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YMMV / The Silence of the Lambs

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Whether Buffalo Bill is a psychopath, an emotionally-disturbed survivor of trauma, or somewhere between the two. While he's perfectly willing to abduct and kill women to make his skin suit, we're shown that he feels conflicted and remorseful. In particular, when Catherine is pleading for her life and begging to see her mother, Bill is shown struggling to hold back tears. Rather than glorifying in the suffering of his victimsnote , he has to work hard to distance himself from them, avoiding eye contact and referring to them as "it", as he would otherwise wouldn't be able to kill them. He's less a sadist than a pragmatist. Likewise, the jury's out on whether he's deluded into believing he's transgender (as Lecter believes) or legitimately transgender and balls to the wall insane.
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    • Is Lecter's expression when Clarice reveals her worst memory one of sympathy or arousal?
  • Award Snub: Averted. Only the third film in history to win Oscars in all the top 5 categoriesnote . And it was an extremely gory horror film released in February, to boot. Still, some feel that Ted Levine deserved a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
  • Awesome Music:
  • Crack Ship: Given Will Graham's marriage has likely dissolved by this point, some have shipped him with Clarice. To say nothing of the One True Threesome of Will, Clarice, and Lecter that got stronger after the release of Hannibal.
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  • Crazy Awesome: Not all the time, but Lecter's escape in Silence of the Lambs runs on this. Disposing of the guards as mentioned above, then getting their backup to carry him out of the prison themselves by wearing his victim's clothes and mutilated face over his own.
  • Creepy Awesome: Lecter.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • In the book (only).
      Dr. Lecter: (showing Starling a letter) This is about my crucifixion watch. They won't give me a patent, but they advise me to copyright the face. ...You may have noticed that in most crucifixions the hands point to, say, a quarter to three, or ten till two at the earliest, while the feet are at six. On this watch face, Jesus is on the cross, as you see there, and the arms revolve to indicate the time, just like the arms on the popular Disney watches. The feet remain at six and at the top a small second hand revolves in the halo. What do you think?
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    • In a bizarrely creepy way, some of Lecter's killings. In particular, the way he strings up the disemboweled guard to look like an angel during his escape in the movie. The books hint that part of the reason Lecter does this is to distract and shock investigators, tripping them up on the horrific details and giving him more time to cover his tracks or otherwise get clear.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Hey, a refined, intelligent, older man? Oooh yeah. What of the Cannibalism?
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Two more movies and an Oscar for Hopkins make it easy to forget that he's only in the movie for 18 minutes.
  • Evil Is Cool: He may be the villain, but Lecter's so interesting that you're more intrigued than disgusted.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Thomas Harris intended to stop the story with Silence, until the publisher told him either he could write more, or they'd get someone else to do it. Naturally, a lot of fans prefer to stop there.
  • Foe Yay: Hannibal and Clarice. Who could have guessed?
  • Genius Bonus: Hannibal famously said of one victim that he "ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti." Liver, fava beans, and wine all contain a substance called tyramine, which can cause a severe reaction in any person taking an MAO inhibitor drug. MAO inhibitors, in turn, are one of the first antidepressants and were a regular part of the drug regimen given to people in insane asylums before safer antidepressants became available. Thus, anyone committed to an insane asylum—such as Hannibal Lecter himself—would have been forbidden from consuming liver, fava beans, or Chianti.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Clarice thinks that Hannibal's crimes are due to some sort of Freudian Excuse; Hannibal tells her that it's foolish thinking and that she's abandoning the concepts of good and evil for behaviorism. Twenty years later, Hannibal Rising, a book detailing Hannibal's origins and motivations, was released, although it's implied he was naturally evil to begin with, and the incidents in the book just showed him how to put it into horrifying use.
      Dr. Lecter: Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can't reduce me to a set of influences.
    • The FBI using Johns Hopkins as a source for a list of people applying for sex changes. This means the book has several people, including Lecter, talking about "Hopkins". Lecter is, later, most famously played by one Anthony Hopkins.
    • When Clarice visits the Smithsonian for information on the butterfly, she's told about one of scientists "Don't mind him, he's not a PhD."
  • Iron Woobie:
    • Catherine defies Gumb at every opportunity, and is depicted less as helpless than simply overpowered. She's almost an Action Girl, and despite using Gumb's beloved poodle as a hostage against him, she quietly whispers to the dog that she'd never hurt it. She even keeps the dog in the end of the movie, taking it with her into the ambulance.
    • Clarice, for all her power and intelligence, breaks down crying in her car, and in stories of her childhood.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Chilton is an obnoxious ass, and seems to somewhat enjoy showing Clarice the picture of the nurse that Lecter mutilated. However, the picture is still something Clarice should have seen - it brings home just how incredibly dangerous Lecter is, and how you must always respect proper procedure around him, just like a loaded gun (when the police do not follow proper procedure later in the film, it's how he escapes - they really should have been shown that picture).
  • Les Yay: In a discussion of motivation, Hannibal tells Starling "we start by coveting the things we see every day." Starling repeats this observation to her FBI room-mate and closest friend Ardelia, and they smile at each other.
  • Magnificent Bastard: If anyone can be considered one, it's Lecter.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Ask anyone to name the most famous line from Silence and you'll most likely get "It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again" as an answer.
    • Well, thanks to Lecter we know what to serve when we eat a Census taker's liver: "some fava beans and a nice chianti".
    • "Hello, Clarice."
    • "Tell me about the lambs, Clarice."
    • "Would you fuck me? I'd fuck me. I'd fuck me hard."
  • Mind Game Ship: The interactions that Clarice have with Hannibal himself seems to trick the audience into thinking that they will fall in love with each other. Then again, in the books, they do.
  • Nausea Fuel:
    • Buffalo Bill's bathtub is a good example.
    • The rotting corpse in the funeral home.
    • Buffalo Bill's woman suit, seen briefly in one shot. This is made even more repulsive if you think about Ed Gein, on whom the Bill character is based. He wanted to make a woman suit so he could crawl inside his mother!
    • Miggs's assault on Clarice, shown in graphic detail. It's so nauseating not just to the viewer, but also in-universe to where Lecter, after immediately talking down to and shooing away Clarice, immediately screams for her to come back and set her first steps down the path to Buffalo Bill.
  • Never Live It Down:
    • "Goodbye Horses" by Q Lazzarus. It's a great song performed in Lazarrus' signature contralto voice and filled with rich Hindu symbolism about transcendence. Too bad it's only brought up to remind people of a guy sticking his private parts between his thighs while wearing a woman's severed scalp and creating a suit of womens' flesh.
    • Good luck ever seeing Fava beans and/or Chianti and not thinking of this film.
    • Or listening to Bach's "Goldberg Variations".
  • Retroactive Recognition: One of the Smithsonian entomologists is Bulldog Briscoe.
  • Squick: "LOOK AT THE BLOOD!"
  • Unfortunate Implications: The film saw a (surprisingly vocal for its time) backlash from the gay community, who were disgusted by how Buffalo Bill's most villanous traits all seemed to step from Gay Panic (feminine voice, obsessing with looking like a woman, a poodle named Precious, etc). Jonathan Demme, himself a staunch supporter of gay rights and visibility, denied that this was the intention, but admitted that he should have made it clearer that Bill's disturbing habits were not the result of being gay. The controversy carried over into his next film, Philadelphia, which the same critics wrote off as a flaccid attempt at an apology.


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