Saturday, August 22, 2015

Living Behind the Veil with Hannibal

Despite almost my better judgement, I've continued watching NBC's Hannibal. Now in its 3rd and final season, it's grown more trippy and disconnected as time progresses, which is undoubtedly part of what has lead to its inevitable downfall. The 1st season was inspired, awash with metaphor and allegorical conclusions. Each individual character was unique, and now they feel like cookie-cutter mock-ups of Hannibal himself. The original vision of originality has dissipated until there is very little left of it. At least, until the episode And the Woman Clothed in Sun.

I'll be honest, most of this season has been ho-hum for me, at least until now. Bedelia had the best moments in the entirety of this episode. She began the series cold, impersonal, and somewhat afraid of human touch. The audience felt something of a disconnect from her because they didn't know what she was really thinking or feeling. She was void. Now, at long last, she's given voice to how she views the world around her and how she views herself. It's fascinating to encounter someone so entirely devoid of conscience, but not devoid of empathy. She opens herself up to Will in this episode, finally showing her true colors. It is both a chilling and intriguing moment of clarity and truth, the very first moment of truth Bedelia has shared with anyone.

She uses an empathy example when speaking with Will. If you see a wounded bird, what is your first thought? Will's first thought, as I suspected, is that it's vulnerable and wants to help it. Bedelia's first thought, also as I suspected, is to crush it. For her, it is a rejection of weakness, which she considers to be every bit as primal, or natural, as the nurturing instinct. She says that she wouldn't actually harm the wounded bird, but her first thought is still to do so

"Extreme acts of cruelty require high levels of empathy. The next time you have an instinct to help someone, you might consider crushing them instead. It might save you a great deal of trouble." - Bedelia Du Maurier, NBC's Hannibal

From Bedelia's point of view, grinding out weakness is acceptable. It is the natural way of things to eradicate weaker beings than one's self. Think of it this way. If all mankind acted according to Bedelia's theory, would good ever be done one to another? Loving-kindness? No, her world is one where if a child born in poverty is starving, you don't eradicate the poverty, you eradicate the child. Not because the child is responsible for its own situation, but simply because the child is weak and you cannot abide weakness. In her world, you turn your back on a friend or even an enemy who is going through a difficult time. Instead of words of encouragement, you offer words of menacing cruelty.

This is the world we would have were it not for believers attempting to bring about the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Our faith demands of us that we do unto others as we would have others do unto us. That we love our neighbor, and that we forgive those who are cruel to us. People assume Christianity to be an easy choice. It's not easy. Not when it's done right. Because we're talking about standing in love against a world awash with sin and evil and all sorts of magnificent debauchery. It's about loving people who want us dead. Christians who love the people in their sphere of influence, even when they're hated in return, have a difficult life. But they choose to follow the teachings of their Savior because it is the right thing to do.

What you have here is a dichotomy of empathy. Whereas one side acts on empathy, the other side uses it to crush. Many psychopaths and murderers throughout the ages have a great deal of empathy because it allows them to know their victims. It's just that instead of helping people, they use it to hurt them instead. Empathetic people have the greatest ability to hurt others.

You see, I'm not disagreeing with Bedelia. She is right in that it is a very easy step to crush someone who needs help. It's so easy to do that. But that act is taking the coward's way out. It is so easy to hate and destroy, and so hard to love. But when you love unconditionally and help and care for the people around you, whether you even like them or not, that is where strength lies. Bedelia thinks herself so strong for her understanding of the inner workings of empathy. But she never allows herself to love others enough to truly help them when they need help. In the end, she's all about survival of the fittest, being at the top of food chain, whereas as I refuse to believe or act as though we even have a food chain.

Christ didn't come to earth to save the righteous, but to save the unrighteous, the unwashed, the sinners, and the unloved, because He loves them. That is strength. Poor Bedelia. To have gone so far in life and yet missed the mark so completely. While Hannibal has had its profound moments, in the end, it is simply another Hollywoodized example of a world without hope or mercy. And that's not the world I see because I see people still fighting to save it.


  1. Hi. I was trying to contact you back in June about a blogathon I was hosting last week dedicated to the Barrymore family, but was having problems commenting from my Word Press site. Anyhow I'm hosting a new blogathon and I wanted to at least invite you to participate. The link is below with more details

    1. Thanks a lot for the invite! I'm definitely participating! :)

  2. There is another third option, which is tragically, what Will, Jack, and others have fallen into, which is a different kind of evil than the idea of crushing the bird -- apathy, inaction, to look at the bird and walk past it, leaving it to suffer.

    In crushing the bird, though an awful act and perhaps for selfish reasons, at least its suffering is ended. In helping it, you either assist the suffering to healing or prolong it, but in ignoring it and walking away, you most certainly assist in allowing it to suffer without end, until finally it dies on its own terms... maybe after dwelling in anguish for months.

    Jesus was incredible in his time because He did act on mercy and compassion and love, in a world driven through survival of the fittest, where life was not valued at all (think of "A.D" -- its depiction of ancient Jerusalem and the blood-saturated culture was spot on). Christians are called to do the same, to be the voice of compassion and kindness in a world drenched in evil.

    1. Yeah, this last episode really showed the "hero's) inability to express any sort of empathy whatsoever, even Will. It was disgusting in its coldness, its isolation. I may not like Chilton all that much, but I would have never been able to react to his trauma as coolly as Will Graham. If anything, this show reminds me how very desperately we need to care for the people around us, even the ones we really wish were not around us.

      I was literally horrified to realize there was another episode! I was so hoping this was the last episode, but no, of course not. Bleh!!

    2. The so-called heroes are evil, so they are not heroes. There are no heroes any longer in this story. Everyone has given in to their inner darkness.

      Yes, there is one final episode. They have to resolve the Red Dragon arc...


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