Tuesday, June 06, 2006

men and lambs

So one of the books I’ve been reading, Of Men and Monsters, discusses The Silence of the Lambs rather extensively. The confluences with Jeffrey Dahmer both in rough time period and in characteristics of the kills were enough to catch one’s notice. Hannibal Lector in fiction is a killer and a cannibal. Buffalo Bill, the killer at large, whom FBI agent Clarice Starling hopes to catch, is queer – if not gay or transsexual, at least a transvestite. He likes to wear women’s clothing. He likes to wear, as I recall, women’s skin. Jeffrey Dahmer, the real life killer, became notorious both for being queer (he was gay) and for being a cannibal (he dismembered and claimed to have eaten at least a token quantity of the flesh of his victims).

Richard Tithecott’s Of Men and Monsters also talks about how society and the media view the serial killer. In some ways, he’s the hero. He’s just acting out what many, too repressed, bound by laws, dream to do. Hannibal the Cannibal is a hero, isn’t he? He’s virile (straight), athletic, and oh so scary. Movie scary. Almost one of those misunderstood monsters of yore – King Kong, you know, or the Frankenstein monster. Could Jeffrey Dahmer be a hero? Even though he’s queer? Just because we abhor, says Tithecott, it doesn’t mean we can’t also admire.

I avoided The Silence of the Lambs for years because I didn’t want to contribute my own little bit of financial reward to the reinforcement of the killer queer stereotype. That plus I don’t care for serial killer horror movies. I like monster movies. Like The Blob or Valley of Gwangi. Nonhuman menaces from other worlds. And I didn’t figure I’d ever read anything by the author of Silence of the Lambs. Only, I find I have. Black Sunday is also by Thomas Harris. The same Thomas Harris. Thirteen years separates Black Sunday and Silence of the Lambs. I wonder if femme in a boy equals evil in all his books?

3 comments:

David Lee said...

Let's see - from what I remember, Francis Dollarhyde, the killer in Red Dragon seems to be heterosexually driven. He kills families. He gives most of his attention to the mothers. He has a girlfriend. He's all screwed up from being raised by a psycho grandmother. I can't remember if I've read the book. I have seen both the film versions. I prefer the first. Less Lector. The second version gives us way too much Anthony Hopkins being a cartoon psycho.

Hannibal's only sexual "deviance" seems to be in Mason Verger, the main villain of the story. Mason is the only one of Hannibal's victims who lived. Mason was a rich child molester. Hannibal got him to feed his face to his own dogs. So Mason has been raising flesh eating pigs so that he can feed Hannibal to them.

In Hannibal, Lector has become a not so bad guy. He only kills people who deserve it. He eats people because he trying to get connection to his sister (who was killed and eaten in front of Hannibal when he was a child). The movie is better than the book but, lord, the book is bad so that's hardly a compliment.

Freakishness seems to equal evil for Harris. Dollarhyde is tall and weird looking. Lector has six fingers on one hand. Verger is deformed and invalid.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

what? no albinos?

thanks for the rundown of other Harris novels, d.

David Lee said...

Anything to save you from having to read them.