A Cannibal’s Sermon: Hannibal Lecter, Sympathetic Villainy and Moral Revaluation


  • Aaron Taylor University of Lethbridge, Canada


Friedrich Nietzsche, Hannibal Lecter, horror, narratology, sympathy


Sympathizing with villains in horror cinema seems to present us with a kind of moral paradox: we occasionally form allegiances with these immoral individuals despite the prohibitions against condoning behaviour we know to be despicable. Confronted with the challenge that so-called “perverse allegiance” seems to present to one’s moral integrity, a viewer may contend with this paradox by locating pragmatic moral value through this very act of taxing sympathy. Through a close study of Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Hannibal (2001) that employs the Nietzschean concept of revaluation, it is suggested that horror cinema occasionally represents characters whose evil actually represents a valuable critique of specious moral norms. The figure of Hannibal Lecter seems to transcend those limited (and limiting) ethical strictures, and in so doing, reworks a conventional moral framework informed by outmoded Judeo-Christian values.
Rather than being conceived of as antithetical to the good, Lecter’s cruelty may be recognised as an important albeit neglected aspect of our conception of kindness.




How to Cite

Taylor, A. (2013). A Cannibal’s Sermon: Hannibal Lecter, Sympathetic Villainy and Moral Revaluation. Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, (4), 184–208. Retrieved from https://cinema.fcsh.unl.pt/index.php/revista/article/view/135