On Misogyny and Criticism: An Open Letter to Bryan Fuller

Dear Bryan Fuller,

Every episode of Hannibal used to leave me on the edge of my seat. But by the end of “Naka-Choko” last Friday, my friends and I were left wondering how many more episodes we would have to endure this season.

Taking to the Internet to see what others thought, not only were there plenty of other exasperated reactions to read, there were also some very interesting tweets from you. And when I say “interesting,” what I really mean is gross. Disappointing. Unexpected from a showrunner that has given me hope in an era of television where Steven Moffat has turned not one, but two of my favorite shows into unwatchable train wrecks. The main tweet that I’m talking about, which appears to have been deleted since, is this one, in regard to lesbian-identified Margot sleeping with Will:

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This tweet is the reason that any defense – especially the “it’s canon!” defense – of the way things transpired with Margot and Will is paper-thin. Because yes, as someone who has not read the books, I’ve had to be filled in on the Verger story line and I’m aware that things have been altered, probably to make Margot’s story less gruesome. And that’s cool of you, Mr. Fuller. I really appreciate that you reportedly said you would never have a woman raped on the show. And I can see that the intent was that Margot was in charge of the situation with Will, even though there certainly were different ways to execute that scenario (like, as Veronika K. at Spoiler TV pointed out, without the awful “proclivity for parts” line). Where you lose my support is this tweet that has nothing to do with faithfulness to canon and everything to do with the tired old tradition of making all female sexuality about men, including queer female sexuality.

If any question of this nature should’ve been asked, it should’ve been you asking lesbians how they felt about that scene. Because yes, Margot had motive for sleeping with Will, but a lot of us were still left rolling our eyes and throwing our hands up in the air after the episode. You have to be aware of the state of media, and up until now, I thought you had a pretty good handle on it. But we just went through this with BBC Sherlock’s Irene Adler. There’s only so many of these male-written, male-servicing storylines we can defend before we become weary and bored of the treatment of the few queer female characters present in popular media for the sake of plot.

It’s no surprise that you received some criticism on the use of the “homophobic trope” of lesbians sleeping with men. What is surprising is how poorly you fielded it.

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What exactly is “real homophobia”? It can’t possibly be what you’ve done, because homophobia is only perpetuated through blatant physical and verbal violence by straight people, right? You and all gay male showrunners need to take note: You can be homophobic. You can be misogynistic and sexist and so many other things. And when you’re called out on it, you need to take it in stride.

You see, Mr. Fuller, I think you’ve become too comfortable with the fanbase. You’ve said some great, thoughtful, intelligent things about Hannibal and your processes with the show, and that on top of a brilliant first season won over a lot of people – myself included. But this season feels disjointed. That might, of course, get resolved at the end of the season, but you know what else it feels like? It feels like a lot of women are dead. You also reportedly said that you were conscious of the ratio of male to female deaths, but it feels like women are dropping like flies now. Not that you’re killing tons of them on screen. They’re just not on screen at all. I’m not going to be happy with the death of Beverly Katz, regardless of defenses and reasoning. But it’s not like we’ve only lost Beverly. Abigail’s gone. We’re losing Bella. Freddie’s fate isn’t looking great. Miriam was back… for a couple of episodes. We’ve lost men too but there are still plenty left on screen. Do you see the problem?

So if you’re going to project weird male fantasy onto one of the two main female characters you’ve got left on screen, people are going to call you out on it. The least you could do is acknowledge that there are ways your creative decisions can be seen as offensive instead of only raising up (retweeting) the people defending you as if they speak for all your viewers (or all your queer/lesbian viewers). Don’t turn your entire fanbase against someone who called you out – you know that’s exactly what you did by making the above reply public on your Twitter feed.

I’ve heard that some people are calling for the cancelation of Hannibal in light of the recent episodes, but that’s not what I’m calling for here (in fact, congrats on the third season). I’m calling for more critical thought. I won’t accept defenses of “this show is dark and not responsible for social justice consciousness” when you yourself have spoken out about presence and treatment of women in television. You have awareness, you have creative license, and you have full control of what you put out there on Twitter in regards to your work and its criticism. You can do better.

Don’t make us revoke your flower crown.

Sincerely,

A Fannibal (who wishes to remain as such)

One response to “On Misogyny and Criticism: An Open Letter to Bryan Fuller

  1. Yeah, everything up to that tweet was just me in my seat kind of uncomfortable. When that tweet came out, I was pretty much shaking my head and out the door with this man. “Real homophobia”? Someone needs to teach him about hard and soft oppressions. I can defend artistic license and I guess I can see the reworkings of Margot’s character, but I will never defend someone advocating for oppression and fueling future female and queer oppression.

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