Beitrag Fr 12. Feb 2021, 11:55

‘Clarice’ Reopens Old Wound For Transgender Audience

‘Clarice’ Reopens Old Wound For Transgender Audience, But Carefully


When CBS debuts its new crime drama, Clarice, Thursday, the action picks up one year following the events portrayed in the thriller, The Silence of the Lambs: a frightening serial murder case that still haunts FBI agent Clarice Starling.

She’s not the only one. Viewers who identify as transgender are bound to find this series problematic, something its creators knew going in. They addressed the issue with reporters last week following an online premiere event.

‘There's this very strange duality of Silence of the Lambs, which is that it holds one of the greatest feminist legacies of all time, and one of the most damaging legacies for trans people of all time, if not the most,” said Alex Kurtzman, executive producer of Clarice as well as EP of four streaming series in CBS’s Star Trek franchise. “And so we just we couldn't do it authentically without addressing both of those things and still saying that we honor and love the film.”

Kurtzman is referring to a character who first appeared in Thomas Harris's 1988 psychological horror novel and the 1991 film adaptation upon which it is based: It’s Jame Gumb, aka “Buffalo Bill,” the nickname for the main antagonist of The Silence of the Lambs, played in the movie by actor Ted Levine. For the series, actor and stuntman Simon Northwood plays Buffalo Bill. In the premiere episode, he is at first seen only in glimpses, referenced in passing and in flashbacks, and whose fictional fiendishness has earned this series a 10 p.m. ET/PT time slot on CBS.

As the original story goes, Gumb failed psychological examinations for what is now referred to as gender confirmation surgery, and that rejection sent him on a killing spree in which he would kidnap overweight women, starve them, murder them, and then fashion their skin into a "woman suit" for him to wear.

“It would have felt like a glaring and frankly, irresponsible omission not to address the impact of the character Buffalo Bill on the trans community, both in the 90s and the legacy that the character still holds now 30 years later,” Kurtzman said.

To that end, Kurtzman, co-creator and co-executive producer Jenny Lumet and showrunner Elizabeth Klaviter of Grey’s Anatomy sought the advice of GLAAD’s Nick Adams, the LGBTQ group’s director of transgender representation.

"The producers of Clarice asked me to meet with the show's writers to discuss how trans people have been impacted by Hollywood's history of portraying trans people as psychopathic killers,” Adams told me in an email. “After that discussion, the show decided to bring on trans people behind the scenes to help craft a storyline that would address this issue. I was happy to introduce Jen Richards to the show's creative team."

Richards, an Emmy-nominated actor, writer and producer who appeared in Nashville on CMT and in the groundbreaking Netflix documentary Disclosure, spoke to reporters and invited guests at last week’s online premiere.

“Right prior to my coming out as trans, I started to delicately tell a few friends and colleagues I was thinking about transitioning, kind of treading water to see if I could do it successfully,” Richards recalled of her coming out about a decade ago. “And one of my colleagues, when I told her this, she just looked at me and said, ‘Do you mean like Buffalo Bill?'”

She recalled feeling “crestfallen” that someone she considered intelligent had “no other image to counter” what it meant to be transgender, just what she called an “incredibly monstrous person who literally steals the female form and tries to embody it. It was really complicated to kind of overcome that first perception of other people.”

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