The Silence of the Lambs (first half)–Group 1

Frederick Chilton and Hannibal Lecter offer different portraits of the professionally trained therapist. In the clips from Titicut Follies posted in the slideshow, you’ll see a third doctor speaking with colleagues and patients (“Psychiatrist and Patient”). How would you quickly compare 2 or all 3 of these doctors? You could think about them in light of the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and 70s outlined in the slide presentation.

3 thoughts on “The Silence of the Lambs (first half)–Group 1

  1. Thomas Dillon

    Frederick Chilton and Hannibal Lector both seem to represent the shortcomings of psychiatric care, with regards to institutionalization and mental health treatment. In light of the anti-psychiatry movement presented in Professor Newbury’s slides, Chilton demonstrates the pure incompetence of many proclaimed “psychiatrists” “doctors” and “therapists” that were running the abusive and problematic aslyums that were rightfully condemned by public opinion. As Rosenhan’s analysis from his experiment demonstrates, certified and established doctors were unable to properly diagnose/separate the sane from the insane. Chilton’s characterization is consistent with this line of thinking, as his blatant arrogance eventually leads him to disrupt and destroy Starling’s attempt to receive information from Lector under the guise of a fake transfer. Chilton’s interest in obtaining this vital information doesn’t seem to outweigh his interest in controlling the manner in which the information is given.
    On the other hand, Hannibal Lector’s characrterization is that of the pure brutality and abuse that various aslyums and psychiatric institutions wielded over their patients. Lector is abusive, manipulative, controlling, cunning, in your face, and constantly probing. He views his interactions with Starling as a sort of cat and mouse game where he feels the constant need to rattle her, whether that be by belitting her or making her relive past traumas. Lector quickly works to establish power over Starling and strip her of her autonomy and dignity, however, he does this in a much more subtle manner that doesn’t require physicality of any kind. In my opinion, this is emblematic of the slides that bring up Goffman’s points about the inhumane treatment of various instiutions, often leading patients to feel hopeless and upset. Starling, an unproven young agent, is simply looking to do her job and bring Buffalo Bill’s gruesome murders to a swift end, but Lector, having knowledge crucial to the case, chooses to make her squirm and psychologically abuses her.

  2. Karianne Laird

    Frederick Chilton and Hannibal Lecter offer different examples of how problematic the field of psychiatry/ psychology can be. Chilton, like Dr. Lector, considers himself to be a genius, but is in fact quite unintelligent. Furthermore, he is sexist, pretentious and selfish (we see this, for example, in his need to be the one who gets the information from Dr. Lecter). Chilton’s clear incompetence combined with his overconfidence is likely a critique of the lack of knowledge in the world of psychiatry as a whole. Even though doctors seemed unable to distinguish sane patients from insane ones during this time, they confidently continued with their unfounded treatments with harmful consequences, much like Chilton.

    Dr. Lector, on the other hand, is easily able to get into Clarice’s mind and manipulates her from their very first meeting. Although Clarice, theoretically, has the power (since Dr. Lector is locked up behind bars) the dynamic quickly changes between them as he persuades her to recall her worst childhood memories for his pleasure. By pointing out her insecurities he gets under her skin and exerts power over her. This is a different example of how distressing and misguided psychological treatment can be, even when executed by an “expert”. Psychiatrists and psychologists are, after all, merely human and can be immoral and problematic like everyone else, which is very evident in Dr. Lector’s character. While the portrayal of Dr. Chilton and Dr. Lecter differ, their portrayals do seem to embody a deeply critical view of the psychiatry profession.

  3. Madison Brito

    One of the major comparisons you could make between these doctors is the ways in which their capacity for apathy comes out. I was so profoundly disturbed by these videos, more so than the movies we’ve watched, because I knew it was real; the doctor in the documentary isn’t exaggerated, and his malice is more subtle though not less potent. While he is distant, unfeeling, disinterested, and a myriad of other things that make him a cruel and likely ineffective doctor, he is not fictionalized. His behavior doesn’t feel like a performance in the way that of the fictional villains does, and somehow this makes it all the more poignant and disturbing. Lecter is aggressive, more often the one questioning Sterling than the other way around. While the doctor in the documentary fails to ask practically any questions of the patient or attempt to understand him in any way, Lecter seems to stand on the opposite, heavily exaggerated side of this, posing the dangers of going too far on the flipside of indifference. In my opinion, he is so aggressively villainized and fictionalized to the point of being more character than warning or representation of something real; you feel how this book would appeal to mass audiences for its entertainment or ‘thriller’ value rather than as an intellectual critique of psychiatry. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on the book, as I do think it is complex and legitimate in its own right, and there is so much more to be said about the dynamic between Lecter and Chilton. But the documentary, with its subtlety and starkness (as the slides even mention how there was nothing added whatsoever to the footage itself), was so much more powerful for me. I’d see this as a much more potent tool in the anti-psychiatry movement, though Harris’ book certainly does adequately freak me out

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