[Please be advised that this week’s STQ involves descriptions of graphic violence depicted in a popular television show. If descriptions of graphic violence aren’t your cuppa (and who can blame you?), it may be best to skip this week’s installment.]
I don’t know what television program the Better Half and I were watching the other night before “Hannibal” aired. (Whatever airs before “Hannibal,” it would seem.) As whatever it was drew to a close, the promo for “Hannibal” played, with some little audio blurb about how critically-acclaimed it is.
Neither of us knew a blessed thing about it. But we decided to keep the TV tuned in to see what all the touted critical acclaim was about.
It took no time at all to surmise that the titular character is one Dr. Hannibal Lecter, boogeyman of the American cultural consciousness since I was in high school. This realization dawned after the “warning — icky icky graphic gruesomeness to follow” disclaimer played as the show was starting, and was cemented by the icky icky graphic gruesomeness depicted in the “previously on ‘Hannibal'” bring-viewers-up-to-speed montage.
And with that, the show began with several characters milling about a lonely, deserted location around a gigantic totem pole manufactured from human corpses. Lots and lots of corpses, chopped up and refashioned into a big, hideous tower. Atop the pole was the most recent victim. Around the pole were several recently-opened shallow graves, their contents apparently exhumed to comprise bits of the totem pole.
The scene then shifts to the inner workings of one character’s mind. Some sort of super-empath, he imagines himself in the killer’s role, trying severed body parts together while the final victim watches, bound and gagged. He imagines himself stabbing the final victim. Cut to grisly image of said victim’s body contorted at the top of the pole.
Cut again to super-empath standing in the office of Dr. Hannibal Lecter with no idea how he got there.
I do not know what happens next, my friends, because the Better Half and I had seen enough. I do not know if the highly implausible notion of a single deranged lunatic hoisting a pillar of numerous corpses (which is sure to weigh a hell of a lot) all by his lonesome without the use of heavy machinery was somehow explained. I do not know if every episode of “Hannibal” involves the same kind of de trop gross-out weirdness featured in this one. I do not know what the critics love so very much about this show.
All I know is that, within the span of five minutes’ viewing, I already hated it. I hated it a lot.
This probably does not come as much of a surprise to those of you who spend much time reading what I write. (May the road rise up to meet you.) I know I’ve mentioned my aversion to horror films. (I hate them. I hate them a lot.) And I’ve written previously about my distaste for trying to make sympathetic characters out of killers who mangle and torture their victims. But as I said in that post:
So, sorry “Scandal.” You’ve lost me. Not only is this plotline dumb, it’s revolting. Supposed government sponsorship or not, this character was a serial killer, and I can only just barely stand seeing a serial killer’s crimes if I know at the end he’ll get blown away by Clarice Starling. I’ll pass on more of this.
Because I actually really do like “The Silence of the Lambs.” I think it’s a great film, albeit one that took me ten viewings at least before I could watch it all the way through, and which I still watch through a mesh of my own interlocked fingers. The writing and the acting are truly superb (just as they may well be in “Hannibal” for all I know). It deserved all its accolades.
But what makes it tolerable for me is the character of Clarice. To me, it’s a movie about courage and decency enduring in the face of unspeakable depravity. The serial killer characters are a necessary part of the story, but at heart it’s still the story of a young woman’s strength of character. And I can spend the span of a feature-length film gritting my teeth through the intensely ugly violence knowing that she blasts the perpetrator in the end.
Spending week after week in one Grand Guignol extravaganza after another? Getting inside the head(s?) of the killer(s?) every episode instead of trying to get the hell away from them once and for all? Seeing Hannibal Lecter’s culinary prowess? No thanks, NBC. No thanks.
So that’s this week’s two-part question:
1) What’s the quickest you’ve ever hated something? What’s the fastest realization you’ve had that something is not for you?
2) Have you ever enjoyed something in one form that you couldn’t stomach in another? Is there something you’ve liked in this way that you don’t like in that? If so, what and how?