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.
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.