“…crazy sons of bitches” – HANNIBAL 3.11 “…And the Beast from the Sea”

Here’s a trivia question for the serious Hannibal aficionados: what is the name of
Will Graham’s son /step-son?
*Answer at the bottom of the blog.

Hannibal has been in a cell in the Asylum for the whole season, so not many people are getting eaten. Will is back in the game, desperately trying to catch the “Great Red Dragon”, who is certainly a biter, and a necrophile, but not so much a swallower of human flesh. But to understand why the GRD (Francis Dolarhyde) does what he does, and why Hannibal did what he used to do, we need to understand a bit about Hannibal’s Nietzschean understanding of the Übermensch (superman) and how, Will finally realises, he encourages his patients and acquaintances to “change” people as part of the development of the “higher self”.

The asylum security is surprisingly lax, considering Alana Bloom is in charge, and she is deeply motivated by the fact that Hannibal has promised to kill her as soon as he can. Nonetheless, calls come in from what appears to be Hannibal’s lawyer’s office and are patched through to his cell, and so he can happily chat to the GRD and give him advice on life, love, and killing, or what you might call “eat, prey, love”.

Dolarhyde is worried about his new girlfriend, and what the Dragon (his higher self) will do to her.

vlcsnap-00006

Like, frinstance, Will. Hannibal tells him: “He has a family. Save yourself.”

vlcsnap-00010

There’s always a problem bringing a classic story into the present day. Imagine Henry V with machine guns. Clarice Starling with a cell phone (“just on my way down the basement stairs now. Send a coupla dozen agents over stat”). Dolarhyde, in the book and films, was choosing his victims on the super-8 family movies he developed at work. Probably read telegrams too. But this is a new century – how does he choose them in 2015?

Indeed. Dolarhyde is watching videos of Will’s wife and step-son, Molly and Walter – Reba, who is blind, asks if these are his nocturnal animals? Yes. Do you think they know they’re being filmed? No.

vlcsnap-00011

Will has a vague idea he’s being played, but is clueless to what is really happening. He says he is not fortune’s fool, he is Hannibal’s fool, and that is certainly true. “Fortune’s fool” is a phrase Shakespeare liked a lot. It’s used in Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Timon of Athens. Will hasn’t got his head around Hannibal’s coaching system yet, despite some very broad hints. He has worked out that he ran into Dolarhyde last episode at the museum because Hannibal planned it that way. Now he wants Hannibal’s help to identify the next family that Dolarhyde will kill, but he’s still not getting those broad hints from Hannibal about who that family might be.

vlcsnap-00015

Still clueless, Will asks, “you’re willing to let them die?”

vlcsnap-00019

vlcsnap-00020

Now Molly (Nina Arianda), Will’s wife (sorry Hannigrammers, he got married when we weren’t looking) is not fortune’s fool, and she’s not Hannibal’s either. It’s almost like she was expecting the GRD to come looking. She bundles her son out of the window, distracts Dolarhyde with the car alarm, flags down a passing car (in the middle of nowhere, mind you) and drives off as the Dragon shoots the driver. When Will visits her in hospital, she jokes about getting angry. She may be the best adjusted person in the whole series.

Anyway, Jack and Alana are woke to Hannibal’s little game now.

vlcsnap-00027

vlcsnap-00028

Mads Mikkelsen plays Hannibal as Satan, and Jack wants him to be the Devil’s advocate. They want Hannibal to talk to the GRD, keep him on the phone while they run a trace. What he says to Dolarhyde, though, is a direct line into Lecter/Nietzschean philosophy.

“You are the Dragon, you don’t have to be afraid. You know who speaks. From the beginning, you and the Dragon had been one. You are Becoming. And the Dragon is your higher self. Don’t let fear leach your strength. You are almost blind to your own true feelings. No more able to express them than a scar can blush.”

Dolarhyde is still worrying about Reba and his unlikely ability to be loved. “She called me a man! A sweet man!”

Hannibal talks just long enough for them to get a trace, but not to catch him, as he then warns Dolarhyde, just as he warned Garrett Jacob Hobbs in the very first episode of season one.

vlcsnap-00038

Will was already a bit upset at Hannibal…

Wonderful cartoon by “Nat Draws Stuff

But now, he’s back, and mad as a murder hornet!

vlcsnap-00045

This just gives Hannibal an opening for more philosophy.

“The essence of the worst in the human spirit is not found in the crazy sons of bitches. Ugliness is found in the faces of the crowd.”

The Dragon, Hannibal muses, “likely thinks you are as much a monster as you think he is.” Hannibal of course realises the “nice” Dolarhyde is trying to overcome the Red Dragon side of his personality, and Hannibal of course knows Goethe’s Faust off by heart:

“Two souls, alas, are dwelling in my breast, and one is striving to forsake its brother.”

The episode finishes with Hannibal offering Will friendship, absolution, the chance to start again.

“The Great Red Dragon is freedom to him. Shedding his skin. The sound of his voice. His own reflection. The building of a new body and the othering of himself, the splitting of his personality, all seem active and deliberate. He craves change.”

Will finally gets it: “He didn’t murder those families.”

vlcsnap-00065

vlcsnap-00066

 

* Will’s son/stepson? It’s a trick question – the little boy’s name keeps changing.

  • In the book Red Dragon, he’s Willy.
  • In the movie Manhunter, he’s Kevin.
  • In the film Red Dragon, he’s Josh.
  • In the TV series, he’s now Wally (Walter).

WTF? Almost a full circle.

Even the hockey mask has made a comeback.

vlcsnap-00042

Only two more episodes to go before the finale. Where, oh where, is Season 4?

#savehannibal

The cannibal in the will: (Ingrid Newkirk, PETA)

There seem to be less heroes lately. If you watch the news, the heroes – the paramedics, the nurses, the teachers, the activists – those who choose to do good things because it’s the right thing to do – are usually unrecognised. The ones in the spotlight, the ones being treated as heroes, are the rich and famous, even the ones whose only claim to fame is being famous. The news cycle concentrates not on virtue but on suffering, and on vanity, fear, guilt and greed: the tools of the marketers.

I present for your consideration a hero of mine: Ingrid Newkirk, who founded People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) almost forty years ago, and has steered it into becoming the largest and most active animal advocacy organisation in the world, with more than 6.5 million members and supporters.

The PETA mantra is:

Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.

How does this relate to a cannibal studies blog?

Well, Ingrid Newkirk has put a number of requests in her will, one of which is:

That the “meat” of my body, or a portion thereof, be used for a human barbecue, to remind the world that the meat of a corpse is all flesh, regardless of whether it comes from a human being or another animal

Ingrid tells the press: I want it fried up with onions, because people find it hard to resist the smell of frying onions.  I can imagine them coming over and saying enthusiastically,  “Oooh, what’s that?’ and then, “OMG, it’s HER!” 

All abuse starts at the point where the proposed victim is objectified, turned from a living, breathing subject into a thing, an other, an “animal”, a piece of meat. To achieve this, we have all sorts of linguistic tricks which range from changing the names of victims (cows become “beef”, pigs become “pork”) to absurd suggestions that other animals are either mentally incapable or are automata that feel no pain. To make an animal brainless and painless, and therefore morally insignificant, is done through a nifty sleight of hand where non-humans are called “animals” and the Great Ape known as Homo sapiens somehow is not an considered an animal at all.  An example: reports from medical researchers will usually distinguish “animal” trials from “human” trials.

Animal testing - like us

Human cannibalism reminds us that we are animals, and that we are made of meat. It reminds us that, while we may be different to other animals (cognitively swifter than some, physically slower than others), we all suffer and die in the same ways. As Shakespeare said:

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?

One of the additional dangers of stripping moral worth from “animals” is that this can so easily be done to other humans who happen to be different colours, different genders, different faiths, different anything to us.

DSC_0886

We need to be reminded that we are not demi-gods, that when we eat or wear or laugh at or test on “animals” we are causing massive suffering to beings not essentially different from ourselves. Even if no one eats from Ingrid’s planned barbecue (which I hope will not be held for many decades to come) they will hear the message. And if this offer of a cannibal feast makes people question why they are willing to feast on other sentient beings, then one more hole will be made in the rotten edifice that holds up the death industries, the exploitative corporations whose existence future generations will rightly condemn.

The cannibal goes out and hunts, pursues and kills another man and proceeds to cook and eat him precisely as he would any other game. There is not a single argument nor a single fact that can be offered in favor of flesh eating that cannot be offered with equal strength, in favor of cannibalism.
             Dr. Herbert Shelton, Superior Nutrition

If you like my blog, please feel free to recommend it (with discretion) to friends on social media. If you have any questions or comments, you can use the tag or email me on cannibalstudies@gmail.com.

Silence of the Romans: “Titus” (Taymor, 1999)

Well, first off, it’s Anthony Hopkins as a sort-of-cannibal – a welcome return! Titus, the first filmic version of Shakespeare’s first tragedy Titus Andronicus, was made eight years after Silence of the Lambs, which had brought Hopkins fame and an Oscar for best actor. He had played other monsters in the years between Titus and Silence, including Richard Nixon and Pablo Picasso. A couple of years later (2001) he reprised the role of Hannibal Lecter in the movie Hannibal, so Titus was a handy reminder of that sudden Hannibal facial contortion. The movie Titus cost $25 million to make, and grossed less than a tenth of that, so it was, in technical language, a bomb. Shame, as it is a rollicking version of one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays, and the cast is sublime.

Titus

Shakespeare was well aware of stories of strange foreigners known as anthropophagi, or as Columbus had named them “cannibales” (a corruption of the name of the Carib tribe whose neighbours had been telling him tall tales about them). Later references, particularly to the monstrous anagram Caliban in The Tempest, were more nuanced, probably due to his reading of the essays of Montaigne. But in Titus, although there is a POC or “Moor” who is a malevolent villain, it is not the Moor who is the cannibal, and the eating of human flesh is done neither for gustatory or psychotic reasons – it is an act of revenge.

Martyr you

Titus refuses power in Rome, never a good idea in tragedies, and is subsequently betrayed by the Emperor Saturninus, a role camped up mightily by Alan Cumming, Alan Cummingand his bride Tamora, Titus’ sworn enemy, played by the splendid Jessica Lange. There is much bloodshed, even for Shakespeare, quite a lot even for a cannibal blog, but the act of cannibalism is an “innocent” one, in the sense that the person eating humans is not aware of the contents of the pie until digestion has commenced. Much like the Board of the Baltimore Philharmonic, unknowingly tucking into the second flautist around Hannibal Lecter’s dinner table.

baked in that pie

The cannibal, the person who eats human flesh, is Tamora, and the flesh is that of her sons, who have not only raped Titus’ daughter, killed her husband and cut off her hands, but have also cut out her tongue to stop her giving evidence against them (based on another Greek myth – Philomela). Yeah, that trick was never going to work, and so we find them hanging upside down, buck naked, while Titus explains his plans for them:

Hark, villains, I will grind your bones to dust,
And with your blood and it I’ll make a paste,
And of the paste a coffin I will rear,
And make two pasties of your shameful heads,
And bid that strumpet, your unhallowed dam,
Like to the earth, swallow her own increase.

Jessica Lange regrets

And so he does, and Mummy rather enjoys the pie, until Titus explains his little jest, and kills her. The Greeks of course were very big on revenge cannibalism – think Atreus and Thyestes – so Shakespeare had plenty of literary meat for his inspiration. Well, we’ve all been to awkward family dinners, but these guys take the cake. Or in the case of Titus, the pie.

Titus_ver1

If you like my blog, please feel free to recommend it (with discretion) to friends on social media. If you have any questions or comments, you can use the tag or email me on cannibalstudies@gmail.com.