The Silent Lambs Should Scream – Empowering Women

~~~A Silence of the Lambs film review and analysis~~~

With Academy Award, Golden Globe awards and many others, the brilliant actors and director of Silence of the Lambs did not fail to impress. The film’s success came as no surprise seeing as its talented stars, Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins have only ever succeeded in their past films, T.V. shows or Shakespearean plays. The duo worked perfectly at creating horrifically believable scenes of psychopathy, murder, insanity and an oddly formed friendships. Goosebumps overcame me when Clarice (Jodie Foster) found such trust in Hannibal Lector (Andy Hopkins) that she dared touch his murderous hand. Perhaps my favourite line was Hannibal’s joke, “People will say we’re in love, Clarice,” for I really did believe they were on some level. I noticed that director Jonathan Demme picked the perfect date of Valentine’s day to release this creepy thriller–perfect for couples to cling to each other in fear throughout. Couples must have clung for a long time though as the movie’s suspenseful plot spanned a period of two and a half hours. Nevertheless, Demme’s wisely placed symbolic messages throughout the film made up for the length and place my rating at four out of five stars.

Someone who has observed farm animals knows it only takes the farmer a single cry into a field to herd sheep or lambs towards a desired direction. One may then view this film as a symbolic cry to change society’s women who, like lambs, often play obedient, subservient roles to men in positions of power. Demme is crying out, hoping to guide women in oppressive situations to a new path where they are empowered to speak up in a man’s world. He demonstrates this by his film’s female protagonist, Clarice (Jodie Foster), struggling to prove herself as more than a “hot” co-worker in her male-dominated industry. This resembles the experiences of several women in the workforce during that time period…and the experiences of some women today. Various scenes highlight Clarice’s difference from the men. From the elevator scene, we know Clarice is considered different for she is dressed in an innocent baby blue while all surrounding men wear bold red. The camera pans around a full-circle of men blatantly staring at Clarice like they’ve never seen a woman in their level of work before–which they likely haven’t. However, after years of attempts from  “strong, superior” men to crack Hannibal Lector, it is Clarice who he trusts. Of all the men, it is an “inferior” female that this highly intelligent Dr. Lector delivers hints to; he sees, within her, an intelligence comparable to his. Clearly he has never seen this in any of the men thus has never engaged them in the way he does Clarice. Dr. Lector never stops requesting tasks of Clarice that are past her comfort zone. This is because, unlike any psychologist proceeding her, he knows she is strong enough to take it. These are choices of the director, trying to show that women can be just as strong and mighty as men. Finally, Clarice manages to single-handedly defeat the Buffalo Bill Killer, proving strength, smarts and bravery. Viewers must finally see her, and the real-life women she represents, under an equal light of strength and power to the one that shines on men.

Butterflies, which are said to symbolize change in the movie, are at this point shown on a two-sided spinning poster. The first side is a large, mighty, bright butterfly beside a tiny one and the second side has a single mighty butterfly. As the poster spins, the two sides flip like an animation and the small butterfly appears to morph into one with the large butterfly. This can be interpreted as Demme’s wish for society at the time. He wanted women, being outshadowed by the power of men, to morph like a butterfly into one equal body of power with them. In my western culture, women’s’ rights have certainly improved since that time and Demme’s wish can be said to almost have come true. However, there still exist biases in our culture and the cultures of others. It is often reported that women in developing countries heavily experience these biases. Take for example, that  only one in every nine cases of rape is reported to the police in South Africa according to The Economist. Take for example the Saudi Arabian women who have only  been legally able to register for university, jobs or surgery without permission from their male guardian, since May 2017. Clearly we as a society have have a lot of work to do before Demme’s wish of equality has been fully realized.

The movie’s title Silence of the Lambs can then be understood as the silence of women to this unfair bias in society. Women and those in power must learn to scream out against this injustice, just as the lambs at Clarice’s ranch screamed out against slaughter. Just like the old rhyme, our society is Mary, and we must stop treating our little lambs of women like they are inferior in smarts or power. For if “everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go” then anywhere that society progress will carry an inhibiting resentment harboured by women. If we let our world’s nations continue divided in half because of inequality between genders, we sure won’t get very far.

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