JK Rowling’s new book sparks fierce debate as to whether or not Silence of the Lambs is transphobic
JK Rowling has released a new book which, in an unexpected turn of events, has put Silence of the Lambs under the spotlight.
Troubled Blood, the fifth book released under Rowling’s Robert Galbraith pseudonym, has earned the author heavy criticism after an early review revealed it includes a “cross-dressing serial killer”.
Immediately, comparisons were drawn between the 900-page tome and Silence of the Lambs, the 1988 Thomas Harris novel that introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter.
Both the book and its multi-Oscar winning adaptation follow FBI trainee Clarice Starling as she investigates a serial killer nicknamed Buffalo Bill, who murders women and fashions their skin into a “woman suit”.
Supporters of Rowling are using Lambs as a defence against criticism of Troubled Blood, arguing that if her book is to be condemned, so too must Harris’.
Some have argued that Harris escapes criticism because he is a man, painting the backlash against Rowling as one of misogyny. However critics of the Harry Potter author note that the differing context of both books.
As writer Jeanna Louise Skinner noted, the argument that Silence of the Lambs suffered no backlash of its own is “disingenuous” being that when its movie adaptation was nominated at the 1992 Oscars, there were huge protests outside of the ceremony venue from LGBT+ groups.
Saying no one had a problem with The Silence of The Lambs or Psycho or Brian de Palma's Dressed To Kill is disingenuous. There were actual protests at The Oscars because of Silence, even though Thomas Harris makes it clear that his serial killer is not trans.
— Jeanna Louise Skinner (@JeannaLStars) September 15, 2020
Many pointed out the difference in expectations for a book released in 2020 versus one released in 1988.
Yes I've seen Silence of the Lambs it's great
I know there are lots of "transvestite killers" in pop culture. That's the point
We're in 2020 now and these harmful myths are being used to enact laws against trans people who we now know face horrific violence just for being trans
— Paris Lees (@parislees) September 14, 2020
Plenty of ppl have been calling out The Silence of The Lambs for misogyny and transphobia.
JK also passed the year attacking trans ppl, when she has access to much more information and understanding on trans issues than Harris had in 1988. https://t.co/P36vbQu55k
— Audrey (@AudreyAurus1) September 15, 2020
YouTuber Kat Blaque summed up the debate with a succinct take: that the ‘trope of a man dressing as a woman and killing women… has been done to death’.
Silence of the Lambs actually makes a point of expressing that the serial killer isn't transgender. BUT I don't think that really matters to most transphobes. The trope of a man dressing as a woman and killing women out of jealousy/sexual fascination has been done to death. https://t.co/g2FWzpSILI
— Mona Lisa Needsa Treatsa (@kat_blaque) September 14, 2020
Over the decades there has been much debate on whether Silence of the Lambs is transphobic.
In the book Lecter states that “Billy’s not [transgender]… but he thinks he is, he tries to be”, which has been interpreted in various ways.
However one thing Lambs makes clear, via Clarice, is that “there’s no correlation… between [being trans] and violence”.
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Troubled Blood first made headlines following a Telegraph review which described it as one “whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress”.
The crime novel is the author’s first adult release since her “TERF wars” essay, which set out her position on trans rights to the disdain of many in the trans community.