In the world of television, creativity is often frowned upon, with TV audiences refusing to digest more obscure and morally dubious content. A great example of this is the Bryan Fuller series “Hannibal”, a reimagination of the Thomas Harris creation. I was an avid fan of the show, but apparently in the minority as it was cancelled after just three seasons. Despite critical acclaim, viewership was extremely poor and the show was relegated to the dreaded Friday night time slot before being axed altogether. Attributing the show’s commercial failure to one aspect can’t be done, but one of the most apparent reasons for it was the extremely graphic displays that Hannibal left at his crime scenes.
For those unfamiliar, Hannibal Lecter is a forensic psychiatrist and serial killer with cannibalistic tendencies. The television show focuses on the relationship between Hannibal and Will Graham, an FBI profiler who is the main focus of the show despite being an afterthought in the novels. Hannibal is fascinated with Will’s ability to empathize with murderers and recreate the crime scenes as they happened in his head. Hannibal’s ultimate goal is to tap into this murderous potential and transform him into a serial killer.
Fuller was especially deliberate in crafting each murder with artistic vision in mind. There are many extended shots of elaborate and demented manifestations of Hannibal’s imagination. Although generally violence boosts viewership when it comes to media, in this case I think audiences had a difficult time digesting what they were seeing. What sets Hannibal apart from typical television crimes is the extremely graphic and thought-out dismemberment and mutation of his victims. Although the show itself isn’t an art crime, Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal epitomizes the artistic criminal, finding pleasure in taking the rather bland crime of murder, adding cannibalism, and turning his victims into “trophies”. I personally find it hard not to appreciate these displays, even though they are extremely graphic and unsettling.
Although not for the faint of heart, I wholeheartedly recommend the series to anyone, especially those who are artistically inclined. Thankfully we haven’t seen a criminal with the twisted potential of Hannibal in real life, but Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal certainly does a masterful job entertaining the idea.