I was speaking to a group of Newington High School students yesterday about writing. In attempting to explain the importance of twisting stereotypes and giving the reader the unexpected, I used the example of Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs.
Lecter was an absolute villain and a genuine cannibal, I explained, but the audience couldn’t help but like him. In the closing scene of the movie, Lecter is preparing to kill and eat Dr. Childress, the psychologist who has tormented him for years, and even though this man is little more than an arrogant and lecherous weasel, the audience finds itself pleased that Lecter has escaped and Childress will be receiving his comeuppance at the hands of Lecter.
Turns out no one in the class has ever seen the movie.
THE WHOLE CLASS HAD NEVER SEEN THE MOVIE.
Their teacher reminded me that they were not alive when this movie was released, but I reminded her that I wasn’t alive when films like Psycho were released but I’ve still seen them.
A whole class of high school students who have never seen Silence of the Lambs, which is, by the way, widely regarded as one of the best films ever made?
I assigned them the movie for homework.
I also added that the Thomas Harris novel upon which the film was based was also excellent, as was all of his work.
HANNIBAL, the follow-up novel to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, was one of the only books that literally had me cringing through scenes, and there was one particular scene that made me want to take a shower after reading it.
I still get the creeps just thinking about it.