Anonymous asked: I absolutely love your critique on the A.V. Club review of episode 6. I've noticed from season one that it is primarily the male characters who've been sexualized. With Will walking around in his short shorts in season one, to the predominance of bare chests this season. I'm glad I'm not the only one to think this!
Hi, anon! I’m glad you enjoyed the critique!
I’m kind of a fan of murder-shows in general, and one of the reasons Hannibal first stood out for me is, as I’ve mentioned in the past, they don’t do the Sexy Corpse thing. I stuck around because the show really doesn’t do things casually.
We see Freddie naked and freshly out of the shower, but it’s because she’s not even bothering to get dressed before she uploads her spoils of war for her own personal gain. We see Alana wearing clingy wrap-dresses, but it’s made 100% clear that this is how she’s comfortable presenting herself to the world. She wears those dresses around her close friends, her colleagues, people she wants to slap the shit out of…this is not something the viewer wasn’t meant to see, in terms of the character’s agency.
When we see Bella Crawford and Beth LeBeau in private moments, there’s nothing titillating about how they’re dressed; they’re wearing perfectly normal pajamas. Georgia Madchen gets a gown that provides full coverage for her stay in the oxygen chamber. There’s the sense that the characters’ privacy is still being respected by the camera, even when the scene positions the viewer as something of a voyeur either because of the location of the scene or through the intrusion of another character.
And then, of course, we have Will Graham.
Between Will’s nightmares, Will’s sleepwalking, and Will’s unexpected callers, it seems like Will involuntarily spends half his time on camera in one state of undress or another. And the show goes out of its way to underline his experience of distress at it, or to layer in additionally disturbing elements (waking to find himself on the edge of a roof or being questioned by police), in order to drive home the fact that this is an unpleasant circumstance for the character.
I don’t even know that it’s necessarily sexualizing Will in these moments as much as it’s emphasizing his vulnerability. (Why emphasizing his vulnerability could also be read as sexualizing him is, of course, the topic of another billion essays that I’m sure better writers than I have tackled.) Having Alana walk in on him in his tighty-whities makes him uncomfortable; having Bev walk in on him during a mental tour of the crime practically makes him melt down. Watching him flail on his bed in the throes of a nightmare becomes intensely and pointedly voyeuristic even as his deteriorating mental state excites our sympathy.
I don’t have much qualm about saying that Hannibal is sexualized, though. He’s consistently presented as an intensely sensual person, someone who has not only dedicated an enormous amount of time and attention to the pleasure his senses can bring him but who also makes a habit of sharing that pleasure with others in a deliberate and meticulously organized way. His demeanor and behavior are meant to thrill the audience, and the character goes out of his way to present himself as attractive to his companions. He’s talented, charming, handsome, athletic, brilliant, etc. If he didn’t apply the same vigor to murdering people that he brings to everything else, he’d be so perfect that he’d make our teeth ache.
It’s a sexualization that doesn’t come with an attendant vulnerability, though. We discover early on that Hannibal likes attention. He appreciates the opportunity to perform, and he especially likes a suitably receptive audience. When we suddenly get the opportunity to see Hannibal-the-murderer in action, it doesn’t feel like an imposition or a liberty. Observing him is as guilt-free as the show allows.