Darling readers, NBC’s Hannibal (or should I say, “Haaaaanibal”?) has ended (for now). In preparation for season 3, I read Silence of the Lambs for the first time.* I have to say that Clarice has grown on me, and I’ve discovered the amazingness that is Ardelia Mapp.I think a lot of my initial lack of being impressed was my youth when I first watched the film, and later, as an adult, the relative lack of interiority in the film vs. the book. In the book, Clarice’s roommate Ardelia Mapp, has a larger role, and the two of them are not only badass FBI-trainee roomies but genuine friends. (Here’s a lovely post about how awesome she is.) Ardelia isn’t just a sounding board for Clarice or a means of Clarice to give exposition: she’s a sarcastic, delightfully written character who worked nights to put herself through law school and is number 2 in her class. They are Daria-and-Jane best friends. And Ardelia is
My issue with Clarice in the films is that without Ardelia and without her inner monologue, we don’t get as much of her character. That’s generally the criticism with books vs. movies, but Thomas Harris, at least in Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, wrote about sexist microaggressions, overt sexism, sexual harassment, and women’s sexuality in a very accessible and true way. In the films, we miss a lot of Harris’s criticism of misogyny. Clarice seems more isolated, more like the “only woman in the room” without Ardelia. (While she often is the only woman in the room or the only woman law enforcement, she shares the struggle with Ardelia, who is also going through these marginalizing experiences not just as a woman, but as a person of color.)
Genevieve Valentine wrote a tribute to Clarice for Strange Horizons that I found quite by accident. Enjoy!
Once, Jack Crawford called up a trainee barely old enough to rent a car, and asked her to interview the most notorious serial killer currently living, in order to catch one that was, for the moment, slightly less notorious. He knew he was making her a sacrificial animal; the second he saw her, Hannibal Lecter knew it, too—the hidden language of powerful men who understand each other. Hannibal was offended to have been sent a student; he had been prepared to crack whoever Crawford sent him until they broke, and felt he’d been robbed of an honorable victory by being given someone so green and so doomed to failure.
But she was Clarice Starling, and she won.
*The novel is somewhat less transmisogynistic than the book, but only for the sake of the poor doctor at the gender center who tells the FBI that trans people are people who are fighting against stereotypes and violence and that suggesting a serial killer might be trans is going to incite violence against trans folks. This doctor is very important. And of course the FBI doesn’t listen!