male sexual aggression towards Will Graham

Read here with visual aids:

Okay, so male sexual aggression towards Will Graham. LET’S TALK ABOUT IT. Obviously all of this is the absolute worst, but as a philosophical exercise, I’ve found it really interesting to watch a man hitting the glass in a situation which is basically… a woman’s daily struggle cast on a huge Greek tragedy scale?
(trigger warning for sexual abuse, drugs)

I mean, Hannibal’s sexual intimidation of Will is obvious.

For me, Hannibal is that threatening, uniquely masculine force. When you’re standing in the corner of the elevator, just you and a man—he doesn’t even have to glance at you, you feel nervous and you don’t know why. Or when your boss hasn’t said or done anything out of line, but you feel cowed by an exchange all the same, and it’s clear your boss kind of enjoyed it? That predatory “do it because you can, do it to watch and enjoy what happens” attitude.

But I think that Jack’s interactions with Will are, in a lot of ways, no less sexual than Hannibal’s. They’re just coming from the other end of the spectrum. Jack is more… the dad of teenage daughter Will Graham? (Seriously, wow, the sexual parent stuff in this show).

The misplaced possessiveness, the teacup coddling (which Will hates and instinctively pushes back against and sometimes leans into gratefully, all in equal measure). Jack shoving Will to the limits of his ability, ignoring emotional distress and pleading and warning signs until it’s too late. Nobody can tell me the simultaneous tenderness and humiliation in this scene {referencing Jack removing Will’s face guard and straight jacket] wasn’t sexual. Because it was.

No-one can tell me this isn’t Will being brutalized by paternal sexual anger and tenderness, because it is.

And Chilton and the orderly are NEW LEVELS of Fuller hitting us upside the head with this theme.

Will signing away his bodily autonomy to Chilton in some serious shrouded sexual assault language. Will being drugged and made more physically and emotionally vulnerable than he was already, Will being forced to relive traumatic events to a mocking and disbelieving audience. Everyone’s slimy comments about what Will had to do to get Chilton on his side.

And the orderly, jesus christ. I’ve seen jokes about how chill Will is with serial killers now, look at Will laughing with the orderly, look how much Will has changed. You guys, Will Graham was terrified in this scene. He was visibly terrified. He was shocked by the revelation, he was scared to be vulnerable in the same space as a killer, he felt sick that this person had killed for him. He was doing everything he could to keep his cool while a murderer was advancing on him from behind. With that heartbreaking Will Graham look on his face, like a prey animal who understands that running won’t help him get away, it’ll just make things worse.

Look at the resignation on his face. Everyone should be heartbroken to see Will Graham realizing he has to ally with one of them to kill the worst of them.
The first season of Hannibal was Will Graham being conditioned to resent his empathy (a traditionally feminine quality), to doubt himself, to doubt his emotions, to doubt his perception of events, to rely on powerful male figures in his life for support and be screwed over by EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. The first season was watching Will twist in the wind for the benefit or the pleasure of men, and Fuller made us complicit in our voyeuristic enjoyment of his suffering. (Seriously, this feels like when I got all excited rooting for certain kids to kill other kids in Hunger Games. I love Hannibal like I love Hunger Games.)

And now in season two, we’re watching Will Graham at rock bottom, stripped of his agency, pulling strings and manipulating the men around him. Doing everything he can just to stay afloat, to protect the people he loves. He’s learning to play the game and we’re seeing the emotional toll it’s taking on him, we’re feeling how unfair it is that he should have to make these choices at all, and wishing, uselessly, that he wasn’t in this position.

Real talk: my cocktail of feelings watching Will Graham try to kill Hannibal are eerily similar to my feelings reading stories about victims killing their rapists. Elation at this person taking back their agency and eradicating scum from the face of the earth—incredible sadness that they were put in that position, that they had to sacrifice some part of themselves just to- ugh, you guys. Will Graham.

And on a different but ALWAYS RELATED TOPIC, I love how Will’s one solid rock in this series—I don’t mean the tired ridiculous “behind every great man there is a great woman” trope, I mean this guy is helpless, he’s getting buffeted around in the ocean, and the one constant, steady presence in his life is a woman. A woman who recognized her unhealthy desire to fix him and stepped back, a woman who is still there for him in whatever capacity she can be because she just cares for him, purely and unselfishly. When Will went in to kiss Alana all chaste and close-mouthed,
and then immediately lets her open his mouth when she wants to, lets her take control of the kiss. The mild lamb expression on his face, the give in his neck and shoulders. This is beyond Will Graham just being submissive, okay. This body language is a deliberate bucking of gender norms, and Fuller is encouraging it. Sometimes I feel like the phrase “strong female character” is tossed around so often that it’s begun to lose its impact, but Alana Bloom has her own motivations, she has a strong sense of self, she’s caring and fierce (often at the same time), she’s doing the best she can with the information she has.

And she’s intentionally cast as a maternal figure. Look at this perfect quote:
“One other key component to Alana’s costuming is that it is ultra feminine and she almost exclusively wears skirts and dresses. Whether it is intentional or not, Alana is coded in season 1 in way that reflects a strong maternal role with both Will and Abigail – the whole ‘mother’ thing gets a bit fuzzy when you factor in the strong sexual attraction between Will and Alana – she’s a protector and there’s no ulterior motive to her actions. Alana’s costuming reflects this femininity and the DVF rosebud motif is on point with this factor, as are the mix-and-match prints which reflect the chaos of the Hannibal environment.”

Alana the mother, in direct opposition to the paternal figures in this show, who are CONSISTENTLY PORTRAYED AS VIOLENT, SEXUALLY INTIMIDATING ASSHOLES. And then there’s Will, desperately wanting to dad, having characteristics traditionally ascribed to moms, losing his mind in the tension between the two parts of himself—the violent and the empathetic.

I honestly believe that Fuller is intentionally shining a highbeam on how harmful patriarchal stereotypes and structures are for everyone. And he’s doing it with the most interesting and well-rounded cast of characters in recent TV history?



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