Problematic Pairings – Hannigram

UGH! I deleted my entire Tumblr account by mistake! I’m such an ass. Well…*sigh* anyway…

Hey, guys. So I just finished the first season of NBC Hannibal. And it got me thinking. So today, we’re going to be discussing problematic ships. And no, I don’t mean like the Titanic. I mean romantic fictional pairings (canon or not) that could be considered controversial. Now, as you probably drew from the title, the topic of focus will the “flag”ship of the Hannibal fandom, that’s right, you guessed it, Hannigram (Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham).

Nothing is completely black and white. Every ship has its issues. From the fairly vanilla pairings like Destiel, to the highly problematic like Harley Quinn/Joker, every ship has room for discussion about serious issues like whether or not the relationship is healthy. Hannibal centers around the relationship between the infamous cannibalistic psychopath, Hannibal Lecter, and the forensic scientist destined to bring him down, Will Graham. Unlike most m/m pairings, this one is actually canon, according to series creator Bryan Fuller. While they never kiss onscreen, their relationship is quite plain. The cinematography is set up to make the viewer subconsciously pick up on romantic/sexual undertones to their scenes together. Hannibal and Will even canonically have a “daughter” together. They’re good friends (in the beginning, at least), and Hannibal, despite being a psychopath, seems to legitimately care about Will.

However, that doesn’t stop Hannibal from framing Will for the murders he commits in season 1, which result in Will being incarcerated in a mental hospital for the criminally insane, or taking advantage of Will’s fragile sanity to make him a killer like himself. So is this relationship healthy? Obviously not. Not even taking into consideration that Hannibal is a serial murderer who eats people.

These kinds of problems arise when shipping the protagonist with the villain and they need to be addressed. Just how problematic is Hannigram?

Well, let’s compare it to two other popular enemyslash pairings. Take for example, Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty from BBC Sherlock. I’ve talked about Sherlock at length before, but in brief, Sherlock is a show about the famous British detective, set in the 21st century. In this adaptation, James Moriarty, Holmes’ classic arch nemesis and hacky gay stereotype, is in love with Sherlock Holmes and wants him all for himself. He’s been stalking Sherlock since they were tweens, and his long game is to “burn the heart out of Sherlock”, or in other words, to make him insane and evil like himself. Apart from the intellectual challenges Moriarty presents in “The Great Game” and wanting to bring him to justice for his crimes, Sherlock is not interested in Moriarty in the slightest, is afraid of him, and just wants to be left alone by him. This is not a pairing I support. Moriarty is a stalker and an abuser (and possibly a sex offender?), and Sherlock wants nothing to do with him. There’s no question here that this pairing is toxic.

But on the flip side of the scale, let’s talk about a pair of friendly enemies. Two individuals who have known each other since they were kids, who enjoy their battles with each other, who have actually saved each other’s lives on multiple occasions and had proper freak-outs at the prospect of the other’s death, and despite being mortal enemies, consider themselves best friends: the Doctor and the Master from Doctor Who. There are of course problematic aspects to this relationship, such as the Master’s possessiveness of the Doctor and gleeful willingness to murder any and all of the Doctor’s friends to have him all to his/her/themself. This relationship is so bipolar; you can have the Master slapping a tied down, defenseless Doctor, and the two of them sacrificing their lives for each other with tearful, loving, shared gazes, in the same episode (I could write a novel on “The End Of Time”). At the end of the day, while their relationship obviously generates issues, and certainly isn’t the healthiest, the two are on an equal level, enjoy each other’s company (to a point), and are usually hungry for more interaction. There’s a reason this pairing is nicknamed “Best Enemies”.

So that’s an example of a very negative and a (mostly) positive relationship between two enemies. But where does Hannigram fit in? Well, there’s pros and cons to Hannibal and Will’s relationship to be sure. I can’t call myself an authority because I haven’t seen the whole series, but even in the first season, the homoeroticism is present. From Hannibal sniffing Will to “we will be her fathers now” to the weirdly romantic swell of music in the last scene of season 1 when Hannibal visits Will in the sanitarium (coupled with the strangely pissed-off-yet-sexual way Will says “Doctor Lecter”). Contextually speaking, Hannibal is trying to seduce Will to the dark side, so it makes sense that he should be, well…seductive. Whether or not Hannibal really has feelings for Will or if it’s all a part of the game he’s playing also should be taken into consideration: can a psychopath love? And if so, can they love selflessly? There’s a strange balance between the two men: Hannibal, being a psychopath, by definition, cannot feel empathy, and Will feels pure empathy, which fascinates Hannibal. They’re a yin and a yang, light and dark, although Will definitely grows darker thanks to Hannibal’s influence. But could the opposite happen? Could Will influence Hannibal to draw closer to the side of good?

Well, we could sit here and debate all day. I’m eager to watch the rest of the series and see how their relationship evolves, especially if the tentative season 4 comes to fruition. Thanks for reading. ~TRL