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.

Thoughts of the Day

What We Fear: Death or Humanity?

If there’s one thing that I’ve come to realize over the years is that fear is nothing. Nothing until it comes to understand its full potential. Fear can change you, but only if you let it. Fear can also defeat you. It can tie you up so tight that you can’t even move your arms or legs. It can make you feel as though there is no escape. It can make you into something you’re not. But it can also compel you to do incredible things. Things you would never have even thought of doing. Some people think that it’s better to not show fear. They think that by doing so the fear isn’t real. But not showing fear or pretending it isn’t real does not mean you’ve overcome it.

I come from a generation of desensitized children. We face more death, violence and cruelty than any other generation. It’s everywhere. It’s in everything. It’s right in front of our very eyes. I can’t even count the number of crime shows out there that deal with serial murderers, rapists, child abusers, etc. because there are simply too many. There are plenty of shows out there that basically state in the premise that “violence is the only answer”. They place us in a world that has become “kill or be killed”.

These are the things that we see each and every day. We witness a never ending cycle of murder, violence and abuse. But here’s the kicker. Most of these shows are supposed to depict real life. If that’s the case, then we live in an world that should be one of outright fear. If this is our reality, then it’s not very bright. Is there no light at the end of the tunnel? Or are we just waiting to be consumed by a flesh-eating-formerly-human-monster?

I’ve wondered what these shows are supposed to be teaching us. Are we supposed to be okay with gun violence? Racism? Sexism? Abuse? Murder? Sexual Assault? Or are we simply supposed to be afraid? I’ve been a fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead (created by Frank Darabont) since season 1 and that is one show that simply thrives off fear. Fear of death, dying, defeat, the dead and ultimately what is left of humanity and whether or not there is really anything human left. The Walking Dead, saison 1I’m aware that this show is not a complete depiction of real life and it’s not entirely like what the crime shows deal with. But the fear on that show is very real. No matter what world we’re living in, we fear the same things time and time again. It’s come to a point on the show (particularly this most recent season) that we’ve come to realize that the dead isn’t the only thing to be afraid of. Humanity is just as dangerous, if not more so. In a world without rules or laws, almost every single person is out for blood. Blood they have to spill in order to protect their own.

In the world of crime shows, we fear humanity above all else. The human race is constantly trying to save what has been destroyed. In many of these shows you come across a human being who thinks that killing is the only way to save the greater good. Unmask what is haunting us and we can overcome it. But what happens when we start being haunted by what we see?

A few weeks ago, I made a futile attempt to get into NBC’s Hannibal (created by Bryan Fuller). I got through to the first 5 minutes of season 1, episode 4 and I just could no longer stomach it. I tend to know when things will scare me, but I’m not always sure what. I have refused to watch any of the Hannibal films because I know I’ll be terrified and yet, I somehow thought I could handle the show. Thinking back on it, I wonder where my fear came from upon seeing two humans turned into angels. Was the decimation of another human being too disturbing to witness? Or was it witnessing what humanity is capable of what truly scared me? I’m not entirely sure. And yet, I still have the lingering feeling to go back and try again. To try and make it work.

That being said, why is it much easier for me to keep watching The Walking Dead while I struggle with the desire to watch Hannibal? Is it the idea that Hannibal takes places in the present world, where as The Walking Dead takes place in a possible future? Either way, both shows speak to one major question.

What’s truly more terrifying: the dead or humanity? Is it possible that once we find an answer to that question we’ll simply no longer be afraid?