Hannibal’s Problem with Women

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Beware, there are spoilers in this post!

I’ve never read the Hannibal books, nor have I seen Silence of the Lambs. (Sacrilege, I know!) When Hannibal the TV series came into existence, I noted it briefly because it was the product of Bryan Fuller, who gave me the glorious Pushing Daisies, and then went on my way. It wasn’t until after the first season that I sat down, watched it, and got thoroughly sucked into the dark world of Fuller’s Hannibal.

I enjoyed it, as much as you can enjoy a story as dark and twisted and gruesome as it is. I especially enjoyed the numerous women that played a part in the show and how competent and well written they were.

I think, on the whole, Fuller succeeds at creating a show that is thoughtful of how it treats its characters and the messages it sends. But. I do think it’s beginning to fall into some pitfalls that I sincerely wish it hadn’t.

In the first season, we have the sub storyline of Abigail Hobbs, who was nearly murdered by her father after he’d killed several girls who looked exactly like her. In the books, she survives her encounter and goes on to live her own life.

In the show? She’s killed by Hannibal when she finds out he’s a serial killer. Hannibal then frames Will for her murder. Given that Abigail and Will had grown close, he is understandably upset by her death, and when he realizes Hannibal was likely responsible for it, his desire for revenge is part of what drives season two.

In season two, Beverly Katz, who works in the FBI, finds evidence that Hannibal is not only a murderer but a cannibal. She is then caught by Hannibal and killed — and then put on display in a horrifically gruesome way.

At first, I was willing to let Abigail’s murder slide. I didn’t think it was a great ending for an abuse victim (in fact I know some abuse victims who were offended by the resolution to her storyline) but I trusted Fuller and company to treat it respectfully.

However, with Beverly Katz’s death, I can’t ignore it any longer. Hannibal has an issue with killing women off in order to give the men in the show pain and angst and to further the plot.

I’m not trying to argue that Will and Jack or Beverly’s co-workers shouldn’t be upset by this. Of course they should. However, we have several long shots of the men crying over her, and not one of, say, Alana Bloom doing the same. Maybe they didn’t interact often, but the difference was noteworthy. Despite the fact that Freddie Lounds had begun working with Abigail Hobbs before her murder, we don’t have a scene of Freddie grieving for her. It’s all focused on Will and Hannibal. The only time we seem to see women grieving, it’s over men — such as when Alana finds out that Will is a suspect in multiple murders, if not the murderer himself.

I’m also not trying to argue against the show’s policy of displaying gruesome murder scenes. But I also can’t ignore the fact that, with Katz’s death, the landscape of Hannibal is looking really white and really male. I can’t ignore how the death of these female characters are treated, either, in that they’re used as props for male angst when previously they were great characters. It just seems a waste to have these great actresses and characters end in “and then she died and a bunch of guys were sad and angry over it.”

Maybe I’m being too harsh. I want to love Hannibal full out. I love so much about it, from the actors to the strength of the scripts to the design and cinematography.

But I’m bothered by how they fall into the hole of putting women in refrigerators, not once but twice now. What’s the point of specifically adding lots of female characters to your story if you’re only going to have them kick the bucket as soon as the plot needs some speeding up, or a male character needs to shed a few tears?

Come on, Fuller. I expect more.

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