Hannibal and the paradox of disgust

Alberto N. García
  • Continuum, July 2019, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/10304312.2019.1641180

Why we enjoy 'Hannibal,' a bloody and beautiful TV-Series

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

What is it about?

'Hannibal' (NBC 2013–15) is a bloody and violent television series that also displays an embellished and self-consciously expressive visual style. This article explores the disparity between aesthetic pleasure and repugnance, an issue that scholars working in aesthetic theory have dubbed the ‘paradox of disgust’. It begins by focusing on the specific qualities of disgust among the so-called ‘negative’ emotions in art, and develops this analysis through a close reading of significant scenes in Hannibal. Drawing on Strohl’s ‘hedonic ambivalence’, the article argues that 'Hannibal' intensifies its aesthetic value precisely by visually boosting the paradox of disgust, maximizing both aversion and pleasure simultaneously. However, the article also shows that 'Hannibal' attempts to circumvent the paradox of disgust by prompting an ‘aestheticist turn’, embodied in the experience of protagonist Will Graham.

Why is it important?

The article explores an essential issue in the contemporary televisual landscape: why the audience can feel attracted to scenes that repel us, at first sight? How does the dichotomy fascination-disgust work? The mesmerizing TV-Series 'Hannibal' (NBC, 2013-15) is one of the peaks of such aesthetic conundrum.

Perspectives

Alberto N. García
Universidad de Navarra

Writing this article has been the most compelling intellectual task in my academic life. It is also an outstanding research outcome after spending one year as Visiting Professor at the University of Queensland (Australia), where I benefited from the insights of the scholars working on "Television Aesthetics."

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2019.1641180

The following have contributed to this page: Alberto N. García