Hannibal: gory but intelligent

August 31, 2013 — by Helen Wong

It’s common knowledge that crime thrillers grip the attention of television viewers. Most young Americans can name quite a few off the top of their head: Elementary, Criminal Minds, Bones, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, CSI: Las Vegas… Well, the list goes on.

It’s common knowledge that crime thrillers grip the attention of television viewers. Most young Americans can name quite a few off the top of their head: Elementary, Criminal Minds, Bones, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, CSI: Las Vegas… Well, the list goes on.
What do all those shows have in common? Well, aside from that fact that they’re all crime thrillers, they also tend to be rather … grisly. The thing is, gore is hard to manipulate with style. More often than not, viewers end up watching tasteless shows splashed with enough diluted ketchup to keep Heinz in business for the next decade.
NBC’s “Hannibal” has joined the ranks of television crime thrillers that manage to achieve horror with style. The famous Dr. Hannibal Lecter, right out Thomas Harris’ bestselling “The Silence of the Lambs,” comes to life on the television screen.
The show is undeniably a good one. Its filmography is of a caliber not usually seen out of movies; its uneasy lighting is flawless, its shots are smooth and its cast is brilliant. The plot is engagingly nerve-wracking as it follows FBI Special Agent Will Graham on his hunt for Dr. Lecter.
The only problem with Hannibal is the disproportionate amount of gore involved, and it’s actually quite a big issue.
Considering the context of the story, blood is a must. Dr. Lecter is, after all, a cannibal and a serial killer. In the first episode alone, the death count clocks in at 12, 6 of which are on-screen and die horrifically.
This sort of blood is the kind that immediately provoked controversy, wariness and questions among the public. Is it safe to show such graphic material on television? What if someone ends up inspired by the show, going on a killing spree? Should kids be watching this?
All of those concerns are legitimate. Showtime’s Dexter, another popular series detailing the life of a serial killer, has already inspired real life murders. In 2009, Canadian teen Andrew Conley killed his 10-year-old brother, then cited Dexter as his inspiration.
Nobody wants their kids to follow in the steps of a killer — most agree that the best way is to prevent them from watching such shows in the first place. It’s an issue that’s getting more and more common. In Utah, one of NBC’s affiliates dropped the show on precisely these grounds.
Yet, Hannibal is very well-written. It is macabre, but clever; gory, but smart. It genuinely deserves to be shown, but only to mature audiences, and even then, only to those who can stomach grisly visuals and disturbing themes.
In short, Hannibal is a work of art, and society can afford to cut just a little slack for it.
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