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The Lambs Still Scream: Reanalyzing SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Drácula, Demon-Summoning Parrots, and More!
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The Bite #147
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The Lambs Still Scream: Reanalyzing SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Drácula, Demon-Summoning Parrots, and More!

February 9, 2021

In this Issue:


HORROR HISTORY

The Lambs Still Scream: Reanalyzing Silence of the Lambs

By Harmony M. Colangelo

Thirty years have passed since moviegoers experienced the thrilling story of rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling’s triumph over the murderous Buffalo Bill. With the pearl anniversary of Silence of the Lambs, the new crime show Clarice will continue following Agent Starling’s career and with it comes a lot of baggage, both new and old. Buffalo Bill (real name Jame Gumb) has been prominently seen lurking in the promotion for the series and exhuming that corpse has released all of the rot and stink to the open air where it is just as foul as it was in 1991.

Make no misunderstanding: Clarice herself is a very strong, important character and Silence of the Lambs itself is masterfully made. However, a lot has changed since the early ‘90s and we as a society need to graduate past characters like her. Yes, she followed her intuition and succeeded, in spite of all of her condescending, sexualizing male colleagues. She even proved to be better than them by solving the case before graduating — but that is exactly why we shouldn’t be rooting for a character like her in this day and age. Clarice is a cog in a destructive machine. Marginalized people have never had a good relationship with law enforcement, myself included, so I can’t say that it thrills me to see the continued championing of a cop whose reputation was made by killing a trans woman.

“bUt bUfFALo bIll iSn’T tRans! hAnnIbal leCtoR sAId so!”

I won’t spend time arguing why Jame Gumb isin facttrans because a gloves-off brawl against a brick wall will only hurt me. When looking at the immeasurable damage done to the trans community by the reputation of this character, it quite frankly, does not matter if Buffalo Bill is trans. Quid pro quo. If we entertain that the trans panic this character was written to capitalize on is able to be casually dismissed as “poorly aged” then we also must acknowledge that the psychological analysis of said character, by rulings and methods for who is actually considered trans, is also poorly aged, even for 1991.

Dr. Lecter might be wrong about Bill not being trans but he is definitely right about them being made. Severely traumatized as a child, failed by the medical community, and left to fend for themself for their entire life, Jame Gumb is a product of a system that has punished and discarded them to the point where even their community wants nothing to do with them.

At its base level, this is a story of Clarice Starling vs. Buffalo Bill. But long before the start of this film and all the way through its final confrontation, this is about Jame Gumb against the world. Short of the climax of the film, Jame is completely removed from the rest of the characters and story. They live in their dilapidated house carrying out their demented tasks while being completely unaware of the characters we follow for the rest of the movie. They exist, removed from character interactions and society, because they were put there. Honestly, I hate that I have to defend their inclusion in the trans community because of who they are and the fear-mongering scapegoat they have been used as.

One of the saddest things about this though is that in a better system, and under different circumstances, Clarice Starling would have been the perfect person to help Jame. Clarice has proven that she is intuitive, empathetic, smart, and, in a reformed police force with social-emotional training, she could have actually helped Jame without killing them. But that isn’t the kind of agent she was trained to be and that wasn’t the story being told here. I can’t imagine yet another prestige, crime drama show is going to do that either.

Silence of the Lambs swept the Academy Awards, went on to be one of the most critically praised films of the decade, and has transcendental status even outside of film. It is not ignorable and what makes it so compelling doesn’t work in 2021. If we are going to look back at this film, then we need to accept that the true horror of Silence of the Lambs is what lingers after the credits roll.

This piece has been abridged to fit the format of The Bite. Visit our blog for the full version.


Harmony M. Colangelo is here to do some kickass writing and bartending, and she’s not done a lot of bartending this year. You can see those worlds collide in the recipe book A Year of Queer Cocktails. She has been published in Bloody DisgustingCertified Forgotten, We Are Horror, and The Bite.


IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Image of the Week #147 - Wizard of Midsommar - The Bite

I Don’t Think We’re In Hälsingland Anymore

Artist SMS2KINGPAIMON has created this majestic poster that mashes Midsommar and The Wizard of Oz. Now, where’d Toto run off to?


TINY BITES

DRÁCULA, DEMON-SUMMONING PARROTS, AND MORE

The Guardian has a wonderful piece about Drácula, the Spanish-language adaptation that used Tod Browning’s sets, costumes, and more.

To our Texas readers: have you been to the horror memorabilia store Horror Freak? Owner Eric Dallof talks about it in the Dallas Observer.

A demo for horror game The Parrot That Summons Demons is now available on Steam. How could you not love it for the title alone?

If you’re looking for some good horror books to cozy up with, Tor has five recommendations that are sure to keep you up at night.

Red Woods, a brand new found footage horror film, is the subject of a deep dive by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

PBS’s Sound Field series has taken a look into the impact of The Exorcist and how it influenced the sound of horror to come.

The first true horror game for the PlayStation 5, Mundaun, is being done by one person. Push Square has all the details on this enormous endeavor.

Oh boy! The Texas DPS accidentally sent out an emergency message about a missing child. The only problem? It said that Chucky abducted Glen!

Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands lives on in a new Super Bowl commercial. Winona Ryder and Timotheé Chalamet star in this adorable video.

Years later, the 
impact of Alien: Isolation can still be felt in the games we play today.

From exercising to exsanguinations, fitness guru Barry Jay has turned his attention to the world of horror films.

AV Club looks back at the early ‘90s demonic horror film Def by Temptation.

Gaming accessory legends Turtle Beach have a piece about the importance of audio in horror games.


THINGS WE LOVE

Things We Love #147 - Evil Dead - The Bite

She’ll Swallow Your Soul

British quiz show Mastermind had a contestant who wanted to be challenged on her knowledge of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. How many questions were you able to get?


HEY, THAT’S US! – SHUDDER IN THE NEWS

Interview with Nora Unkel about A Nightmare Wakes

Tananarive Due talks “Horror Noire” Documentary & Black Horror Movie History

[Trailer] ‘The Love Witch’ Director Anna Biller to Guest Star on ‘The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You’ Valentine’s Special!

Watch: The Moment When the Team of LA LLORONA Hear Their Golden Globe Nom Live — Cinema Tropical

Get “SHOOK” up with the red-band trailer for Shudder’s social-media fright feature