Hannibal – why it shouldn’t have been cancelled, but was always going to be.
*I will not spend the whole blog talking about Mads’ cheekbones* *I will not spend the whole blog talking about Mads’ cheekbones* *I will not spend the whole blog talking about Mads’ cheekbones* …damn.
Hannibal is pure poetry – on all levels: the writing, the direction, the casting, the cinematography, the editing, the sound engineering, the list goes on and on. However, it was simply too cutting edge, too far ahead of its time, and too beautiful to last… on mainstream television anyway. I think part of the reason Hannibal got the chop (SO MANY PUNS) is because the masses like banal viewing (e.g., Keeping up with the Kardashians) and Hannibal was anything but banal.
Hannibal was brave; the book, the movie and the television series were all so courageous. Hannibal Lecter is the human race’s ultimate predator. Hannibal is a superior human (by which I mean things like his intelligence, physical skill, emotional regulation, memory, physical strength and perception) with a taste for human flesh. Cannibalism is considered one of the most disgusting and disturbing moral crimes – yet somehow Hannibal has us rooting for him (by the way, using morality as his rationale for murder was pure genius, Mr Harris.) The most evil of evil villains, and we are on his side. If that isn’t confronting reading/viewing – what is? Hannibal is a challenging show because it is beautiful and seductive. It confuses us with its dreamlike direction until we are not sure what is wrong and what is right. We are lost in a storm of roses. Hannibal invites, and even challenges us to find our moral compass when all of our senses are telling us to look the other way. I don’t know about you, but I want to drown in the poetry of Hannibal. I want Hannibal Lecter to get away with his crimes. Yet, I know what he does is terribly wrong. Some people have picked holes in the plot of Hannibal. I see those holes and agree. But what I love about Hannibal is that the conflict the writers are aiming for isn’t on the screen – the conflict the writers really want to see played out is the conflict in the heart of the viewers. In short, the writers REALLY care about the response of the viewer. Their show depends on it. In fact, Hannibal places high demands on its viewers – in order to enjoy Hannibal you have to be truly engaged and invested in a serial killer’s journey. So, to those people who felt so disturbed by Hannibal – that was the point of the show. They wanted to challenge you. This is a mark of respect because it is very hard to be moved by Hannibal (in a good or bad way) unless you are intellectually engaged. Hannibal, and the writers of Hannibal, want to know: who are you, really? Many a great philosopher has stated that beauty is truth. What happens when the beauty you’re looking at, is, at its heart, evil? Hannibal was art. JUST LOOK AT IT. Game of Thrones is beautiful from time to time. I loved the feel of Twin Peaks. True Detective is in a league of it’s own. But Hannibal? Hannibal was pure visual poetry. I felt like my eyeballs were getting a rose-petal bath. Some people have complained that the third season has lost them because it is too abstract. However, what I love about Hannibal is that while it is breathtakingly beautiful, every single detail has meaning, if you want to examine the show on that level. (Media studies classes must love Hannibal for that reason.) But to be honest, like all good poetry, I enjoy letting the sights and sounds of Hannibal wash over me.
Hannibal gave us space. There were times when Hannibal was very abstract. A lot of the important turning points were actually unspoken, they would simply be marked by a look, a strange turn of phrase, or a beautifully framed scene. But we all knew what was happening. Less was often more. This ‘space’ challenged viewers; it even put some fans off. But for me, personally, I found that having space to move within the plot gave me time to appreciate the sensory feast that it was. It also gave me time to find myself within the story…what was I feeling? What was my response to that murder? Why are Mads’ lips so damn sexy. You know – that kind of thing. The space of the show lured me in. Hannibal was horror taken to the extreme, but it was done with taste, integrity and respect. People have called Hannibal gore porn. No. In my view the gore was never porn. Porn, in this context, often means gratuitous. Hannibal, at its heart, is a horror story. Murder, torture, pain etc., are all important devices for moving the plot along. Hannibal really took TV horror to the edge, but the style of the show meant that it got away with a lot of things other shows wouldn’t. To me this is a mark of respect to the viewers in that the writers and editors understood just how much we could palate before we turned off. This is a very fine line to tread. I think you will find Hannibal will be the reference point for a lot of TV shows to come when they ask “What can we do and how can we get way with it without losing viewers.”
There have been a lot of people criticizing Hannibal for its gore etc., much like they criticize Game of Thrones for… pretty much everything. I don’t agree with these people. I think if you don’t like a show – don’t watch it. Also, if you have time and energy enough to protest about a show, spend that time and energy on real world issues. I think people have lost the ability to tell fact from fiction. I blame that inability on reality TV, and a lack of education encouraging critical thinking and literacy. However, I will fight to the death so that people to have a right to have a different opinion to me, and even be offended by the things I love (such as Hannibal). This is because the price of freedom, true freedom, is tolerating people who you don’t agree with, and protecting their right to disagree with you. The only time I get upset is when someone gets hurt (e.g., doxxing) or, when someone tries to censor a show or book. Censorship is NOT OKAY. For example, Twilight gets constantly slammed because of Bella Swan’s apparent lack of agency. However, how would Romeo and Juliet have been received if it was to be released now? Two children killing themselves in the name of love? I don’t think Amazon would even sell it. There has always been criticism, criticism is healthy – it betters art. Censorship kills art. So when you tell me Hannibal, Game of Thrones, Dexter etc., promote killing and rape I think you need to go back and study the literary giants we all idolize. The problem isn’t television, the problem is a lack of critical literacy and critical thinking. Sorry, I have gone off topic. It is just I saw a lot of tweets celebrating Hannibal’s downfall today.
Anyway, back on topic. Finally, Hannibal personally inspired me. There are many books, movies and shows that finally showed me it is okay to write the way I want to write. Hannibal was one of these shows. I love the darkness. I love horror. I love the sensual feast. I love the pretentiousness. I love romance. I think sex and death are two sides of the one coin. I count down the days waiting for Hannibal because, in a weird way, Hannibal gave me permission to be me (not, I am not a cannibal, I don’t even like bacon – a mortal sin my brother tells me.) And meeting the Fannibal family showed me that I was not alone in my love of shadows. And finally, don’t even start me on Mads Mikkelsen. He has been my muse ever since I put pen to page under the name Catherine Winther. I have watched his career from the start (Pusher, Adams Apples, The Door, A Royal Affair, Open Hearts, Move On, Valhalla Rising, The Hunt, etc etc) and when I heard he was going to be Hannibal Lecter I was ecstatic – and not just because I would be seeing more of his primal physicality or, the evil glint in his eye. Mads has the innate ability to play very dark roles and make them immediately accessible. He knows how to seduce an audience just with the tip of his head. Mads is one of today’s most powerful actors – but his power resides in his subtly, and that is why he has been the perfect Hannibal (Sorry, Anthony – the flower crown has been stolen.) What has surprised me in the most delightful way is that Hugh Dancy has revealed the same ability. His portral of Will Graham will haunt me till the end of my days. I am going to save my eternal praise for the work of Gillian Anderson for another day because this post is already turning into a novel and I really need to do a proper review of the The Fall and a fangirl post about The X-Files returning. Meanwhile I’ll just be in my corner praying Bedelia survives to become Hannigram’s Murder Wife. However, regardless of the art, the bravery, the space, the edginess I suspect Hannibal was always hovering close to the chopping block (you can’t have a Hannibal based blog post without a few puns.) I think the Hannibal team did an amazing job, but the show was so cutting edge I am just not sure viewers were ready to digest it. Hannibal broke new ground in TV-Land. And just like what happened with Twin Peaks, when you break new ground you don’t tend to last long. This is because people don’t know how to read you, or what to do with you. When the novelty wears off, networks go looking for the next big thing. And much like Twin Peaks I wouldn’t be surprised if Hannibal gets remade in 25 years time when poetic TV has its own genre. And then I will get to say a very sweet “I told you so.” I spent a lot of time working behind the scenes to help save Twin Peaks – another show that plays in the shadows with style and grace. I just hope we can save Hannibal in the same way. But whatever happens I will be eternally grateful that Hannibal was ever made, that I met the Fannibals I did, that Bryan Fuller was born and continues to write, and that Mads Mikkelsen has the wickedest smile this girl has ever seen. Now if you are a Fannibal do yourself a favor and enjoy the following Fan Video. It is my favourite Fan Video ever made – and I have quite a collection.