You have probably guessed by now that my two previous posts were referring to Richard Armitage’s recent choice of role in the third Season of the TV Series Hannibal directed by Bryan Fuller, which is, it seems, extremely popular in the United States. Please believe me when I say that I have never before opposed something without actually having experienced it first, apart from the obvious pits such as drugs, binge drinking, promiscuity to name but a few. It is with great reluctance and much apprehension that I embark on this seemingly unjustified rant, as I have nothing but sheer admiration for Richard Armitage the actor but more so the person, but try as I may, I cannot bring myself to watch anything related to this series, beyond trailers, short YouTube videos of the two previous seasons, scenes from the film Red Dragon, or to read sections of the book it is based on by the same title written by Thomas Harris.
Let me put my reluctance into context. When I first started researching on this, the first thing that came up was a video which described Hannibal, the TV series, as “Disturbingly Delicious”: disturbing referring to the stark, vivid, shocking imagery related to the crimes committed by some of the characters, and delicious because there is this kind of generally accepted vibe going on in social media amongst many supporters of this series, including its producers, that murderers who torture, mutilate & eat their victims, is fair game as the subject of laughter and banter. If you don’t believe me or think I exaggerate, look no further than on #Hannibal, the twitter feed of the program, or google reviews such as this one which says, I quote, “See, the trick is to hide all your gore and carnage within a pristine baroque palate of gorgeousness. And then make people want to vomit.”
Personally, I think that although the Horror Genre is not for me, it is valid and an art form in its own right, and I appreciate that some enjoy it as a way of escapism; can’t quite bring myself to describe it as entertainment. Maybe if as a society we begin to ask ourselves the tough questions such as why do we live in a world where people get such a kick out of watching the most violent of murders and even cannibalism, we will begin to be able to tackle the problem of violence, suicide and even terrorism.
Nevertheless, with each new Horror program that is produced, the boundaries of what is acceptable as an art form seem to be pushed further and further with a complete disregard for the effect some of these programs and the hype they create may have on those watching who are mentally unstable, incapable of discernment, the young and easily impressionable, etc. We all put our hands to our head when we watch the news of yet again another savage murder, killing spree at the hands of a person/persons who on the outside seemed like a “normal” balanced individual. I am by no means blaming these type of programs for a murderer’s actions, clearly, but many agree on the effect that violent graphics and behaviour in video games have on young and/or vulnerable individuals, so how is a TV program centered on such horrific violence any different?; why is it exempt of any responsibility? It is no good hiding behind the argument of the program being certified 18. We all know many youngsters and even parents do not pay any attention to these restrictions or guidelines, so let’s not pass on the bucket of responsibility. We all must do our bit, surely! What hope is there for aiming to become a balanced and healthy society, if we all happily shift the blame on someone, something else; if we turn a blind eye on what is so obviously detrimental to a healthy society? The blind leading the blind springs to mind (no pun intended with regards to the relationship between the characters of Francis Dolarhyde and Riba, the blind woman, though now that I mention it….maybe topic for another blogpost though highly unlikely)
There has been much talk recently in the news about the responsibility of sports men and women who many children, teenagers and even adults see as role models. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where individuals are becoming increasingly isolated as we spend a large amount of our time on social media, on the internet, or simply away from other people. The sense of unity, support and oneness which make for healthy, strong communities is ebbing away, and so as people, we are becoming isolated islands in a big, dark scary ocean instead of many cities or states which are quite diverse but joined together under one continent or country. We are therefore plodding along alone and often frightened, because we no longer have that support network or sense of being anchored safely by our emotional and physical bond to others. As a result, the most vulnerable, the most naïve can’t help but look up to the so-called “role models” in our society and be guided by their actions, attitudes and behaviour. If the pillars of our society, the movers & the shakers, and particularly those who regulate and are at the height of the entertainment industry have no scruples in putting together or allowing a program which homes in on evil of demonic proportions, can we trust our youngsters, the mentally ill, the mentally vulnerable to apply censorship filters to something which potentially may trigger violent behaviour in them? I don’t think so. Violence breeds violence. I think most of us can agree on that.
But if that wasn’t enough deterrent for responsible talented adults from jumping on the ever increasingly popular and widely accepted money-making wagon of Horror movies and Horror TV series, let’s then focus on the issue of making violence appear sexy or appealing. I cannot begin to tell you the number of tweets I have recently read of people who admit to actually “falling in love”, admiring and even feeling sorry for some of the characters, mainly the psychopaths at whose hands the most violent and horrific of acts take place. Many speak of these characters with utter admiration based on how highly intelligent, charismatic and even endearing some of them are. For the morally discerning and mentally balanced person it is easy to draw the line between fiction and reality, to tell the innocent from the guilty and the victim from the psychopath, but what happens when a person who is not mentally healthy or who is not mature enough finds it impossible to draw a clear line between these polarized principles which are so obvious to the rest of us? With such charismatic and highly intelligent characters who are able to draw in, during the Hannibal series, even those who are supposedly in authority and responsible for bringing the killers to justice, how can we expect a vulnerable impressionable individual to not elevate these characters to role model status even to deity status? It happens. We often witness on the news loners/bullish gangs who go on a rampage in the name of this, that or the other, completely losing perspective on the boundaries of what is right and what is wrong, of the very blurry line that sometimes lies between the circumstances that define someone as the victim or the perpetrator.
Richard’s recent casting together with the recent introduction to the upcoming 3rd season of actor Zach Quinto has launched an avalanche of excitement round the Twittersphere centered along the fact that since these two actors are so “hot” and “sexy”, Hannibal must now make for compulsory wiewing. Richard Armitage himself said during an old interview about the issue of violence in “The Hobbit” films: “Peter Jackson always had this debate with his design team and the actors that you can’t undersell violence. It needs to be as shocking and violent as it really is, but you can’t glorify it or make it look sexy or appealing”.
I am pretty certain Richard is going to find it absolutely impossible to not play to the millions of fans’ expectations who are eagerly waiting to see a “sexy” Francis Dolarhyde do his thing. The eroticism in the #Hannibal series and the film ” Red Dragon” where Ralph Fiennes played the character of Francis Dolarhyde is undeniable and no doubt part of its wide appeal. I have nothing against that. It clearly has its place when done carefully, tastefully and responsibly, but when you mix eroticism with extreme violence and the characters playing both are ranking in the top places of magazine’s sexiest men lists, we have a serious problem. So much for not making violence look sexy or appealing. I know this would never be Richard’s intention in accepting that part, far from it, but how can it be helped? When you read fan’s tweets, this is exactly what is pulling in most of the viewers who are expectantly waiting for the 3rd Hannibal Season to be aired. I just think Richard is far superior, classy and better than all that. But I am just a fan, right? So who am I to have my say? Well, seeing as I have already had a fair share of abuse, aggression and disrespect on my twitter account from Hannibal fans (which ironically only serves to confirm and validate the points I share here), I feel it is necessary at this point to point out the obvious: THIS IS MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION WHICH I TRUST I AM ENTITLED TO, AS I BELIEVE I STILL LIVE IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY WHETHER FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS HIGHLY REVERED AND RESPECTED (#JeSuisCharlie, for those who have already forgotten). At no point have I been rude or disrespectful to the person of Richard Armitage, whom by the way I admire and care for greatly. I hope that this transpires from my two previous posts on this subject.
I leave you now with some extracts from the very many reviews I have read on the Hannibal Series. You can make up your own mind, just as I have! In an ideal world, I would have preferred to reserve my judgement until the series is broadcast and I get to see for myself whether I am talking nonsense or not, but I just cannot bring myself to watch it, though I have really tried. Whatever the outcome, there are two things I already know for sure: the first one is that Richard will give his absolute best and all in that role and will do it for artistic purposes and as a personal and professional challenge. The second thing is that his character will be oozing sex appeal as will others’, and inevitably sex-appeal and violence will be married together by the least discerning as a valid and appealing trait/behaviour which one can emulate and even look up to. The rest is history, and as it is often the case, we will look back at history and learn the lessons we couldn’t learn whilst they were staring us right in the face.
“The last thing television needs is more serial killer dramas. (emphasis is mine) But when they’re this well made, this smart and creative and unexpectedly funny? Then, yes, more “Hannibal,” please.” More from http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-nbcs-hannibal-serves-up-delicious-second-season-course
“In the end, this show is not about cops and killers or even reality and dreams. It’s about how art affects the mind and body. It explicitly likens its subsidiary serial killers to striving artists (emphasis is mine) struggling to perfect their style and be noticed by the public and appreciated by critics (the FBI). The killers work in mixed media: wood, steel, soil, plants, flesh, bones, teeth. When Will describes an especially elaborate murder scene as “a canvas made of bodies,” in which “each body is a brush stroke,” he’s describing Hannibal itself.” Read more from http://www.vulture.com/2014/02/tv-review-hannibal-season-2.html
“Even with all the vomit-inducing states of death it presents, the most unappetizing part of “Hannibal” is its lack of humor. Viewers need a break from all that darkness, and there’s very little to laugh at except the gastronomic episode titles, which include “Aperitif” and “Amuse-Bouche.” In seriously exploring what drives people to kill, “Hannibal” serves up a meal too heavy to enjoy each week.” http://articles.redeyechicago.com/2013-04-03/entertainment/38255785_1_hannibal-lecter-graham-bryan-fuller