You Can Taste The Crazy

You Can Taste The Crazy

You know the drill by now, guys. Witty captions are found by hovering over the gifs.
Also, I swear that I’m sorry about the pun in the title. Honest. I really am.

Guess what I’ve been doing for a lot of this week? Watching Hannibal!

Okay, so I’m several episodes behind everybody else, since I believe that those watching it properly are now waiting for the finale. I’ve seen five episodes, one of them with Korean subtitles, because that’s internet TV for you. (I have no access to NBC.)

Most people have been like, “Isn’t that the show about the cannibal?” or “I heard that was gross,” and they’re not wrong. It’s a show about a cannibal (you can tell by the name), but there’s a lot more to it than that.

The reason I’m watching it is because of madness.

it's madness

We’ve been talking about mental illness in English Literature recently. We’re about to start studying The Bell Jar and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and it’s a major theme in both of these texts. In Thursday’s lesson, we were discussing the association of madness with creative types and how many famous writers and artists have committed suicide. It’s a sobering thought, especially with the statistics that 80% of writers have depression and writers are twice as likely to commit suicide. Nice. Totally a stable job.

Of course, I believe that the cause and effect thing here is important to consider – is it because sensitive types become writers, or because people who are writers become more sensitive?

As we discussed this topic, we started looking at definitions of madness and insanity. What is mad? How would you define insanity? Our teacher shared a quote about how madness is being so unwilling to accept the reality we live in that we create a new one for ourselves, and this made me start thinking about a few of the shows I’ve watched that explored this idea.

Supernatural (series seven)

Quick recap, which may be spoilerish for earlier seasons, but most people have got past this point already: Sam’s been in a super high security part of Hell for a year with Lucifer and Michael. He got out, but at the cost of his soul. However, they managed to get that back too, but unfortunately, it’s fairly screwed up as a result of spending all that time being tortured. The ‘wall’ guarding him from it and its potential effects on his body has broken down. Now he’s going crazy… or is he?

Lucifer turns up and basically tells Sam that what he’s seeing aren’t hallucinations – they’re the truth. This world he’s in right now is the made-up reality. Sam asks why it’s so screwed up, and Lucifer replies that Sam would never have believed in an idyllic reality, because he’s never known one.

I’ve only seen four episodes of this series, so I can’t tell you what the verdict was. At the point I’ve reached, Sam is still questioning reality, and beginning to find his own ways of determining whether he’s in the real world or whether he’s being tricked. Lucifer is playing games with his mind, including taking on the appearance of his brother Dean, and the only way Sam can keep control is by causing himself physical pain, which loosens the control that Lucifer has over his mind and allows him to recognise what is ‘real’ and what is a hallucination.

Relevant? Definitely. If Sam was mad, then this created reality thing is just right. It’s not perfect, because he wouldn’t know how to deal with that. It’s what he would want instead of hell. But if he’s not mad, then who is?

Being Human (series five)

Note that I’m talking about the UK show, not the US spin off. Series five was the last series, or so say the BBC, which I personally think is a great shame. In the final episode, each of the main characters is placed into a created reality by the devil (yeah, I know, the shows I watch have things in common). They recognise it as being fake, however, because they don’t have their friends there with them, and it’s adorable and cute.

It seems that because of this realisation, they beat the devil and are living a normal, human life together, all three of them. But there’s a clue at the end in the form of an origami wolf that suggests this is a false reality, created by the devil using the idea they gave him (to put the three of them together). In an additional scene released online later, it was proved that this theory was correct, and the characters became aware of this by the too-perfect world. They decided to try and break out and beat the devil, and that’s where it ended.

So the world being too-perfect is a sign of it not being real? There’s something in that. It’s like as people we’re programmed not to expect things to go well. If they do, something’s wrong. The world that people escape into when they can’t stand their own reality isn’t necessarily perfect, because they don’t know how to deal with that – it’s just different.

Hannibal (series one)

Will Graham doesn’t create a reality to escape. But his empathy disorder is driving him slowly mad. He no longer knows who he is and whether he’s the murderer or not. He has nightmares. He sleepwalks.

I don’t blame him. His job is rough. For those who don’t know, he has the capability to put himself in the shoes of anybody, and for this reason, he’s invaluable at crime scenes, where he can extrapolate from the evidence the actions that must have led to the murder. Not everybody is all that appreciative of this talent, and some are downright suspicious of his ability to understand murderers. One of the other characters says, “He understands insane people, because he is insane.”

Is he actually crazy? That’s something that I intend to find out when I watch more. I know he needs help, and a hug, and a friend who isn’t a cannibal. I know that he is one of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know, however, whether you would call him ‘insane’.

But I think he comes the closest of the characters on this list, and I think there’s a reason for that. It’s not the world he can’t understand or is struggling to decipher as ‘real’ or ‘not real’. When it’s the world, there are external influences (in both of the examples above, that’s Lucifer, but let’s not dwell too long on the lack of variety in my TV shows), and it’s partly to do with those that we can tell what’s real and not. There are other people and other factors to consider.

But when it’s inside your head, it’s a whole lot harder. When it’s you, and you don’t know who you are, and you can’t tell whether what you’re thinking is real or not … that’s a whole lot scarier.

It’s something you don’t know if you can fight off. It’s something nobody else can really help you fight off, either. Notice that in my previous two examples, they have help: Sam has Dean, and Alex, Tom and Hal are a team.

Will needs somebody to help him figure out his head, and help him know who he is.

Unfortunately, his psychiatrist eats people.

13 thoughts on “You Can Taste The Crazy

  1. That last sentence . . . . I really really really want to watch this show now, but I’m pretty convinced I’d drive myself mad watching it.

    As for madness itself, I’d actually say that trying to define it is actually pretty pointless. The whole reason madness is as it is is because it IS unexplainable. It is pure irrationality, it is chaos, condensed and clamped inside a human skull with no guidelines and no off switch. But for something so universal, it’s also horrifically individual too – madness bends itself around the mind it inhabits, opens up its weaknesses and happily vivisects every vulnerability and repressed fear there that provides an outlet.

    Sometimes we put labels and symptoms and give it names like ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘psychosis’, but in my opinion it all stems down to one thing – and that is chaos, provaricated and raging out of control, in the human mind.

  2. ^That was poetic indeed, the above comment about chaos and so forth. I was going to make a “This is SPARTAAAA!” reference but that seems decidedly unpoetic now.
    I did wonder why they kept Loki around. Now I know! I would’ve asked, but I gather that whole thing is a Thor point with him. #wompwomp.

  3. With Being Human you mention perfect worlds, and that really reminded me of something from The Matrix. Now, I don’t actually remember things terribly well, but this one comment from The Matrix stuck with me. I believe it was Agent Smith who said that they had created a wonderful, happy (Matrix) world for humans, but that humans had immense difficulty accepting that world and there were a lot of problems until they created the Matrix in which people are miserable and suffer. And I just thought that was a fascinating idea. That humans cannot accept a perfect/happy world. It just doesn’t work for us.

    Anyway, interesting post. I especially like how you described Will/Hannibal. I actually did give it a try, but I think it’s a bit too grim for me. As sad as this is . . . I get nightmares from things that are too gruesome. I’ve convinced myself that this means I have an active imagination & that’s a good thing, but at my age it’s just a little sad – and it means I have to be careful what I watch. So Hannibal is not for me. Hope you keep enjoying, though!

    1. Oh, I’d forgotten that line from the Matrix! Yes, that’s another example of perfect realities just not working for humans. Thanks for reminding me.
      I don’t blame you for getting nightmares. I find Hannibal okay because most of the gore is wounds that have already been inflicted, rather than people being wounded on-screen (though there are a few moments of that). I hate seeing someone get stabbed on TV, but I’m not hugely bothered by seeing a stab wound … I think it’s an empathy thing, because if I see them get injured, I instantly imagine their pain. However, a mangled corpse is already dead, and that’s not as bad. (Though when they’re describing people being tormented while still alive … yeah, that gets me.) So I don’t find Hannibal as hard to watch as Supernatural or something.

      1. Yeah. I definitely am more likely to get nightmares from things that really get my imagination going (like Supernatural), but when there are just really creepy/crazy people in a show, it’s not good when I’m home alone at night.

        So I suppose I get daymares (or awake nightmares?) from shows like Hannibal and actual nightmares from shows like Supernatural that really prey on my imagination.

        In other words, I’m a wuss about some things, and it’s a little sad b/c some of those are things I know I could really enjoy – like Supernatural and Grimm. Fortunately there are still shows like Once Upon A Time and Castle (crime solving with out all the creeps!) and a new favorite Continuum (a sci fi sort of crime-drama about a cool super cop who goes back in time and works to stop criminals from her time.)

  4. Oh joy, writing seems like a great career choice. :/

    Nice post, although it might have made more sense if I actually watched those shows. Yes, it definitely would have. I’d rather read or use the computer than watch something (and when I do watch something, it’s usually a movie), hence I don’t follow any shows.

    1. … I watch shows on the computer and often surf Tumblr at the same time, so… ehehe! I’ve taken to walking on the cross-trainer while I watch them, though, and that makes it productive time, as well as encouraging me to exercise more.
      Seriously, though, I think TV is a great medium for stories. While I’m a lover of books above movies or anything else, I love how characters, concepts and ideas translate differently into television than they do in novels, and I particularly love really clever shows that ask so many questions and bring up such massive issues.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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