Hannibal Lecter is My Spirit Guide

My last post kicked off an interesting conversation offline: my affinity for a particular story—which I’ve adopted as a useful (and suitably nerdy) metaphor for where I see myself now, the limitations I must grow beyond to move forward, and the lessons I must take to heart in order to do that—comes from a greater love for movies in general. It’s turned out to be interesting that the wife prefers to watch TV series that stretch out across one or two dozen bite-sized episodes to a season, where I prefer movies, with a beginning, middle and end all in the space of two hours. For a lot of people, of course, movies are an escape from our day-to-day world. For me, in my particular expression of autism, does the compressed timeline of film allow me a break from trying to constantly interpret everything happening around me—presenting an environment with causes and effects laid out for me with clear connections between them—where real life is a constellation of data points I burn myself out looking for lines and patterns between? 

What I know about my attraction to film is that, as a not-overtly emotional person, I appreciate the catharsis that a good movie or stage production builds to: I like that rush of feelings I get in the place where I think my feelings are supposed to be. Maybe that’s my “defect” thinking coming to the fore again: learn to “look for the genius” where you see defect, I’m told. Not the emotional type? It keeps you steady when people close to you are strung-out and need you for support. Identify obsessively with a piece of fiction? Look to the values of honor and nobility it represents that you want to take as your own. Find strengths in weaknesses.

Apparently most people begin with certain values at their core that manifest in their patterns and behaviors; it’s suggested I’ve instead come by an adopted collection of patterns and behaviors that I’m trying to use to define a core sense of self. That “self” is already there and well-formed, of course—at some point I learned to fear how it was judged by others, and have been trying to reverse-engineer something I think it should be ever since.

“Look for the genius,” I’m told. Find strength in the weaknesses, and in the strengths, find yourself. I grin like a moron. When asked why, I turn to my wife and in my best Anthony Hopkins impression intone “First principles, Clarice: what does he do, this man you seek?” 

The Silence of the Lambs occupies an interesting place in my family: one my father’s favorite films, he would apparently turn to my wife periodically during our courtship, only once or twice in the course of our relationship, and quote Lecter or Buffalo Bill to her, then turn away and resume whatever he was doing. I was only present to see this once (“it puts the lotion in the fucking basket!”), and as far as the rest of us knew, that was it. Thanks for screening out the weak ones, I guess, Dad.
For Dad’s birthday, she thought we should take my parents to Silence! The Unauthorized Silence of the Lambs Musical. This was in fact a great idea, although she started getting embarrassed at the first chorus of “If I could smell her c**t.” Mom laughed off her concern and bought her a drink at intermission. 

The wife and I are now two seasons into the TV series Hannibal (I can be good with TV when there’s a satisfying overarching plot to follow), continuing to digest (pun intended, sorry) the wit and wisdom of Hannibal Lecter.


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