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?