“There’s something evil in those woods”: SUPERNATURAL Season 1, Episode 2 “Wendigo”

Supernatural is a TV series created by Eric Kripke, first broadcast in 2005. Fifteen seasons later, the final episode (there were 327 in total) aired on November 19, 2020. You could call that a successful series.

The plots follow two brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester, who hunt demons, ghosts, monsters, and other supernatural beings. The first two episodes were directed by David Nutter, who later won an Emmy for Game of Thrones.

Sam and Dean’s origin story in the pilot episode shows an idyllic home with a loving mother, doting father, and a demon who drips blood into baby Sam’s mouth, then ties their mom to the ceiling where she bursts into flames. Well, you can’t blame them for being a bit down on supernatural entities.

Dean’s metaphysical mission statement is:

“Killing as many evil sons of bitches as I possibly can.”

In episode 2, the boys come across a Wendigo, normally explained as a human transformed into a monster by the act of cannibalism. They find a love interest in a girl who is looking for her brother, one of a group of campers recently snatched by said Wendigo while playing computer games with friends in their tent in the deep woods (as you do) and reading Joseph Campbell’s book about the hero’s journey

Turns out the Wendigo eats a sounder of people every 23 years, and they find a man who, as a child, was attacked by the monster in 1959 but survived, with massive scars. He tells them:

Well, they finally get around to reading their Dad’s journal – he has a slim leather volume of handwritten notes on every evil thing you could need to know about. They explain the Wendigo to the other campers.

Cultures all over the world believe that eating human flesh gives a person certain abilities: speed, strength, immortality. You eat enough of it, over years you become this less-than-human thing. You’re always hungry.”

You can’t kill a Wendigo with bullets or knives.

Dean attempts to draw the Wendigo away from the others, with the hilarious taunt:

“You want some white meat, bitch?”

The Wendigo is a figure from Algonquin folklore, a spirit who possesses his human victim, giving him an insatiable hunger for human flesh, but the flesh makes him grow larger, and so his appetite can never be satisfied, thus the emaciated form.

The Wendigo is said to have a heart, or whole body, made of ice. The creation of the Wendigo, like Nietzsche’s Übermensch, is a “becoming” which requires the destruction or transformation of lesser beings, just as humans like to believe that the processing of “lower” animals into meat is required for their continued existence. In the television series Hannibal, Lecter is often shown as a dark figure with antlers, a Wendigo, who manifests and wreaks carnage (e.g. the episode “Hassun”).

Margaret Atwood in her lecture on the Wendigo pointed out that, unlike most monsters, the Wendigo offers two different terrors – being eaten by it, but also transforming into it. While all cannibals threaten us with physical dissolution through their digestive tracts, a simple bite from the Wendigo, or being possessed by its spirit during the act of eating human flesh (even if the act is necessary to survive) can destroy one’s will and endanger the whole tribe.

To the First Nations people, the Wendigo represented winter, hunger or selfishness and, particularly in subsistence communities, there is a direct causal link between those things – winter means shortages, which lead to hunger and struggles for resources, and sometimes cannibalism. In times of starvation, we are capable of anything. Cannibalism stories were not uncommon on the American Frontier, and popular culture has often told tales of white-man cannibalism using the Donner Party, Alferd Packer and the Wendigo, sometimes all mixed together, as in Antonia Bird’s Ravenous.

But when the Europeans came with their ships and guns and viruses, those they dispossessed, enslaved, raped, tortured and massacred came to the obvious conclusion that the white man must be possessed by a Wendigo spirit. This Wendigo spirit of ruthless and voracious consumption may be less blatant in the twenty-first century, but is still evident in the exploitation of sweat-shop workers, in human trafficking, and in the intensive factory farming that turns sentient animals into commodities by the billions. Also in the covert sexism and racism in shows like this, that depict “cis-het” white men taking on the world of evil and saving civilisation from the outsiders and aliens that haunt our dreams.

Racists and Cannibals: JUNGLE JITTERS (Friz Freleng, 1938)

Not a movie this week, but a cartoon! Even today, many cartoons depict racist and sexist stereotypes, but JUNGLE JITTERS was so gratuitous that it was placed on a list known as the Censored Eleven, a list of  Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons taken off television in the United States in 1968 because of their offensive stereotyping of black people. The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia links to this cartoon, as well as to several other real stinkers.

This cartoon, which is well under a hundred years old, followed the favoured interpretation of colonialism – the native people were uncivilised savages, probably cannibals, waiting for the white man to bring them into the modern age. This process was always violent and exploitative and often involved the expropriation of their lands and even extermination. But the public image of colonialism was the semi-human cannibals, as amusing as apes, and the civilised Europeans, who might be running the place, or could be poaching in a cauldron. This cartoon managed to fit all of that ideological baggage into less than eight minutes.

The idea that those who are not part of the Western liberal tradition must be primitive cannibals seems strange to us now, but let’s not forget that Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel and many other European philosophers considered indigenous people, whose strange customs were reported by the explorers, to be primitive savages, urgently in need of enlightenment. H.G. Wells in his 1920 book Outline of History wrote, “At first, the only people encountered by the Spaniards in America were savages of a Mongoloid type. Many of these savages were cannibals”. Even in this century, the weary trope continues to raise its head – a British Secondary School exam board recently apologised for approving a psychology text that contained a question on teamwork, involving a group of cannibals cooking a missionary.

In the “plot” of this cartoon, a travelling salesman brings a case of useless consumer goods to a fenced village. At first, the natives don’t want to let him in, but then change their perception of him.

Of course, he is soon in a cauldron, with jokes about “hold the onions” etc.

Then there is the love interest. This was a problem – depicting primitive natives indulging in cannibalism was unproblematic, but the “Hays Code”, which set the moral guidelines for American cinema from 1934-1968, definitely frowned on miscegenation – any hint of sex between the races.

The solution in this was to make the Queen into a white woman, without explanation, and have her see the salesman not as the cooked chicken envisaged by her tribe, but as Clark Gable and Robert Taylor.

While he appears to be some sort of dog, she seems to be based on a chicken (but not edible for some reason) and of course she is the kind of spinster that Hollywood loved to show as desperate and dateless.

She arranges an instant wedding, but he is repelled by her and, hilariously, chooses to leap back into the cauldron, expressing the hope that

“…they all get indigestion!”

I guess people still make racist and sexist videos today, in ever greater numbers, probably, but at least they are no longer distributed by major entertainment companies and aimed at children. Perhaps we are making progress. Or is racism and sexism simply becoming more sophisticated?

Stephen King and the cannibal: THE OUTSIDER (2020) S01.E01 “Fish in a Barrel”

The Outsider is a mini-series (ten episodes in the Season) based on a STEPHEN KING novel – ‘nuff said? Well, actually there’s a lot more to be said. Richard Price is the Writer and Executive Producer; he adapted the novel for screen. Price is known for a lot of good stuff, including The Wire, The Deuce, The Night Of and Child 44, which had a similar theme – mutilated and chewed children. The stuff that nightmares are made of.

In Cherokee City, Georgia, detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn from Animal Kingdom and Bloodline) is called to a case which affects him greatly – a child has been murdered, a child about the same age as his kid, who died of cancer a while ago.

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A man walking his dog finds the mutilated corpse in a park. It is covered in saliva and human bite marks.

There’s teeth impressions around the edges.
Animal?
No.

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Ralph quickly finds heaps of evidence including security camera footage, as well as witnesses who identify teacher and Little League coach Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman from Arrested Development and Ozark, who also directed this episode).

Ralph, enraged, has Terry arrested very publicly at a Little League game.

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It seems like an open and shut case, until footage turns up from another town miles away of Terry asking questions at a conference, at the time of the murder. There is conclusive evidence of both his guilt and his innocence.

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Normally nope, but in a Stephen King story? A hooded figure is standing outside the little boy’s house, and Terry’s daughter is having wakeful nightmares, of a man in her room telling her “bad things”.

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The plot is taut and intriguing, and the cast is outrageously good: besides Bateman and Mendelsohn, fans of Hannibal will be delighted to see Hettienne Park, who played forensic investigator Beverly Katz in that show, until she went too far with Hannibal.

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The cannibalism is a bonus – I wanted to watch this show, and now I can blog it too!

It asks a key question of cannibal studies – who is the outsider? In classical literature, anyone outside the polis was an outsider, likely to eat you. In colonial times, the conquistadors were outsiders, enslaving or exterminating the indigenous populations of the lands they coveted, and in turn painting those tribes as outsiders, by accusing them of being, yes, cannibals. In recent times, the cannibal outsider has been hidden within our cities, chomping his or her way through fellow humans, but often, like Jeffrey Dahmer, considered by his neighbours, in shocked voices,  as a quiet loner and unremarkable. Like Terry Maitland. Who is the outsider in Cherokee City – the quiet teacher who is evidently both innocent and guilty, the mysterious hooded stranger who visits children in their waking dreams, or the traumatised cop who is trying to suppress his rage?

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The first episode is available for watching for free (if you’re in the US or have a VPN) at:

https://www.hbo.com/the-outsider

If not, there’s still a great interview there with Stephen King, Richard Price, Ben Mendelsohn and others.

You can also watch the opening scene, with the ravishing Mozart Piano Concerto 23 as the soundtrack, here.

 

Cannibals and Cops: “EATER” (Fear Itself S1E5, 2008)

“Eater” is the fifth episode of season one of the TV horror series Fear Itself, an American horror/suspense anthology television series shot in Canada. This episode, “Eater”, aired on NBC on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008. A later episode featured a Wendigo, and was reviewed last year.

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Officer Danny Bannerman (Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men, Handmaid’s Tale and Invisible Man) is a rookie cop assigned to watch a new prisoner in the Chesterton police holding cell.

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The prisoner, Duane Mellor (Stephen R. Hart), is an “eater” who has murdered 32 people in five different states, killing the men outright but torturing the women before finally killing and eating them, not necessarily in that order.

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In his wardrobe, they found garments made from the skins of his victims. “Just like Hannibal Lecter” says slob cop Marty (Stephen Lee), but Bannerman (her name is straight out of several Stephen King stories) puts them straight – it was Buffalo Bill of course. Hannibal just liked the flesh. As a keen fan of horror, she asks to see the arrest report.

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The Sergeant (Russell Hornsby) warns her: “Hannibal the Cannibal is make believe. This guy isn’t.” Except he is, and rather derivative too – he deconstructs the binary of gustatory (Hannibal) and sartorial (Bill) cannibalism. How postmodern can you get?

Mellor, it turns out, is Cajun, so of course there’s going to be voodoo. He starts chanting in his cell, the lights flicker, and Marty gives her a lecture on Cajun culture and cannibal theory:

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“Down on the Bayou, the Cajun, they use every part of their kill. They’ll take a big, ol’, fat ‘gator, they’ll eat all the flesh, they’ll take the hide, use it for shelter, for clothing, they’ll take the bones, use them for utensils, weapons. I think Mellor’s doing the exact same thing, just doing it with human beings, that’s all… Waste not, want not.”

They discuss the key questions of cannibal studies: why does he do it? “Sexual turn-on” suggests Bannerman, making Marty go all sweaty and silent. Until he sneaks up behind her as she tries to ask the killer about such things, and asks “have you ever wondered what it tastes like… human flesh?”

She replies “just like any other meat I guess”.

“No. I think it’s the power that gets them off… There’s an old voodoo saying that if you cut a man’s heart out and eat it before it stops beating, not only do you gain his strength, but you gain his spirit”.

Marty goes off to investigate a strange noise, Bannerman fetches the keys to the cell (which oddly I found the most disturbing part of the show) and goes to open the cell, and finds the cell unlocked, but the other cop, Mattingly (Pablo Schreiber from The Wire) tells the scared rookie “Stop being such a… woman”. Yes, fear is a female thing, apparently, or at least admitting to it. But shape-shifting – that’s a guy thing, in voodoo at least, and all the men are really Mellor. Maybe all men are eaters?

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The story is tight and taut, and the cast is superb. Elisabeth Moss, like Jodi Foster in Silence of the Lambs, is young and small enough for her vulnerability to engage our sympathy, but also smart, tough, resourceful and brave. Since being kidnapped in West Wing, Moss seems to have making a career in TV and movies where women take on vicious, violent men. This one is as vicious and violent as most of her Gilead mates. Scott Tobias of AV Club said: “If there’s ever been a gorier, nastier hour of network television, then I certainly can’t recall it”.

Now there’s a recommendation.

Director of this episode, Stuart Gordon, also did play about Armin Meiwes, the Rotenburg Cannibal, on the LA stage.

Eater is available (in four parts for some reason) on Youtube.

A complete listing of my Hannibal blogs can be accessed here.

HANNIBAL: a complete listing of my Hannibal film and TV blogs

Movies

“Manhunter” (Mann, 1986)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/07/29/hannibal-the-cannibal/

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“The silence of the lambs” (Demme, 1991)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/03/04/1991-the-silence-of-the-lambs/

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“Hannibal” (Scott, 2001)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/03/17/hannibal-scott-2001/

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“Red Dragon” (Ratner, 2002)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/09/09/what-a-dragon-it-is-getting-old-red-dragon-ratner-2002/

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“Hannibal Rising” (Webber, 2007)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/09/22/hannibal-rising-2007/

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And a spoof, just for fun:

“The Silence of the Trumps” (Colbert Late Show, 2017)

https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/05/10/the-silence-of-the-trump/

Television

Season 1

  1. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/10/07/very-hard-to-catch-hannibal-episode-1-aperitif-fuller-2013/
  2. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/10/21/amusing-the-mouth-hannibal-season-1-episode-2-fuller-2013/
  3. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/11/04/hiding-the-bodies-hannibal-season-1-episode-3-potage-fuller-2013/
  4. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/11/11/happy-families-hannibal-season-1-episode-4-oeuf-fuller-2013/
  5. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/11/25/inside-the-shell-hannibal-season-1-episode-5-coquilles-fuller-2013/
  6. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/12/09/who-is-the-ripper-hannibal-season-1-episode-6-fuller-2013/
  7. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/12/16/nothing-here-is-vegetarian-hannibal-season-1-episode-7-fuller-2013/
  8. https://thecannibalguy.com/2018/12/30/i-see-a-possibility-of-friendship-hannibal-season-1-episode-8-fuller-2013/
  9. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/01/06/i-know-what-monsters-are-hannibal-season-1-episode-9-fuller-2013/
  10. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/01/20/the-very-air-has-screams-hannibal-season-1-episode-10-fuller-2013/
  11. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/01/27/madness-can-be-a-medicine-hannibal-season-1-episode-11-fuller-2013/
  12. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/02/10/im-so-sorry-jack-releves-hannibal-season-1-episode-12-fuller-2013/
  13. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/02/24/savoureux-hannibal-season-1-episode-13/

Season 2

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  1. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/03/31/i-never-feel-guilty-kaiseki-hannibal-season-2-episode-1-fuller-2014/
  2. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/04/07/you-are-dangerous-sakizuke-hannibal-season-2-episode-2-fuller-2014/
  3. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/04/21/merely-the-ink-from-which-flows-my-poem-hannibal-season-2-episode-3-hassun-fuller-2014/
  4. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/05/05/death-is-not-a-defeat-hannibal-season-2-episode-4-takiawase-fuller-2014/
  5. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/05/19/he-is-the-devil-he-is-smoke-hannibal-season-2-episode-05-mukozuke-fuller-2014/
  6. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/06/02/an-act-of-dominance-hannibal-season-2-episode-6-futamono-fuller-2014/
  7. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/06/16/hannibal-season-2-episode-7-fuller-2014/
  8. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/06/30/we-are-all-nietzschean-fish/
  9. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/07/14/typhoid-and-swans/
  10. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/07/28/hannibal-season-2-episode-10/
  11. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/08/11/hannibal-season-2-episode-11/
  12. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/08/25/hannibal-season-2-episode-12/
  13. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/09/08/hannibal-season-2-finale/

Season 3

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  1. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/10/13/the-eating-of-the-heart/
  2. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/11/03/hannibal-season-3-episode-2/
  3. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/11/24/how-did-your-sister-taste/
  4. https://thecannibalguy.com/2019/12/15/hannibal-season-3-episode-4/
  5. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/01/05/in-the-belly-of-the-beast-hannibal-season-3-episode-5-contorno/
  6. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/01/26/hannibal-season-3-episode-6/
  7. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/02/16/hannibal-season-3-episode-7/
  8. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/03/08/im-not-insane-hannibal-s03e08-the-great-red-dragon/
  9. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/03/29/hannibal-309/
  10. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/04/19/murder-and-cannibalism-are-morally-acceptable-hannibal-310/
  11. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/05/17/hannibal-3-11/
  12. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/06/07/hannibal-312/
  13. https://thecannibalguy.com/2020/07/05/hannibal-s3e13/

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Thank you!

This blog reviews films and TV shows involving human cannibalism. Sounds creepy, well, it is a bit, but it’s part of an exercise investigating how we decide what is edible and what is repulsive. Why are we happy to kill for food an animal that doesn’t want to die, yet unwilling to eat another animal that is already dead? Every work considered contributes to the answer to that question, some more than others of course.

Anyway, this post is to say thanks for reading this blog. In May, for the first time, the blog received well over 1,000 views, which is very exciting. As a special thank you, here is one of my favourite cannibal songs, by the wonderful Mr Tom Lehrer.

And remember:

Hannibal-only if equals

Eating Kramer – SEINFELD S09E01 “The Butter Shave”

“The Butter Shave” was the 157th episode of Seinfeld and the first of the ninth and final season, which aired in 1997.

We don’t find a lot of cannibal content in sitcoms as a rule, and Seinfeld does not often stray from that rule. But if anyone is going to be a cannibal, it would have to be Newman (Wayne Knight), with his voracious appetite.

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In this episode, Kramer (Michael Richards) discovers that butter works better than shaving cream, leaving his skin so soft that he decides to spread it all over his body. Unfortunately, he falls asleep in the sun, and begins to cook.

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Newman, who is reading Alive, a book about a true case of cannibalism, finds the smell of a buttered Kramer irresistible. Disturbed and muttering (see the clip above), Newman sees Kramer’s head on a turkey in Monk’s, panics, and runs out screaming as “Kramer” waves a wing at him.

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Later, Kramer accidentally has oregano and Parmesan spilled on him, so Newman attempts to eat him.

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There is also a cannibal reference two episodes later, when Lloyd Braun tells George that the phrase “serenity now”, which is supposed to reduce stress, just results in bottling up the anger so it explodes later.

George: I heard they found a family in your freezer.
Lloyd: Serenity now; insanity later.

 Seinfeld is streamed on Stan in Australia, and TVNZ in New Zealand.

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“I’m not insane” HANNIBAL S03E08: “The Great Red Dragon”

Aficionados of Hannibal will remember that the good Doctor Lecter was introduced to the world in the book Red Dragon in 1981. That book became the first Hannibal movie Manhunter in 1986 with Brian Cox as Hannibal, and was then remade under its original title with Anthony Hopkins in 2002, years after he had made Hannibal (in)famous in The Silence of the Lambs. A lot of the characters, plots and dialogues of Red Dragon were used by Bryan Fuller in making the television series Hannibal, but the main plot, Will Graham trying to track down the serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, only comes to the television screen in this, the eighth episode of the final season. The rest is all prequel.

We’re not going to get an origin story for Hannibal here, except – he ate his sister, but he didn’t kill her. That’s all we get, and it’s all we need. We get one right at the start of this episode, though, for Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage, who also played Thorin Oakenshield, the Dwarf Prince in The Hobbit). Dolarhyde is slightly disfigured – a cleft palate that has been repaired but is still visible, and gives him problems with his speech, and a major case of social anxiety. He sits alone, OK, he’s a loner (sometimes called “rugged individual”), and he reads Time Magazine, OK, he’s a loser. No wait – there’s an article on the cover about William Blake and his extraordinary 1805-10 watercolours of the “Great Red Dragon”. He heads off to his gym to work on some already pretty beefy musculature. He gets a huge tattoo of the Dragon. He gets some dentures made, snaggly-toothed ones. It’s a cannibal show – so people are going to get bitten. He’s going to become that Dragon, or more accurately, the Dragon is going to become him. On the full moon, he sacrifices to the Dragon, by murdering “perfect” American families. As Frederick Chilton puts it in a visit to Hannibal:

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The press call him the “Tooth Fairy” because he likes to bite his victims.  We see him dripping blood into the snow. It’s all super-gothic.

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Three years after his surrender, Hannibal is locked in an asylum – at least, his body is, but his mind wanders freely through his memory palace – we see him in church listening to a young boy singing Hallelujah, while in fact he is being processed and incarcerated. Then he’s talking to Alana, in his office, drinking Montrachet, but really he’s in his painfully white cell in the asylum, and she is his jailer. He has been spared the death sentence everyone expected after his trial for the murder of a dozen people.

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Hannibal and Alana were friends, lovers at one point. He asks her if she still prefers beer to wine.

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Hannibal is the trickster. Not what, “who” he corrects her. She had people in her beer.

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Will doesn’t want anything to do with the FBI or, apparently, Hannibal; he is living a peaceful life with Molly and Walter (her son).

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But Jack Crawford comes looking for him. No one can profile serial killers like Will. Will he go with Jack? He reads a letter from Hannibal, with a cutting about the Tooth Fairy, warning him that Jack will come knocking, and cautioning him not to accept.

“We have all found new lives. But our old lives hover in the shadows. Soon enough Jack will come knocking. I would encourage you as a friend not to step back through the door that he holds open.”

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Will goes though, and visits the crime scenes, where he recreates the crime in his mind, with the swinging pendula, just the way he did in the first season, that we all miss so much.

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Will figures that he (as serial killer) would take his gloves off to touch his victims. The team is thus able to get a partial thumb-print from the victim’s eyeball. And then there’s a piece of cheese that he bit. And the victim that he bit. They have his (or his denture’s) toothprints.vlcsnap-00066.jpg

Dolarhyde is assailed by roars and high pitched tones as he tries to watch his home movies of his murders. Where are they coming from? Ah yes, the false teeth. Dolarhyde is being taken over by the Dragon, becoming the Dragon. He is, to his own tortured psyche, becoming more than human, an Übermensch like Hannibal. He will need to absorb the essence of Hannibal to become the superman. Will has to do the same to identify and stop him.

There’s only one way to get into the mind of a biter.

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Walt Disney: eating children: ROBOT CHICKEN S1E2 “Nutcracker Suite”

Robot Chicken is a stop-motion television series which started in 2005 on Adult Swim, the “adult” channel of Cartoon Network. It is created and produced by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich along with co-head writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root.

The show takes a sometimes sardonic look at popular culture. This episode, the second ever shown (and it’s now in its tenth season!) took on the rumour circulating on social media that Walt Disney’s head had been frozen after his death in 1966, in the hope that he could be revived later (there is a huge industry of cryogenics).

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It’s not true, just BTW.

In this reimagining of the Disney legend, Walt is not the lovable avuncular figure that (older) readers may remember from black and white TV. The episode starts by rehashing the old story about his antisemitism, then we see his head being cut off with a chainsaw for freezing. Under the Matterhorn, later, his head is thawed out and grafted onto a steel spider frame, reminiscent of War of the Worlds. He has death rays in his eyes, and he HUNGERS!

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He’s in this cannibal blog because he’s, well, become a cannibal, eating children to keep his monstrous form alive. They are brought to him by his minions.

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“Bring in the first human child!”

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He builds a theme park in Florida, so that he can access lots of children, and keep his appetite satiated. But then, “one fateful day”, he sees on television the story of Elián González, the little Cuban boy was was involved in a huge custody battle which became an international incident between the US and Cuba.

He hungers for Elián and decides to invade Cuba. As he begins his attack on Cuba, the Cuban standing at the monitor can be heard yelling the same Spanish phrases as the popular cartoon character Speedy Gonzales.

Disney causes havoc, knocking planes out of the sky à la King Kong. Poor Elián appears on the shore, offering to sacrifice himself to save his beloved Cubans, but then Fidel arrives!

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Look, it’s a satire on American imperialism of course, but it has a lot to say about the cannibalistic nature of capitalist consumerism and the voracious appetite of corporates who look to eat up the culture and the cash of their target audience. Imperialism is not just via planes and tanks and giant spiders with frozen heads on top. Cuba has been embargoed from receiving the benefits of American culture for decades, and some of them seem to like it just fine that way.

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The last CANNIBAL on Earth — (“Last Man on Earth” Season 4, episodes 9-11, Will Forte)

The Last Man on Earth was a four-season American post-apocalyptic comedy series that showed on Fox from 2015-17. The protagonist (Will Forte, who also created the series) is Phil (or Tandy as everyone calls him – long story). Phil believes he is the only survivor of a mysterious virus (not coronavirus, but hard not to think about it while watching) that has killed off humanity and most other animals. He travels around the USA leaving signs on billboards asking other survivors to contact him in Tucson, but gradually goes crazy from loneliness.

Then he starts meeting other humans. As it’s a comedy, they are (nearly) all nice, friendly, peaceable people, who bicker but generally don’t bite. Until season 4, when he meets Karl (Fred Armisen), a serial-killer cannibal. In a flashback to before the virus, Karl is being socially inept, disgusting his dinner date with recollections of a boil he had just had lanced.

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The art of cannibalism stories is to disgust the viewer. Otherwise, where’s the conflict?

Karl’s modus operandi is to invite his prospective victim in for a sitting where he paints their portrait (a skill in which he is almost as deficient as his romantic conversation), then reach for his

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When his model goes looking for a refreshing drink in the fridge, Karl has to run.

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He flees to Mexico and sets up the same artistic practice, but is soon arrested and sent to a maximum-security prison, where he starts painting the other inmates, with designs to convert them into his next meal.

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Karl is also somehow immune to the virus, but has been unable to escape the prison in which he was confined for the four years after everyone else died. Karl has killed the only other virus survivor, a guard, and is wearing his uniform, to hide his status as prisoner/cannibal. Karl is nice too. Except for being a serial killer cannibal.

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Karl has an unexplained compulsion to eat human flesh, and is powerless to defy it, despite his desperate efforts to do so.

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He is obsessively drawn to a used Band-Aid, which is stained with the flesh of a burnt finger.

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He is unmasked when he is followed to a cemetery, where he hopes to satiate his longings with some well-rotted corpse-flesh, much to the disgust of the observers.

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What makes a cannibal? We have looked in this blog at several motivations such as savageism, starvation, revenge, psychopathy and entrepreneurship, and particularly at the figure of the wendigo, the mythical Algonquin spirit that inhabits the lost and drives them to an ever-escalating hunger for human flesh. Bryan Fuller implies in Hannibal that the good doctor Lecter is such a spirit, appearing as a figure with antlers, often disturbingly dressed in suit and tie. Traditionally, the cannibal required no explanation. In Classical stories, he (and cannibals were usually male) was a super-human or else hybrid figure, monstrous in appearance and easily identified as an ‘other’. In colonial times, they were tribes of savages, whose ignorance of the morals of Europe required the intervention of the conquistadors to ensure they were re-educated, which would usually involve the appropriation of their lands and the enslavement or extermination of the ‘cannibals’.

The contemporary cannibal is often typified by his inconspicuousness – acquaintances of cannibals like Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert Fish or Armin Meiwes often spoke of how normal and prosaic they seemed. Karl fits exactly into this model of the contemporary cannibal – the others like him, and can hardly believe it, even when he admits to his addiction, as if it was an AA meeting.

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There are many ethical issues raised in this apparently light-hearted comedy. Everything in the world before the virus was about voracious appetite and power, and things have not changed that much. Now of course there is no money, and the stores are full of whatever you could want, but it’s all starting to go bad, even the tins. The few animals they have found alive have usually come to a sticky end – the cow whose milk they took died, her calf was left behind when they left for Mexico, the bull was killed and eaten. They found crickets and ate them. They catch a fish with a hook, much to their surprise. Phil threatens to eat a little dog’s butt at one point. Anthropocentrism, sometimes called speciesism or human narcissism, is now the supreme ideology, even though it has apparently led to the extermination of almost all life on Earth.

The main question of this brave new world, then, is: are there any ethical constants? The survivors are mostly besotted with the idea of having babies and repopulating the world with humans: is that a great idea? And while they are satisfied to smash down shop doors and take whatever they need, they are shocked at the cannibal doing the same. To Karl, to all of us, morality is simply relative to his immediate needs. Certainly not a view confined to cannibals.

Karl suggests they all go to bed, and discuss the problem in the morning. They will have questions for him. He will have questions for them too! His morality is straight out of Trump at Charlottesville:vlcsnap-00031.jpg

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As Dostoevsky said in the Brothers Karamazov:

“…there was no law of nature that man should love mankind, and that, if there had been any love on earth hitherto, it was not owing to a natural law, but simply because men have believed in immortality…. if you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be immoral, everything would be lawful. even cannibalism.”

Karl exemplifies what Aristotle called the “rational principle”.