THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn
Misguided and counterproductive gay activists (is there any other kind?) who purport to love movies but seem to be perpetually aggravated by the cinema and know nothing about it set upon The Silence of the Lambs and made fools out of themselves as usual simplifying and misinterpreting certain elements of this flawless masterpiece.
When they insisted that Jodie Foster had to be a lesbian and that her character in this film, Clarice Starling, was probably gay too, they were diving headfirst without looking into a shallow pool of old-fashioned sexist ideas that if a woman was independent, tough and at loggerheads with the patriarchy, then her sexuality was in question, as she wasn’t behaving like a good woman should. As a letter writer to the Village Voice pointed out, “under the guise of promoting gay consciousness, they’re falling back on the same reliable weapon that men have used for centuries against women who claim a little too much for themselves – they’re calling her a dyke.”
When they expressed outrage that gay stereotypes had been attached to the film’s psycho killer, Buffalo Bill, they miss the film’s quite obvious point – something that is stated through action, theme, and even dialogue (“Billy [only] thinks he’s a transsexual”) – that the killer is struggling, just as Clarice is, to find some kind of stable identity in a world of strict, sometimes unfair and unrealistic, gender roles, a struggle which gay activists should have perhaps applauded, or at least related to. As Judith Halberstam noted, “Buffalo Bill could be another victim of the heterosexist culture which believes that anatomy is destiny.”
Furthermore, sulking at the side lines while eager moviegoers lined up around the block to see this film or Basic Instinct, they shot themselves in the foot with gusto as they isolated themselves from the cultural mood of the times by objecting to blockbuster movies about non-straight antiheroes that everyone else loved. They may have been better to have nailed their colours to the mast of Hannibal Lecter, the film’s other fey killer, a sophisticated villain of ambiguous sexuality who continues to enjoy Darth Vader level popularity with audiences of all stripes.
Anyway, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is an ambitious FBI trainee sent to the dungeon cell of Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to collect any information Lecter may have on “Buffalo Bill”, an elusive serial killer who “skins his humps”. Hoping to advance her career and put her own demons to rest, Clarice embarks on a fascinating quasi-romantic relationship with Dr. Lecter, who in turn revels in turning Clarice’s brittle psyche every which way but loose. Clarice also battles her superior, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), and, eventually, “Buffalo Bill” himself, Jame Gumb (Ted Levine) in a thrilling pre-finale.