To the editors:
I am writing in response to Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review of The Silence of the Lambs [February 22]. There were points in the movie that he missed because he was so morally disgusted.
The movie The Silence of the Lambs is a sick movie not because of its victimization of women but because of the glorification of male power (violence) and superiority.
The reason why people want to see this movie is revealed when Clarice makes a confession after she discovers a severed head belonging to one of Lecter’s victims. She felt fear, then excitement. I didn’t. The reason I went to see this movie was because it was a cut above most slasher movies. It wasn’t.
There is a tradition in American cinema that has defined the ideal of masculinity. This ideal seems to be loosely based on initiation rites that redefine a boy into a man. Most of these characters are loners, if there is a romantic interest it’s used as a subplot. These men are isolated and get no support from male authority. They reassert themselves by defying authority and destroy some evil against enormous odds.
Clarice is a loner who may be interested in Scott Glenn (I can’t remember the character’s name). She becomes isolated when Glenn chases a false lead. She continues to investigate and eventually finds the real killer. She is temporarily blinded but she hears the killer’s gun click and is able to kill him.
The implication seems to be that women have to deny themselves in order to become men and equal members of society. This is not a feminist statement as some would suggest.
The movie makes an ambiguous distinction between us and serial killers. It suggests that it’s OK to objectify women for pleasure not pain. Clarice is stared at and hit on twice in the movie. This is contrasted with Buffalo Bill, who uses night-vision glasses in order to stare at his victims. This is not a feminist statement in either case because women are objects to be manipulated according to the man’s will.
The movie goes on to point out the many distinctions between us and murderers through its two characters, Lecter and Buffalo Bill.
The main difference between Lecter and George Bush is that Bush is civilized because he has moral and legal justifications for engaging in a war. Lecter has no rationalizations and kills for the sake of killing. The similarity is that both believe it’s OK to impose their standard of morality over others who are weaker than themselves.
The difference between us and Buffalo Bill is that he is sexually confused. It’s because of his pain from being confused that he murders women in order to become one. Ironically, the way to transform himself is through death at the hands of a woman.
It’s hard for me to believe that violence is OK as long as it’s rational by moral or legal means. It’s also hard to believe it’s OK to impose your will over someone who is weaker. I think its time to question why violence is such an important standard in defining ourselves as a society. So which came first, the man with violent inclinations or the society that supports him?
W. 40th Place