I had fun spotlighting some of the absurdities of modern life against the backdrop of Young Frankenstein. And I’m happy to say that that’s not the only film that has some cathartically funny lessons we can learn to help us deal with a pandemic. We’ll enter the realm of macabre humor as we talk about The Silence of the Lambs as though it took place during the current pandemic, exploring four examples of social distancing found in it.
Don’t Touch the Glass
Clarice Starling is an ambitious FBI trainee who wants to make a name for herself by cracking the case of a serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill. She gets her big chance when she is tasked with giving a questionnaire on the subject to an imprisoned serial killer named Dr. Hannibal Lecter. She receives major warnings about him, such as not to reveal anything personal or get too close to his cell. When they meet, he asks for her credentials, which she promptly produces. That’s a sensible thing to do. We should only listen to the experts, so it makes perfect sense to check if she’s an expert in her field before doing what she asks. He politely invites her to come closer. First, she just moves her hand with the badge in it nearer to him, but he insists she walk closer. She hesitates to move, but eventually complies.
To assuage her fears, he demonstrates that he hasn’t caught the virus by testing his sense of smell on her. It still works perfectly, which is a huge relief. He even brags about his sense of taste remaining intact when he talks about once eating someone’s liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti. How courteous of him. There’s definitely no danger of infection from him, so Clarice can relax after hearing that.
Masked and Restrained
Air travel used to be so gross. More than a hundred people would cram into a metal tube and breathe the same air for hours on end. Everyone was packed so close and allowed to move freely about the cabin at various times, which meant frequently squeezing past each other. Thankfully, The Silence of the Lambs shows a much safer way to travel. Dr. Lecter is among just a handful of people who fly aboard a plane. He is put in a straitjacket and restrained so thoroughly that he can’t walk on his own power. No more moving about the cabin or coming into contact with other people. He has to be carted off the plane. This is the safest way to travel ever put to film. Dr. Lecter doesn’t even have to move a muscle because all the work is done for him.
He wears a mask, of course, because it’s his first time being out of his cell in so many years, he must have a weakened immune system. He wouldn’t be able to survive being exposed to such a large number of people’s germs. The senator he’s there to meet with stays a safe distance from him out of respect and concern for his life. It’s interesting to see an elected official out and about without a mask while a mere citizen has to be muzzled. Just saying.
Socially Responsible Escape
The cage Dr. Lecter finds himself in during his trip isn’t meant to imprison him. It’s actually meant to free him from the danger of anyone getting within six feet of him. Viruses can’t fit through those bars. However, when a guard enters the cage to serve him a meal, he gets perilously close to Dr. Lecter. The good doctor is rightfully outraged that this guard would enter his personal space and get too close to him. So he helpfully handcuffs him to one of the bars to prevent him from getting any closer. Then he shows the other guard how it feels to have his personal space invaded by gnawing at his face and spraying him with mace.
Unable to find a mask to keep himself safe from the numerous police officers coming up the stairs, he proceeds to cut off the second guard’s face and wear it as a protective mask. Oh, it’s not the most sanitary mask, but neither is the one we’ve been wearing for weeks without washing. You could argue that he did that to disguise himself in order to fool the police and get away in an ambulance, but that’s clearly just a happy accident that is secondary to his primary purpose of being socially responsible during a pandemic.
Friendly Warning to Keep Away
In a phone call from a remote location, Dr. Lecter promises to stay far away from Clarice and asks her to do him the same courtesy. She can’t make that promise now that she’s a full FBI agent and she might be ordered to get up close and personal with him one day. Hopefully by then the threat of the pandemic will be entirely wiped out, and she’ll be free to get as close to him as she wants. That’s probably why he takes her refusal in stride and bids her a friendly farewell before hanging up.
He follows a safe distance behind an old friend he spotted walking into a crowd of people. At first glance, it appears dangerous for so many people to be improperly close to each other without masks. But I’m sure they’re all vaccinated and free to go back to normal life. Even if Dr. Lecter hasn’t had a chance to receive the vaccine yet, we can forgive him for forgetting about social distancing when he’s so excited to surprise his friend and invite him to dinner.
Making the World Safer
With all the COVID-19 fears, it’s nice to watch an inspiring 30-year-old film that invites us to look on the bright side. Both the hero and villain of this movie are incredibly courteous when it comes to taking healthy precautions to protect themselves and others. In fact, I think it’s obvious that if we were all a lot more like Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the world would be a much safer place to live.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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