The Silence of the Lambs (first half)–Group 2

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.

5 thoughts on “The Silence of the Lambs (first half)–Group 2

  1. Carl Langaker

    I am interested by and fully agree with the points made by my peers. There have been mentions of the second clip in the slides, but I also found myself quite shocked by the first clip. It feels all too symbolic seeing the naked inmates, hunched over, and covering their privates, as they are escorted by the asylum guards. We have discussed in the previous weeks whether the treatment of the inmates is directly contributing to their mental state – in these clips it feels abundantly clear that it is. The degradation and humiliation that is implicit in being fed by a tube, or forced to walk naked without a towel or any sort of covering after having been cleaned, speaks volumes about the power imbalance between inmates and guards, and the general lack of respect. I do not think that this level of disrespect is present to the same extent in Silence of the Lambs between Lecter and Chilton. What i found interesting in particular is the dynamic between these two characters; Lecter is presented as a careful, well-thought out, and generally brilliant man, in comparison to Chilton, who’s distinctly not-brilliant and unaccomplished. In a weird way this paints Lecter as the more sane of the two – this is obviously entirely contradicted by the fact that it is Lecter who is in confinement, while it is Chilton who is in charge. I think that one comparison we can make here to the clips from Titicut Follies is that there is a notable difference in poise and mental clarity between the average inmate compared to Lecter. Particularly so in the first clip, about four minutes in, we see the inmate shouting incomprehensibly, which is followed by him wandering in circles around his room, which feels like a stark contrast to the level of interaction we see between Lecter and Chilton (note that the patient in clip 2, however, appears to be far more sane). However, more generally, I think Lecter is not necessarily meant to be a symbol or representation of your average inmate. Rather, he feels like a commentary on the power imbalance present in asylums, as well as how difficult it is to diagnose insanity in general. As mentioned in the slides about the Rosenhan experiment, it was only the actually insane inmates that were able to detect their fellow inmates who were sane, while the doctors were unable to do so – the doctors were instead too focused on the initial diagnosis. It feels as if Lecter acts as a bridge for the power imbalance displayed between the inmates who occupy the asylums and the psychiatrists and doctors that work there – he displays how fine of a distinction there can be between what side of this imbalance a person falls on, ultimately posing questions at the validity of asylums in general.

  2. Annabella Twomey

    All three doctors offer perspectives of arrogance, egotism, and feign nonchalance at inappropriate times. What disturbs me the most, especially in the Titicut Follies doctor in the “Psychiatrist and Patient” clip, is the dismissiveness and nonchalant attitude of the psychiatrists toward the patients. It is overarching attitude that once a patient is admitted to an asylum that they are signed off as a hopeless case, when in reality the psychiatrist’s job is to continuously adapt to the patient’s needs and changes in behavior. The patient in the second clip is clearly rational, smart, and can pick up on the mockery the psychiatrists are making of him. It is dehumanizing to see him so easily dismissed when he is logically speaking to them. Though I don’t know his background/what he’s done, I believe he deserves to be listened to and acknowledged if he is supposedly getting “treated” aka, supposed to be getting help and improving. I also think Hannibal Lecter is an interesting case because it brought a character to the forefront who is criminally insane, but not necessarily viewed by society as incompetent, “slow,” or needing constant physical assistance in daily tasks, as other mental health patients were so often portrayed like Miggs, either agitated and violent, or silent and reserved like the ones in the other clips of Titicut Follies. No one should model Lecter’s behavior or view him as someone who should be praised as a functioning member of society, but it does flip-flop the assumed idea/stigma of the mentally ill by combining it with the very idea of someone that is supposed to be the sanest of all: the doctors. By having Lecter be a medical professional as well as a violent psychopath, it causes readers (and movie viewers) to question the sanity and professionalism of all the psychiatric doctors. As it turns, they rightfully should be questioning it based on the clear emotional neglect and mocking by the doctors in Titicut Follies. Lecter, though despicable in his actions, reminds us to always question the motives of professionals, as we’ve seen how much the medical field and specifically the field of mental health treatment, has changed so drastically over the years.

    I have worked in a mental health facility before, and at least now there is much more communication about adjusting behavior, privileges, and treatment of patients as people adapt to their behaviors and try and create an environment that is most comfortable and effective for them. There are still strides to be made and many places have a lack of support and funding, and I’m sure there continues to be ill-treatment of patients across the country, but the general mindset appears to have improved since the 60s/70s.

  3. Andreya Zvonar

    Chilton, Hannibal, and the doctors presented in Titicut Follies give off three distinct characteristics. I find Chilton to be egotistical and ignorant, yet invested in his work (as he still sees Hannibal as an integral patient), Hannibal to be intelligent and cunning, and the doctors in Titicut Follies to be dissociated from the asylum. Of these three, those presented in Titicut Follies are the most interesting. As the man inserts the feeding tube into the nose of the patient, one can’t help but notice the nonchalance with which he does it. It suggests that he is so used to this task that it has become menial in his mind. He does it aggressively, smokes a cigarette, and seems to have little regard for the patient’s comfort. This brings out the characteristics described in the Rosenhan Experiment, which clearly showed the bridge between doctors and patients. The seeming lack of care and interest of the doctors in Titicut Follies suggests why the Rosenhan Experiment may have produced the results it did.

    It is almost too difficult to compare these doctors with Hannibal, whose intelligence, wit, and power seem to be from another world. I do however find it interesting to compare Hannibal with the patient from the second video, as Hannibal is also a patient. While the two clearly carry themselves in different ways, they both exude a sense of ‘saneness’. Hannibal is by no means sane, yet he has intention, which makes him more amicable than the doctors who have no care for the patients. Similarly, the patient from the second video seems completely sane. While he speaks quickly and with clear emotion, he forms logical and coherent thoughts. Nevertheless, the doctor seems to not hear him. In much the same way, Chilton does not see Hannibal’s prowess – only his insanity. As such, Hannibal remains nothing but an object to him, just as the patients int Titicut Follies do to the doctors.

  4. Elizabeth Srulevich

    Jinnu Krishnamurti’s quote in today’s slideshow — that “it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society” — really resonated with me. After watching those three Titicut Follies clips, I felt overwhelmed by the “profoundly sick society” depicted in those scenes, and I found myself making an immediate connection between the psychiatrist and guards at Bridgewater and Josef Mengele (the Auschwitz “doctor”) and guards at Nazi concentration camps. From the systematic, sterilized humiliation of patients — who were marched around naked and barefoot as they were provoked into outbursts by cruel guards — to the scene where an emaciated-looking man was placed on an operating table and force-fed through a tube while the man administering it smoked a cigarette, it’s clear how the connection to Nazi-level torture can be made. But, ultimately, it makes me wonder how these “well-adjusted” people (like the guards and psychiatrist at Bridgewater and Nazis) can act in such depraved ways. It’s a question that reminds me of Hannah Arendt’s “Banality of Evil” and her controversial take on Adolf Eichmann — that some people, like Eichmann and Mengele, are just so driven in their bureaucratic pursuits that they lose track of the moral scope of their actions. Although I’m not entirely sure if I agree with her thesis, I think it certainly applies to the characters of Frederick Chilton and Hannibal Lecter, who (as Michael aptly describes below) reflect “two complementary sides of psychiatry’s potential for evil.” Our “profoundly sick society” breeds these boring, bureaucratic “monsters,” both the fictional psychiatrists in the novel and the very real psychiatrists and guards seen in the clips from the documentary.

  5. Michael Taylor

    Chilton and Lecter’s differences abound. Chilton is incompetent, ineffective, and unfulfilled, while Lecter is discerning, overwhelming, and self-satisfied. Representative of these differences, perhaps, is the sharp contrast between Lecter’s internality, shown in his narrative recollection of Raspail’s therapy session, and Chilton’s complete and total insipidness, revelated shortly before in his conversation with Starling. As Professor Newbury mentions in the slides, the doctors may provide two complimentary sides of psychiatry’s potential for evil.

    Since they are two sides of the same coin, however, I think it is interesting to examine Chilton and Lecter’s similarities, though less numerous than differences as they may be. First, they are both predators. Chilton may be inept, but it must be noted that his first comments to Starling regard her appearance, and she remains interesting to Chilton only so far as she remains a potential sexual conquest. Lecter, for his part, is driven by a literal desire to cannibalize. There exists a certain difference in degree, but each doctor is fundamentally interested in consuming others. Second, Chilton and Lecter abuse their patients. Lecter’s sadistic manipulation of Starling is apparent, but we should not forget that Lecter is also a patient himself. Lecter suffers greatly under Chilton’s abuse, where he suffers forced feedings, sleep deprivation, and physical restraint.

    Though it is hard to analyze the doctor from Titicut Follies in the framework of relative internality, it is equally hard not to suspect him of sharing the aforementioned predatory and abusive similarities with Chilton and Lecter, at least from the necessarily limited perspective of the documentary clip. He rejects his colleagues’ suggestions that the patient, Vladimir, may be somewhat logical in his complaints about the effect of long-term incarceration on his mental health and repeatedly insists that the right course of treatment (for what problem other than wanting to leave the asylum?!?) is to increase Vladimir’s dose of tranquilizers. In fact, one sees in the doctor not just a resemblance with Chilton and Lecter, but with Nurse Ratched and her tyrannical desire to control, as well. Such striking resemblances between fiction and reality no doubt provided strong evidence for the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and 70s.

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