When I first saw the scene in the S3 finale in which Will Graham presses his hand against the glass wall of Hannibal Lecter's cell, I was reminded of three things: a similar scene in Star Trek II, a quote by Henry Jenkins about slash, and a fan vid inspired by Jenkins' quote. The quote goes as follows: “Slash happens when you take away the glass. The glass, for me, is often more social than physical; the glass represents those aspects of traditional masculinity which prevent emotional expressiveness or physical intimacy between men” (source). Jenkins references the Star Trek II scene in which Kirk and Spock press their hands against one another through a glass wall as Spock dies. Star Trek is also the text which inspired contemporary slash fandom, which pushes back against the constraints of heteronormativity. While it is usually up to fandom to take away the glass, my video essay shows how Hannibal shatters the glass within the text itself.
Hannibal thus deviates from a pattern that thingswithwing's vid “The Glass” shows so well. Through clips drawn from numerous film and TV series showing characters separated by glass walls, the vid demonstrates both how thoroughly heteronormativity polices same-sex relationships and how fans refuse such policing. The relationship between Will and Hannibal might seem to fall into the same pattern: both men are drawn to one another, a sentiment that is rendered in dialogue and gestures—in other words, it is ready-made for slash. In many cases (Supernatural or Teen Wolf come to mind), both text and extratextual discourses may tease but ultimately deny that anything beyond normative male friendship is at work. Not so in Hannibal: showrunner Bryan Fuller and actors Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen have discussed Will and Hannibal as being in love throughout the show's three seasons. No queerbaiting here.
The latter half of season three turns “Hannigram” into text: “Is Hannibal in love with me?” Will asks in 3x12, receiving an affirmative answer. In the final scene of the season, Will returns this love by joining Hannibal in murder, and declares their joint act “beautiful” before resting his head on Hannibal's chest, all while “Love Crime,” a song written for this episode, plays in the background.
I love your observation of
I love your observation of the glass and how it both recalls and does something different from Jenkins's observation. One thing I find interesting here - in this specific scene - is that the glass seems to be serving a slightly different function, yet one that's wholly wrapped up in the Jenkinsian (?word?) model. That is, Will himself is consciously distancing himself from Hannibal in this moment, as he tries to throughout (but patently cannot manage), and doing it by recalling an even more distancing moment which - in Will's telling - is paradoxically intimate - keeping Hannibal close by pushing him away. Which, if it can be read that way, seems entirely congruent with a Hannibal-as-fan-fiction reading, inasmuch as the glass, as you say, is no longer a signifier of media/society keeping two men apart (from which fan fiction alternative readings are born), but rather an in-text signifier of playing with the emotional distance/closeness of the two men, in full recognition of their inextricably intimate relationship. If that makes any sense? I'm writing off-the-cuff, but basically what I think I'm trying to say is where Jenkins's glass stands in for every social/narrative constraint that keeps two men apart for reasons external to the text, here in Hannibal it seems to keep them apart for reasons that are entirely of the text, in such a way that the text - the narrative - itself is aware of the usual role played by the glass... as if the explicit play with intimacy/distance of the scene is effectively saying that the glass is obsolete in Hannibal? They're already emotionally and canonically close/distant so that the Jenkinsian glass separates nothing but their bodies...? I may be rambling. ;)
(reposting this as an
(reposting this as an actual reply!)
Room for interpretation
I second what Lori said about the glass becoming a signifier of something other precisely because the text can be read as fan-fiction. Of course, there were criticisms of the season, and particularly of the final episode which ranged from the idea that the show had become too interested in providing fan service to the Hannigram shippers to accusations of queerbaiting because it the relationship wasn't made explicit enough. These criticisms only highlight for me facets of this series which I have always valued greatly - the room it leaves for interpretation and its lack of clear emotional character sign posting. Will and Hannibal's emotional dynamics are complex and are rarely stated simply, directly and clearly; leaving room for the viewer to ponder them and leaving many interesting narrative pathways open. If nothing else, it seems to me that the final scene leaves clear room for the validation and canonisation of the murder husband ship as well as leaving space for a more conventional reading with Will as morally righteous hero attempting to defeat the antagonist . In doing so, the ending has intriguing room for continuation. To have played it any other way -to have made one reading more dominant than the other - would have either led to more legitimate criticisms about the representation of queer characters or the rejection of the fannish (female?) values in favour of a more normative and conventional resolution. A thin and precarious line was trodden, I feel.
The sigh before the hand
I love this discussion and wholly agree with the points all of you are making about how "the glass" moment in Hannibal as yet another way in which this text is offering us something new that, as Lori says so well, both "recalls and does something different from Jenkins' observation." And to Kirsty's point, I also love how the ambiguity of the text does not in some way buttress a normative reading (which would have been queerbaiting), but instead preserves emotional complexity in a relationship that we already know to be passionate and loving (and that the penultimate episode clearly defined as love). My favorite moment of this exchange was the sigh that came right before the iconic hand-on-glass moment, because it seemed to signal both the textual/emotional weight of that gesture between the two characters as well as its extra-textual significance within the fanfiction/queer worlds. It was the wind-up to the punch. If, as Melanie suggests, this gesture was Dancy's choice, it would be yet another in his pattern of fulfilling fan desires for emotional moments/gestures while, in interviews/press, being much more coy and teasing--in a playful way-- about the characters' relationship than Mads. It seems to me so important that both actors are willing to explore the complexity of this relationship without any sense of discomfort with its being perceived as "queer," just as they have no discomfort in their being objects of fannish love and desire (no femiphobia; no interest in reinforcing cultural hierarchies of taste and gender). Not being American seems key here, and another way in which the transcultural production and casting of this show is so essential to its unusually rich text and the intensity of its grateful fans.
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