Gillian Anderson to Save Hannibal's Women

Fifteen years ago, there was a mad dash to find a suitable replacement for Jodie Foster in the role of FBI Agent Clarice Starling for the movie Hannibal. Julianne Moore eventually tackled the role, killed it, and became a style icon in one of film history’s best little black dresses. I remember the chatter preceding Julianne’s casting included many names, most specifically the great Gillian Anderson. She did not play Clarice, as she was already playing an FBI agent on TV at the time and was about to embark on two final, dreadful seasons of that. Also, she was frankly going up against the likes of Julianne Moore.

We now know that Gillian Anderson has been the key to Hannibal’s success after all.

The exquisite splatterhouse show on NBC enters its third season this year with news that Ms. Anderson will be a series regular as Dr. Lecter’s therapist/conspirator-lover. The unmasked cannibal will be seen escaping the rude arm of the law with Dr. Bedelia DuMaurier (Anderson) in Italy. O, the glorious globtetrotting outfits there will be!

Ms. Anderson enters the fray as a regular this season just in time. SPOILER WARNING: The filmmaking on display so far in Hannibal has been impeccable, as has been written about endlessly elsewhere. Yet Hannibal’s fantastic second season was rightfully glove-slapped for sexist messiness in the murder of Beverly Katz, crime scene investigator and (basically lone) woman of color. The controversy has been written about other places (as well as on this site!) for killing Beverly off in an act of “fridging,” a geek term for imperiling women for the sole purpose of motivating a male hero. Hannibal killed Beverly for snooping on behalf of our hero, Will Graham, and her death impetuses him to showdown with the villain.

Even though far worse has been done to far less complexly written female characters on far stupider and far more male-aggro crime shows, this creative crime was messy storytelling. It left Hannibal short one person of color, and whittled the series regular roles for women down to the perma-duped Dr. Alana Bloom.


Bedelia’s appearances on Hannibal thusfar have been sporadic sips of refreshing, ice-cold water. Her commanding silences will fill each episode next year, and the show desperately needs a woman who isn’t seven steps behind everyone else nor gets killed for her trouble.

For a program with no openly queer characters, Hannibal’s gay pedigree is as refined as its lead character’s palette. Out creator Bryan Fuller has brought us wild style; a queer-baiting sexual tension between hero and villain; and gay catnip guest stars like Molly Shannon, Cynthia Nixon, Amanda Plummer, and GILLIAN ANDERSON. Scott Thompson is on the CSI team for goodness sake! There’s no excuse for a show this queer to fall prey to lazy anti-feminist tropes like it was some straight lugnut like True Detective. Hannibal and Bedelia are bound for Europe; here’s hoping the show lets its feminine flag fly higher there.

adammichaelsass's picture
on December 31, 2014

ADAM SASS begins all his writing in Sharpie on dozens of Starbucks pastry bags. This may cause him to be late making your cappuccino, and he sincerely apologizes. His Writer’s Digest award-nominated story "98% Graves" appeared in the anthology STARTLING SCI-FI: NEW TALES OF THE BEYOND. He lives in New York City with his husband and two dachshunds.

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