In Hindsight, is “The Silence of the Lambs” Homophobic?

Written by | Entertainment, Screen

Sir Anthony Hopkins

A quarter century after its premiere, the Criterion Collection is releasing a special edition of The Silence of the Lambs. Starring lesbian legend Jodie Foster as FBI trainee Clarice Starling, the film tracks the manhunt for “Buffalo Bill,” a serial killer who skins his female victims in order to create “women suits.” Starling is aided by Dr. Hannibal Lecter (the inimitable Anthony Hopkins), a psychologist and serial-killing cannibal, who offers insights into the mind of the world’s scarier inhabitants. The film has been lauded by viewers and critics alike, notably at the 1992 Academy Awards, where it became the third film to sweep all top five Oscar categories. The movie has also encountered criticism over issues of homophobia and trans-misogyny due to the portrayal of Buffalo Bill. LGBTQ groups like Queer Nation insists that the film promotes homophobia by connecting Buffalo Bill’s rampage with such gay stereotypes as cross-dressing and owning a poodle. Does the film hold up? Can we celebrate Starling’s courage even if we take issues with how Buffalo Bill was written? Pour yourself a nice glass of Chianti — and decide for yourself.

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Last modified: September 4, 2019