“What will satisfy your hunger?” FANTASY ISLAND (Craft and Fain, 2021)

Imagine a place where your wildest dreams come true!

Suppose your fantasy could materialise – would you still want it? Fantasies are often best left in the realm of the imagined – that’s why people watch BDSM instead of actually torturing partners, or play war games on the computer instead of getting a gun and going out hunting people. A fantasy which became reality would come with consequences that you might not enjoy so much. But it’s fun to imagine, and I suspect many of my readers would have “wildest dreams” that no television network would dare portray! Have you checked Tumblr lately?

Fantasy Island originally came from the prolific mind of Aaron Spelling, who was producing hit shows from 1959 until his death in 2006, so you’ve probably brushed against his work somewhere in your life: from Burke’s Law (1963-66) to the Mod Squad (1968-73), Charlie’s Angels (1976-81), Fantasy Island (1977-84), The Love Boat (1977-86), Dynasty (1981-89), Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990-2000), Melrose Place (1992-99) and dozens of others. So prolific was he, that many of the series he produced overlapped – Fantasy Island was introduced in made-for-TV movies when Charlie’s Angels was just setting the television world alight. It then ran for 152 episodes over five years, followed by less successful revivals, including a pretty awful horror movie in 2020. This new reboot began airing on Fox on August 10, 2021.

Spelling said in an interview that the idea came from a joke: he was pitching ideas to ABC, and they had rejected six different ones, when he finally exclaimed:

“What do you want? An island that people can go to and all of their sexual fantasies will be realized?”

They loved that one.

The original featured the great Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán as Mr. Roarke, the white-suited proprietor of the island, a kind of wizard who could make any wish come true, but often foresaw that the results would be not as desired, or that the motivations of the fantasy were misunderstood. This new series created by Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain takes up that scenario, but now it’s Rourke’s grandniece, Elena (Roselyn Sánchez from Without a Trace), still all in white, and still dispensing fantasies. A photo of her granduncle is on her desk.

The formula usually has two different story arcs happening simultaneously. The one we are interested in for this cannibalism blog is the one involving Christine (Bellamy Young from Scandal) as a television newsreader in Phoenix, who is oppressed by body shaming, that turns out (in an island-inspired memory) to spring from an abusive step-father.

Christine’s rather disappointing fantasy is to be able to spend the visit to the island eating anything and everything she wants, and not gain a pound.

Of course, the island knows that her hunger is much more elemental. Long story short (or as Elvis sang “I said all that to say all this”) – the stepfather turns up on the island, still abusive, and [SPOILER ALERT] she kills him and ends up eating him, roasted on a spit.

Have you seen Mike White’s TV series White Lotus yet? Everyone seems to be talking about it. Rolling Stone magazine called it “Class Warfare Comes to Fantasy Island.” It kept coming to mind when I watching this first episode of FI. Of course, no one is technically eaten in White Lotus, but it is a kind of Fantasy Island for the rich, a place where they expect their every wish to appear, not by wizardry but because of their obscene wealth, and it sees their schemes backfiring sometimes, as the Fantasy Island ones often did. Of course, like all fairy stories, Fantasy Island has a moral lesson; no such luck for White Lotus. In reality, the rich always eat the poor. Like Nine Perfect Strangers, the rich also have their suffering to deal with from past trauma or abuse, and revisiting that hurt is supposed to start the healing. In Christine’s case, it is food that brings all her misery rushing back in; Elena refers to Proust’s memory-laden madeleine cakes which bring childhood memories flooding back.

When I say no one is eaten on White Lotus, I mean only literally. Allegorically, though, the rich gobble up the serving people, using and abusing them, stealing the lands of the indigenous families and employing them as servants and entertainers, exploiting and discarding the others. The staff are instructed to be “generic” – almost invisible, as are the billions of animals we humans eat each year. The first step in cannibalism is objectification of the victim.

Just so, Christine’s step-father offers, in a flash-back, to fix her teeth so she can become a star, but we know there is a price. He objectifies and belittles her, telling her:

There are a lot of animal references in this episode. Christine, as a child, is compared to a heifer, that is, a cow who has not yet been mated. The implication is that his abuse is sexual as well as mental. He, in turn, is referred to as a pig – Elena tells Christine that the abuser died in 2012, that she met on the island not him, but his cruelty and her trauma, and devoured them:

It’s a bit of a cop-out, IMHO. She is so relieved to realise that she killed and ate her abusive stepfather’s poisonous effects by – eating a pig? Why such relief? Eating bits of an innocent pig, killed and cooked on a spit roast, is OK to her, but not a man who mentally and probably physically abused her?

If anyone deserved to be killed and roasted, it was not the pig.

IS ARMIE HAMMER A CANNIBAL?

In case you’re wondering, the above clip is definitely satirical.

So the news media is sure that Armie Hammer either is, or is not, a cannibal. Let us (briefly I hope) review.

Hammer is a young American actor (not yet 35) who found fame with his 2008 portrayal of the evangelist Billy Graham in Billy, the Early Years for which he won a “Faith and Values Award” from Mediaguide, a Christian review organisation. Will the ironies never cease!

Hammer went on to star in several movies (including some bombs like The Lone Ranger alongside Johnny Depp) but he is best known for playing Oliver in Call Me by Your Name in 2017. He was supposed to star in a sequel, based on the novel Find Me, when his world turned to shit. Or didn’t. Because he was a cannibal. Or wasn’t.

While most of us were locked down in our humble homes for much of 2020, Hammer and his family locked down in a luxury villa in the Cayman Islands, where, he told GQ Mag,

“It was a very complicated, intense situation, with big personalities all locked in a little tiny place. I don’t think I handled it very well. I think, to be quite frank, I came very close to completely losing my mind.”

Hammer’s family was, shall we say, a colourful one. His aunt Casey declared “I started watching Succession and I had to turn it off, because it was like, ‘Oh, my God. That’s my family.’”

Close families! Hammer said he felt like a trapped wolf who wanted to “chew his own foot off.” Despite the raging pandemic, he flew back to the US, where he got over his imminent divorce with wild parties and a series of girlfriends.

Unfortunately for him, several of those girlfriends in early 2021 took to social media to describe Hammer as abusive, manipulative and violent. Screenshots of his text messages appeared to show him describing fantasies (or real events) of rape and cannibalism.

“I am 100% a cannibal…. Fuck. That’s scary to admit. I’ve never admitted that before. I’ve cut the heart out of a living animal before and eaten it while still warm.”

“I want to see your brain, your blood, your organs, every part of you. I would definitely bite it. 100%. Or try to fuck it. Not sure which. Probably both.”

“If I fucked you into a vegetative state id keep you, feed you, watch you, and keep fucking you…Till you are so sore and broken…. I can’t stop thinking of [fucking] your actual brain.”

“Brand you, tattoo you, mark you, shave your head and keep your hair with me, cut a piece of your skin off and make you cook it for me…. “Who’s slave/master relationship is the strongest?” We’d win. When I tell you to slit your wrists and use the blood for anal.”

In early March, Armie’s ex-girlfriend Paige Lorenze, 24, said in an explosive interview with Vanity Fair that during their time together she felt “really unsafe and sick to her stomach.” The interview claimed that the celebrity’s ex-partners have “compared him to Ted Bundy” and said he was obsessed with Shibari – a Japanese bondage art form where people are tied up in intricate patterns. Lorenze was horrified to see the accusations of cannibalism,

“Because he would say things to me…weird stuff…like, ‘I want to eat your ribs’.”

Paige Lorenze

She also claimed that Hammer had carved his initial into her pubic area and licked the wound, later bragging about it to friends, and that Hammer was fixated on biting her body, saying,

”If you did not tell me to stop I would eat a piece out of you.” And he was serious too. It was like he actually wanted to eat my flesh away.

The “A” that Armie allegedly carved into Paige

On their first night together, Lorenze said Hammer insisted: ‘You can either call me daddy or sir.’ 

Another woman named Effie whom he dated for about five months in 2020 said that he had told her he wanted to eat her flesh, and would suck or lick her wounds if she had “a little cut on my hand.”

Armie and Effie

But let’s remember that no one has actually accused Hammer of acting on his alleged cannibalistic fantasies — and in fact he has never confirmed that he sent those texts. In any case, texting and sex play, even bondage and sado-masochism (if consensual), are not illegal, and Hammer clearly enjoyed both.

But if he sent these texts, and if they were just fantasies, as they appear to be, he picked the very worst time, the apex of the #MeToo movement, to send them. Hammer subsequently lost leading roles for which he had been preparing, including in the Jennifer Lopez film Shotgun Wedding, and his agency dropped him. In March 2021, Effie, the woman who initially came forward with abuse allegations on Instagram, identified herself and accused Hammer of violently raping her in April 2017. The Los Angeles Police Department subsequently confirmed that he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation, which had been set in motion a month prior. Hammer has vehemently denied any wrongdoing via his lawyer, who stated that “all of his interactions with [Effie] – and every other sexual partner of his for that matter – have been completely consensual, discussed and agreed upon in advance, and mutually participatory.”

Hammer was unable to see his family during the pandemic lockdown, and his marriage fell apart.

In June 2021, Hammer checked into a Florida treatment centre for drug, alcohol and sex issues.

Katharine Gates, the author of Deviant Desires, describes a cannibalistic sex role play that tends to “involve more realistic scenarios…but still fantasy—they’re not actually eating pieces of people, but you will have one person be the meat and another is the preparer.”

Many, many people seem fascinated by cannibalism, and one artist is already turning Armie Hammer’s explicit DMs into NFT art (non-fungible tokens – it’s a long story).

One role play which seems popular on sites like Tumblr revolves around cannibal acts, a ‘paraphilia’ known as vorarephilia (it’s not in the DSM) – sexual arousal at eating, or being eaten by, another person (enthusiasts call themselves “vores”). A few, such as Armin Meiwes, eventually find a willing partner and make the fantasy a reality, but such cases are incredibly rare – Meiwes himself found that almost all the men who responded to his requests for someone who wanted to be eaten were not finally ready to take it to the next level –  actually becoming his meal.

But why this fascination? Cannibalism is an act of domination – there can be no greater conquest of another than converting them into a meal and eventually into excrement. Hammer revealed this need to dominate in wanting to be called ‘daddy or sir’. But this hunger for incorporative power goes back to our earliest experiences.

Freud wrote of an infantile impulse toward “oral incorporation” – a desire not just to feed at the mother’s breast but to consume, possess that source of nourishment, comfort, security and love. He called one of the earliest psychological phases the “cannibalistic pregenital sexual organisation”. This drive is both loving – wanting to unite with the object of desire, and destructive – prepared to destroy the object to satisfy those desires. Infants may generate such hostility when their needs and desires are not satisfied promptly, and may also learn fear from the suspicion that the source will never be enough, or that their feeble attempts to dominate the adult may be met with far more powerful reprisals.

Maggie Kilgour, the doyen of Cannibal Studies, summed up:

“…far from being sublimated into symbolic forms or even sexual desire, our original appetites still move us, so that we remain trapped in a new oral phase of consumption. The work implies that man-eating is a reality – it is civilisation that is the myth.”

So there is a deep vein of cannibalism in our unconscious minds, and it may resurface at times of stress (e.g. being locked down in the Cayman Islands) or as an expression of affection, which in Hammer’s case did not go over well.

Is Armie Hammer a cannibal? He is a rich and handsome movie star from a rich and famous family, who built his career on playing men who can get away with anything. He is certainly a privileged and persuasive abuser of (often much) younger women, a form of exploitative consumption that is uncomfortably close to cannibalistic ingestion.

But is he a cannibal? Almost certainly not in reality. But in his mind, in the deep, dark fissures of his unconscious, he certainly is. We all are.