The Horror of Our Love: Hannibal Lecter and the Reclaiming of Queer Villains
Gender and sexual diversity have a history of being invoked, explicitly or implicitly, to further the monstrosity of villainous characters, including those who are (nominally) human. One such example is popular culture’s most famous cannibalistic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. This paper traces the meanings constructed by queerness in the Hannibal Lecter stories, beginning by addressing the implications of queerness within Thomas Harris’s tetralogy and Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Next, this paper turns to Bryan Fuller’s 2013 television adaptation, Hannibal, and its inheritance of homophobic depictions of villains, both from broader gothic and horror contexts and from its direct source material. Despite this legacy of queercoding, Hannibal breaks from the longstanding connections between queerness and villainy, using gothic tropes and aesthetics to readdress queer monstrosity through the gothic context where it emerged. Fuller’s choice to center his adaptation on a love story between two men resists the negative connections between queerness and monstrosity. Instead of recreating homophobic tropes, I argue that Fuller’s adaptation provides a space for reclamation, where Hannibal’s queer desires are not a furthering of villainy but a sign of his humanity.
Literary Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Television Studies, Adaptation, Queer Studies, Queer Representation, Media Studies, Hannibal Lecter, Monsters, Villains, Intertextuality
Master of Arts (M.A.)