Story Time, Thoughts of the Day

Love in the Time of Hannibal

*** when in doubt, aka writer’s block, write what you know. And what I know is Hannibal***

Of all the television that I’ve watched in my day, not a single show has stuck with me the way NBC’s Hannibal (2013) has. For those unfamiliar, Hannibal, based on the characters by Thomas Harris, tells the story of Hannibal Lecter, the renowned psychiatrist and his patient Will Graham, an FBI criminal profiler, who struggles with his ability to empathize with serial killers. However, this isn’t your typical “Hannibal the Cannibal” tale about a men who kills and eats people. In creator Bryan Fuller’s (American Gods, Pushing Daisies) world of Hannibal, it is so much more than that. For you may find, as time goes on, that it’s nearly impossible not to develop an ounce of affection for the one person who truly understand you, regardless of those sticky predilections.

This, instead, is a story of two men trying to make sense of a world in which they cannot redraw their hand. While one lives his life through the lens of pure ego and narcissism, the other lives his life, and is haunted by, the simple fact that his empathy overpowers him. Hannibal Lecter, the sociopath who has no empathy at all and Will Graham, the young profiler who has too much.

In the early episodes of Hannibal, the task is an uncomplicated one: to catch a killer. But in order to do so, we must bring in elements of the complicated. Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), on a good day, is anything but uncomplicated. As a young man who empathizes with serial killers, his job becomes a dangerous one. For fear of getting too close to the cases he’s been brought in to solve, Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne), head of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit, sends Will to see Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelson) with the hope that the good doctor can help ease Will’s stress and therefore help Jack get the job done.

And it works. For a time.

Will and Hannibal’s relationship is one that supersedes the most common notions of what it means to care for another person. Usually, when we have feelings for someone, platonic or otherwise, we find that their best interest also becomes our best interest. We want for them what they want. Happiness, success, joy, comfort, and above all, love. But what happens to a relationship when your deepest desires overpower theirs? And when you can’t help but feel as though they would be much better off doing as you do.

That’s when it happens. That’s when murder happens.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is anything but ordinary. He’s suave. He’s charismatic. He’s charming. And he’s an exceptionally good cook. But underneath the expensive suits and grandiose language is an overwrought imagination. An imagination that extends far beyond the realm of decency and hope. To Hannibal Lecter, death, is the only significant thing, life has to offer.

Hannibal is a man who feels very alone in his extracurricular activities. Yes, there are those our there who do as he does, but there is no one quite like him. And it’s in this isolated state that Hannibal finds himself a tether in one Will Graham. Will’s overwhelming empathy and Hannibal’s lack thereof, makes Will the perfect candidate for sculpting. And sculpt Will Graham, he does. Into the very man Will has always been so terrified of becoming.

If we are to think about love in the time of Hannibal, one thing comes to mind: tolerance.

As the series goes on, the eventual discovery of Hannibal’s true nature comes to light. And it is a bloody discovery. However, the empathetic man that is Will Graham comes to terms with this truth in the only way he knows how.

He tolerates it. He doesn’t sympathize with it. He doesn’t feel compassion towards it. He tolerates it because he understands it. The urges, the impulses, the desires. He sees these inclinations as what truly makes Hannibal, Hannibal. And it’s through this understanding that Hannibal, for all his faults and misdeeds, finds himself enamored. Regardless of whether or not you agree that a sociopath, devoid of all conscience, even has a capacity for love, the show Hannibal reaches out through the dark and pulls you in, making you question everything you ever thought you knew on the subject.

And then twists it into something unrecognizable. And although most relationships are built on trust, in this case, simple truth will do. When you find you can be honest with someone, you find that you can show them your true self. And Hannibal finds that in Will Graham. And by the end of the series, Will Graham, not only sees Hannibal, he finally sees himself. His true nature and what Hannibal has always believed Will has been capable of. And it’s in this discovery of their true selves that they find comfort and solace in each other.

But if love is wont to destroy Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal will not go down without taking Will Graham with him. After all, the deeming of the term “Murder Husbands” does not go without merit.

But whether or not they survive this free fall is a story for another season.

Poetic Bends, Story Time, Thoughts of the Day

Regarding My Blackness

While sitting in the movie theater this past January, I watched as Moonlight began to borrow itself deep inside my heart. It clung to my lungs and wrapped around my rib cage. It crept into my brain stem and spread across my skull.

I was covered in it from head to toe. Unable to separate myself from it, we had become one. Suddenly and wholeheartedly.

After the commotion at the Oscars and Moonlight was finally given its well deserved title and prize, everything that I held inside burst through my tear ducts. It was as if every single marginalized person out there, the ones who were born with the words “I AM DIFFERENT” written on their forehead like a birthmark, were finally able to wipe away the permanent marker. The slate was wiped clean and they could finally write something else.

Because suddenly, through the shocked, ernest and tear stained faces of the Moonlight cast and crew, they, along with many baring witness, watched as the word87dedde498b70bbac653e4389497036ds that looked back at them in the mirror were clearly and miraculously, “YOU ARE SEEN”.

I’ve spent these 26 years of my life trying to understand what it means to have a white mother and a black father. What it means to be biracial. What it means to be black. And I have to say that it wasn’t until recently that I truly found myself able to embrace my blackness.

And maybe that’s because we don’t have to only be seen as victims of racism and police brutality or as images that take up space, or as bodies to be consumed, or darkness to be feared. Maybe it’s the mere fact that our stories are not only being told, but they’re being recognized as worthy and worthwhile.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ll say it anyway. I’ll say it until my throat is raw and my voice is raspy.

We run just as fast as you (though some might argue). We laugh jus
t as loud as you (though some might argue). We smile just as bright as you. We love just as hard as you. Our burdens might not bear the same weight, but we matter just as much as you do.

I am part of the black community. Those are my people. You are my people. And I love every single one of you. 

And if we’re getting technical here, I am not only just black, I am also a woman. But that’s a story for another day.

Story Time, Thoughts of the Day

How a Single Meme Caused My Existential Crisis…

The most recent meme going around the internet is to describe yourself in 3 Fictional Characters.

Initially, I thought it would be a fun exercise and saw it to be a good way to revisit those characters that I’ve grown to love so much.

By no means did I think this task would be easy, but I didn’t think it would actually be this hard. I’d like to think that I know myself fairly well. But as it turns out, that may not be the case.

When a flood of characters first came to mind, my immediate thought was, “Wow, this is easy! I know myself so well!”

I have never been so wrong.

When I actually thought about it, I realized that many of those initial characters were nothing like me. Instead, they were who I wanted to be.

Take Tina Belcher for example: She’s a smart, strong, sensual woman. She knows who she is, what she wants, and she’s not afraid to go after it. She’s not ashamed to tell other people how she feels, even if it could some else uncomfortable. Those are all things that I admire and love about her. But, unfortunately, I am not her.

Take Rory Gilmore as another example: She’s smart, dedicated, and reads more books than anyone else. Those are all things that I believe to be true about myself. And yet, at times, I find myself at odds with Rory. There have even been several occasions in which I’ve found myself hating her. But that begs the real question: If I see myself in her, does that mean I also hate myself? That’s something I still don’t have a definitive answer to. And maybe I never will.

But until then, take Felicity Porter as a last example. Felicity is so outspoken and unapologetic about who she is that it almost makes me sick. She always speaks her mind and she always goes after what she wants. I’d love more than anything to say that I’m like her. But having insanely curly hair that doesn’t know how to handle humidity is where our comparisons begin and end. I am, unfortunately, also not Felicity.

So, if I’m not a Tina or a Rory or a Felicity, then who am I?

I know one immediate answer to that.

I am Liz Lemon. I am Liz Lemon in all her night cheese glory. In all her desire for a guy at a bar to buy her mozzarella sticks instead of a drink. I’d rather sit on the couch and watch tv by myself in my pajamas than go out and party. I’d rather eat things that are terrible for me instead of torturing myself by eating a salad. You’d find me flipping a table simply because someone stole my mac and cheese.

The first one wasn’t hard. In fact, it was blindingly obvious.

The second one wasn’t too hard either.

I am Liz Lemon and I am also Chandler Bing.

I am sarcastic and pride myself on my ability to lighten the mood with a joke. I’m unlucky in love and have a hard time always knowing what I want. And like Chandler, my humor is my defense.

But if I already know these things about myself, why is it so hard to come up with another character who I believe to be like me?

I thought about this for a very long time. And I mean, a long time. So long, in fact, that I started feeling a crisis coming on. Maybe I don’t really know myself as well as I had hoped.

When I finally did come up with a third character, I was hesitant (and still am) to place this person in comparison to myself. Am I actually like this person or do I just wish I were?

The person I ended up choosing was Peter Petrelli from Heroes. Peter is a good person. He’s kind and wants to help others. He is one of those people who truly cares. Now, you may be wondering why I would be hesitant to put such an inherently good person on my level.

But that’s just it. Peter is inherently good. But am I a good person? I could have just as easily gone the route of self-deprecation and put a bag of trash as my third character and it would have described me fairly well. But instead, I chose a person who wants to change the world.

I suppose this is where my crisis truly came into play. And I guess, even as I’m writing this, it’s still playing out.

I’d like to think of myself as a good person. I want to be a good person. I want to make a change in the world and I want to be happy. Maybe I just have to keep reminding myself that those are things that I can choose to be.

Discover Challenges, Story Time

I’m Sorry That I Loved Her First

An apology is usually followed by forgiveness. But they don’t always go hand in hand. Someone in need of an apology isn’t the same as someone in need of forgiveness.

Can you truly forgive someone if they simply apologize? Does that suddenly make everything alright again?

Back in college, my tight knit friend group had a falling out with one of our own. At first I was angry. Truly angry. Angry at the fact that our problems started from nothing and, as a result, our friendship turned into nothing. I’m not even sure if I wanted an apology. What I wanted more, at the very least, was an acknowledgement of what had happened between the 6 of us. And why it felt necessary to reject the people who had stood by you through so much. We were all hurt on different levels. Some of us cared more than the rest. Some of us didn’t care at all. But nonetheless, none of us ever got an apology. But even if we did, I’m not sure if our forgiveness would have been freely given. Or, more importantly, if it would have been freely received.

Sometimes when someone might be in need of an apology, it doesn’t mean that the other person is in need of your forgiveness.

Let it go. I just can’t forget about her. How do you know if you can really be sure? But I can’t move on. I’m sorry that I loved her first. She’s the only one. She’s the only one I want. 

Daily Post Challenges, Story Time, Thoughts of the Day

Those Who Risk, Win.

On Monday, I went to see Joss Whedon and Mark Ruffalo speak as part of the Directors Series at Tribeca Film Festival.

There was a point where Joss started talking about how, years after Buffy, he finally realized that he was writing about himself. That he was, in fact, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He realized that all of the emotions Buffy experienced and what she went through came from somewhere deep within. And it
wasn’tlarge_joss-whedon-mark-ruffalo-1 until it was over that he was finally able to understand.

He said the same thing happened when he was writing the character of Bruce Banner/ The Hulk for The Avengers. The character of Bruce Banner spends much of his time trying to prevent The Other Guy (i.e. The Hulk) from emerging and taking over. It’s something that he will have to learn to cope with for the rest of his life. In the 3rd act of The Avengers, Bruce joins up with the rest of the team as they’re about to take on an army of Chitari. Captain America turns to Bruce and says something along the lies of: “Dr. Banner, now would be a really good time to get angry.” And Bruce simply responds with: “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.” Joss said that one of the reasons he was so proud of that line from Bruce was because it made him realize, that once again, he was writing about himself. And that he is, in fact, always angry.

As I was listening to him talk about this, I began to realize something too. When I’m writing particular characters, they always seem to either be angry or sad. And if, like Joss, I’m writing about myself, then maybe, I too, am always angry or sad.

The anger I can get on board with. I do believe that a lot of the time, I am angry. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Anger can drive you. It certainly drives my writing. It takes me to places that I never thought I could go. And If I’m being honest, anger gets me some really great dialogue.

The sadness, however, I’m not so fond of. But sadness is a part of life and sad things happen all the time. So why shouldn’t I write about them? But if I really think about it, if I actually dig deep, I feel as though I am sad. Though about what, I’m not entirely sure. But what I find is that when I write sad characters, I feel better on the inside. I get those emotions out and project them into something I can make positive. Something I can be proud of.

Joss said that, to him, writing is one of the best things in life. He loves the writing process and he gets so much out of it. He discovers what he’s capable of and what brings out his emotions. He said he was once writing something so powerful that as he was writing, he found that he was sobbing.

When I’m not [writing], I remember that I hate myself. – Joss Whedon

The degree of honesty and candor to which he spoke, was truly awe-inspiring. To be able to have that lens into one’s own self is nothing short of immaculate. And the fact that he shared it with a room full of strangers and continues to share it through his writing is one of the reasons he inspires me.

That’s what I want from my writing. I want to feel that catharsis that comes from simple words on the page. Not just words that dig deep inside myself and reach my soul but words that actually came from me. Words that came from my own heart and my own soul. Like Joss, I love writing. It brings me a joy unlike any other. And it feels like it’s what I’m meant to be doing. And maybe I am sad or angry. Or both. But even so, I know that I can take those emotions and do something with them. And hopefully by doing so, I can bring a little solace to other people and maybe to myself, as well.

Writing about yourself is risky. It’s opening yourself up to criticism and judgement. It’s showing your wounds and most of the time you’re not sure if doing so will heal those wounds or just make thing fester. But I wholeheartedly believe, that at the end of the day, it’s a risk worth taking.

“If you’re not writing about yourself, why are you writing? Why would you not want to write something that’s important for you to say to people?” – Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon is a writer, director & producer known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and The Avengers. Mark Ruffalo is an actor and producer. 

Inspired by The Daily Post Discover Challenge, Risk

Daily Post Challenges, Story Time, Thoughts of the Day

Closeted Fear

In response to the Daily Post’s prompt “Closet”

When I was a kid I was afraid of my closet. The same way I was afraid to go to sleep with my door closed or the hallway light off.

In fact, when it came to sleeping, there were a lot of things I was afraid of.

I remember once in elementary school, we were having a Read-In. You know, one of those Midwest things where kids brought their sleeping bags to school and we would basically spend the entire day inside them while the teacher read us stories.

One of the stories that our teacher read to us was about a young girl whose bedroom window faced the cemetery outside. As I recall, as the girl slept, a demon or a ghost of some kind climbed in through her window. I don’t remember how the story ended exactly but I remember being terrified. So much so, that I still remember the story some 15 years later. (This also gave me a fear of cemeteries for a while)

So I was afraid of my windows. I would refuse to have my bed near the window for fear of something coming in through it to get me. I was afraid of my closet and would make sure that it was closed before I climbed into bed. I was afraid of sleeping with my door closed or with the hallway light off. It made me feel better to know that my parents were up and that they were the source of the soft noises as I feel asleep. I wanted to be able to see them going about their evenings. Knowing that with them there, I was safe.

Now, I can’t sleep with my door open. I have to have all the lights off, including the hallway or kitchen light to even entertain the idea of sleep. The closet can be open. In fact, it’s always open. I don’t even think I’ve shut it once.

I still have a slight issue with the window though. However, being on the 5th floor of my apartment building, it doesn’t seem to matter as much. But when I go back home to visit my parents, I sometimes think about unsavory possibilities that lurk outside the window of our ranch style home.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of a lot of things. Things that would seep into my dreams or prevent sleep altogether. I’d like to say that I’m no longer afraid. But I guess I’m just afraid of different things now. But maybe that’s okay.

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light. I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.