By Michelle Lynn Tackett
Buffalo Bill is often used to mock transgender people. He wants to wear women’s skin, and the famous scene of him tucking his penis causes some to think he is transgender. This is a very big mischaracterization of the character according to director Johnathan Demme. From an article published by Slate, the interview was done by Film Comment,
“He described the killer as “someone who is so completely, completely horrified by who he is that his desperation to become someone completely other is manifested in his ill-guided attempts at transvestism, and behavior and mannerisms that can be interpreted as gay.” To be fair, Demme is correct—in the movie, Hannibal Lecter posits that Gumb apes queer and trans people because they’re the most outré, far-off identities he can imagine—the ultimate escape.”
The problem comes from the context. Anyone who listened to Hannibal will know he said that Buffalo Bill wasn’t transgender, but some missed the analogy it seems. Transphobes use Buffalo Bill as an example of how trans people are mentally disturbed. Is it the movie’s fault? No. Buffalo Bill wants to transform into another person, not another gender.
The movie could’ve done a better job of distinguishing how Buffalo Bill was not transgender. This caused Ted Levine to get unnecessary heat. The actor who played Buffalo Bill hated the backlash. Screenhub interviewed with Ted Levine and they said,
” Realizing that the LGBT community had nothing to do with his character, Levine set out to search for a new angle by which to play him, insisting on not playing the character as gay. Rather, he tried to play the character as someone who despised homosexuals and transgender people to mask his insecurities.”
Jonathan Demme and Ted Levine claim they weren’t stereotyping gays or trans people, does that make it true? No, but there’s no evidence of them being homophobic or transphobic. It’s not wise to make accusations without proof. Until there is evidence, Buffalo Bill isn’t transgender.
Trans people have been represented horribly in pop culture. Look at Ace Ventura Pet Detective. That’s a blatant example of transphobia. It’s not the director or the actor’s fault if some misinterpret the character. This won’t stop some from using him, but if we educate people that Buffalo Bill isn’t trans, trolls will stop using him. Without evidence, the Silence of the Lambs is not transphobic.