine”
Sweet Lu, “The Collector”
Tess DiCorsi, “Invincible Summer”
imahistorian, “Take Me Out”
We also asked each writer to recommend a short story they thought best represents their Deeks. phillydi named one where Deeks isn’t quite able to hide his pain with humor. She describes “Deeks’ New Birthday Box Surprise” (romance/humor) this way: “Little things make him happy and when he opens this birthday box from Kensi, the joy comes back into his life and he is able to go on another day… he doesn’t need much.”
Go back to the previous Writing Deeks, Funny Deeks.
A special thanks to @thewingsofnight for creating the wonderful artwork.
I love this. It’s all so so true (and you’ve quoted some of my favorite fanfic writers!). I really hope the writers of the show start to explore the “other” side of Deeks this season. We’ve seen bits and pieces along the way, but it’s way past time to reveal more of Deeks and this persona he puts out there. I’m also interested to see it explored in his relationship with Kensi. I think we all assume that she sees more to him than the others might (just as he sees more to her than she lets others see), but I don’t know that we’ve actually seen “proof” of that in the show and I think it would serve to show just how strong their partnership is at work and whatever relationship they have outside of work.
I should say, we haven’t seen *much* proof of just how much he and Kensi may know of each other beyond what others know. And I don’t mean quirks, habits, likes/dislikes, etc, but rather the whole idea that he has this hidden persona and what does Kensi know about it (and what does he know about hers)
Glad you enjoyed the discussion! I totally agree with you, especially about how fascinating it would be to see Kensi react to a clear view of Deeks’ dark side. I remember her expressions in “The Debt” as she got a glimpse of the kind of man Max Gentry is. I’d love to see more of that kind of story.
Deeks is inherently a happy person because, I feel that he is thankful to be alive and to really do what he feels he needs to do – he truly wishes to contribute towards making a difference (no matter how small or time-consuming) in order to create a better a world for all the hurt, underprivileged, tortured and innocent souls out there who sometimes just suffer due to the hand fate and circumstances dealt them.
But whilst saying this, deep down, he is does have a fair amount of suppressed rage and darkness within him because he was so deeply scarred and hurt and helpless as a little boy; children should not have to protect their parents, they should not be abused by a parent – they should be nurtured and loved and be assisted to develop confidence and appropriate disciplines to develop into well rounded adults.
Deeks is sometimes his own worst enemy as I believe he “punishes” himself for numerous things because he doesn’t always feel confident that he is good enough for the highly trained, efficient and skilled team of agents that he joined as a mere detective or on a very personal level, for Kensi. He is very heedful of rejection and he truly yearns for the acceptance that, in spite of major adversity during his childhood, he did turn out to be “better than his daddy”.
He will continue to strive and work extra hard to show the entire NCIS LA team, whom he adopted as his family, that he cares and is more than capable of bringing his expertise to the team by sometimes even going as far as putting himself in harm’s way. He will continue to prove that he is loyal and tough, especially when those close to him are threatened in any way.
Therefore, he has turned his humour (which I adore and believe that it is and always was part of his adorable personality!!) into a coping mechanism to hide what he believes are his weaknesses or to deflect hurt when his subconscious buttons are pressed. It is truly poignant as he gives this (“slightly”) embarrassed, white – toothed smile when the team really teases or even insults him and then he just comes back with a humorous self deprecating quip, as if the derision doesn’t bother him at all. He is “fine” with being the team clown/idiot as long as nobody picks up on the sensitive, vulnerable Deeks; the Deeks who hides behind humour to protect himself from being betrayed and hurt again and again. Then I just want to hug him and tell him everything is OK – he is OK; he is better than OK!
I agree with phyllidi that small things make him happy – just remembering his birthday, acknowledging a job well done, showing that his contribution makes the team stronger, that he matters and is a valuable asset to the team; that Kensi appreciates him even when he is “bothering” her…..
He needs unequivocal proof that he can trust the person he cares most about (our adorable Kensi) to open up to about issues (some of them that he hasn’t even sorted out in his own mind yet). I am awaiting these with bated breath –we need to see this tortured, honest, decent man come to terms with his past and to realise that he is actually a better man because of his past!
Maxine what great observations you make, wow! You touched on a couple of themes that we’ll be exploring in the next few weeks, particularly in your description of Doubting Deeks, who has self-esteem issues and isn’t sure he’s good enough. Except we all can see that he’s more than good enough and it makes us all, including our group of fan fiction writers, want to hug him like you described.
Awesome! Love your analysis and comments from my favorite fanfic writers. 😄 Deeks is definitely more complex than the light hearted fellow he pushes forth. As ECO says, there is a darkness from his childhood that he will need to make peace with. I can’t wait for the show writers to delve into his past. Besides his sense of humor, I love Deeks’s empathy. Hmmm, where did that come from?!
Anyways, love this series.
This may not be the place to say this but…I must add, kudos to the webmaster 😄. This site just gets better and better. The layout, the organization, the ease of use, Kudos! This site has become my second guilty pleasure right after fanfiction 😊
Thanks Reader1976. It means a lot that your enjoy the site so much. We thank you!
Thanks Reader1976! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the series. They’re all amongst my favorite writers too, so it was super fun to pick their brains and get all the questions I’ve ever wanted to ask answered.
And wow, thanks so much for the lovely comment. I agree that the webmaster AKA Colleen is super talented and awesome! And what an incredible compliment, to be considered a “guilty pleasure.” I love it!
Thank you KP for another incredible article about writing Fan Fics. I love reading all the writers’ takes on Deeks, especially this talented group. They delve so deeply into the character and their care for him shows in their amazing work. Thanks also for the pull-outs and the story links. You ask great questions and I for one had to really look deep into my thought process to answer them. It has been such a pleasure to be a part of this great series.
Sweet Lu, I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the process as well as the posts. And thank you for sharing so many wonderful, and very personal, insights into Deeks. I’m thrilled to have you as a participant!
I must agree with Reader 1976 – this website is amazing; from the reviews, fanfic writers, graphic artists, etc. Each person involved shows great passion. It is because you are all so awesome that we cannot help but want to participate….
There will always be a comment box open for you! Thanks for your support!
Thanks so much Maxine! “Passionate” is much better than the adjective I normally use… “obsessed”. 😉
Ultimately I think we all have a very similar vision Deeks! I think it will be wonderful to see some of his past finally reflected in the series !!! Something we’re waiting for a long time! It goes without saying that those who write here and also all history “Deeks” are fabulous, I love every obvious story “fanfiction” and not just those you mention, writers are fantastic !!! love this place !!! A big kiss from Argentina and as always I hope my English will understand!
Hey Kriss, I agree- there are so many talented fan fiction writers out there to keep us entertained. Thanks for reading!