The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs ★★★★★

"If Clarice Starling is to face all the evil of a patriarchal world then the characterization of Buffalo Bill complicates and endangers the film. Bill is coded as a transsexual, but in the text of the film Clarice and Lecter toss this aside with a cute, but rather inaccurate description of transgender people as “docile and non-violent.” Tell that to the cops at Stonewall. Bill has asked for sex reassignment surgery, but has been denied by many doctors for not qualifying under their guidelines, which in turn is a rather nimble way of discussing the stigma within the medical community of transgender bodies and medically necessary treatment. In the rather famous tucking sequence set to the song “Goodbye Horses,” Bill’s body is framed as something monstrous, crossing the line between femininity and masculinity despite being in alignment with true-to-life transgender bodies to a degree. Bill prances and whispers before we see his Rocky Horror lips in close up utter the morbidly hilarious line, “Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me.” It’s altogether shocking, like opening the apartment door in Blue Velvet and entering into territory that we were never supposed to see. If Bill is a trans woman then The Silence of the Lambs feminist intentions are damned to a degree, but there’s something within the characterization of Bill that strikes me as sympathetic rather than truly vile. He is very obviously a monster, but he has looked for help in the only way he knew how to by seeking psychiatric counseling and gendered medical transition before being denied for both. Was he driven towards these actions by society’s misunderstanding of transgender bodies or was he always evil? The film never comes to a definitive conclusion on these questions. Bill is an enigma that I’ve never quite been able to figure out. He’s a curiosity with some level of hidden depth among all the bloodshed (which is only ever implied, not shown). He’s akin to Anthony Perkins in Psycho with his deep-seated secrets and confused reactionary violence rather than the blanket evil of most serial killer examinations in cinema."

read the full piece here
thefilmstage.com/features/the-silence-of-the-lambs-and-the-intuitive-feminism-of-jonathan-demme/

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