Celebration of Wickedness Day 23A: HANNIBAL LECTER
I know I said there’s no rest for the wicked but apparently I was wholly mistaken because I fell asleep without getting yesterday’s post out. Dammit! So I guess you get a two-for-the-price-of-one or a buy-one-get-one-free or whatever.
The first entrée in our delicatessen of detestable deliciousness (you like that alliteration, don’t ya?) is the guy who took cannibalism from the leather mask-wearing hillbilly set and brought it into the big city, federal prison-style: Hannibal Lecter.
“Hello Clarice.” Remember that? Gives you the willies, huh? I don’t even know what he said about fava beans but I know I’ll never eat them.
Over the years, we’ve seen so many serial killers on screen and read about them in real life so much that they have a profile well all know: he was quiet, kept to himself, right? Then they dig back in his past, talk to his mama, and realize the guy used to torture kittens and spend leisurely Saturdays at Chuck E. Cheese without any kids. And when it comes to film portrayals of serial killers, this is pretty formulaic, right? These guys come in two varieties: the knife-wielding, faceless, voiceless immortal force of nature that racks up the endless body count WITHOUT AN ARREST; and the grocery-store clerk, photo booth attendant, security guard based on a real-life John Wayne Gacy-Ted Bundy-Green River Killer type.
And then there’s Hannibal Lecter.
Hannibal Lecter doesn’t meet any of these stereotypes. He is a psychiatrist. His vocation is to make people embrace their vulnerabilities, have them look inside and embrace their truest selves. He profiles criminals for the FBI. Hannibal helps makes humans human again. He’s supposed to be one the good guys. Instead he kills people. And then he eats them.
HE EATS THEM!
I don’t think I’m making myself clear. This cat uses his knowledge of the human psyche to figure out what makes people tick, how to get under their skin, how to make them unbalanced. He toys with people. Hannibal Lecter profiled a serial killer for the FBI for crimes he was actually committing, tried to kill an FBI agent, then manipulated another serial killer to massacring said FBI agent’s family. He escaped from a maximum security prison where he was bound, chained and had a face-mask—by eating a man’s face and listening to classical music. He screwed with Clarice Starling enough to get her to talk about the damn lambs, drugged her, tried to brainwash her, then made her eat her partner’s brain!
The only good thing to come out of Silence of the Lambs, aside from Hannibal Lecter entering the pantheon of fantastic villains, is Buffalo Bill doing that freaky cross-dresser dance and “It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again.” Yeah, try getting that out of your head.
In the end, what makes Hannibal Lecter such an amazing villain is that he keeps you, the reader (or the movie viewer) off balance. The heroine is off balance. You certainly don’t read about Hannibal and believe he’s actually going to get caught. Nothing is what you expect from this cultured, learned, intellectual—certainly not that he’s a psychotic cannibal with a medical degree. He acts crazy but he’s not. He’s lucid. This is intentional. It doesn’t fit, this individual and his crimes, and you cannot help but to watch. Like a fly caught in a spider’s web—you know how it’s going to end but you can’t look away.
And, because of that movie, I have never had a glass of chianti.
That said, we move to Round Two! My prediction for the next post: Pain. Here comes Clubber Lang!