The Silence of the Lambs is an incredible movie. The star attraction is Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning performance as Hannibal Lecter, but beyond him, it’s a taut, brilliantly acted and nail-biting ride through madness, cruelty and murder. And for the most part, it’s aged beautifully, with a major exception. The villain is serial killer Buffalo Bill, who captures young women in order to make an Ed Gein style skin suit.
During the film’s original release in 1991, the LGBTQ community said that the character demonized them and from a 2021 perspective, it seems obvious they were right. Director Jonathan Demme claimed at the time that Bill wasn’t really trans, and was only trying to become a woman because he hated himself and wanted to be someone else – an argument that’s never really held water. But CBS’ upcoming show Clarice will catch up with Clarice Starling (played by Rebecca Breeds) a year on from the events of The Silence of the Lambs and will tackle the matter head on.
As such, they’ve hired trans actor, writer, producer and activist Jen Richards to consult, who apparently impressed the showrunners so much that they added her to the cast. In a recent interview, Richards spoke about the long-term impact of Buffalo Bill on trans people, saying:
“Right prior to my coming out as trans I started to delicately tell a few friends and colleagues I was thinking about transitioning, kind of treading water to see if I could do it successfully, and one looked at me and said, ‘Do you mean like Buffalo Bill?’”
Producer Alex Kurtzman has said that they want Clarice to explore the damage Bill did to his victims and to LGBTQ people in the show’s world, and Richards revealed that the writing team’s aim was to “address the complicated, horrible legacy in a way that didn’t reduce it to that one issue” and feature “a trans character that was part of the story but didn’t reduce it to a stereotype.”
We’ll find out how the series goes about this very soon, as Clarice premieres on Feb 11th. And if it’s of similar quality to NBC’s Hannibal, we could be on to a winner.