• Outrageous Sirk-umstances: Hannibal and the Aesthetics of Excess

    Lori Morimoto (see profile)
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Feasting on Hannibal: An Interdisciplinary Conference
    Conf. Org.:
    School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne
    Conf. Loc.:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Conf. Date:
    November 30, 2016
    Hannibal, Douglas Sirk, Excess
    Permanent URL:
    Michael Newman and Elana Levine observe that “much of what we identify as Quality, complex, and sophisticated in American television since at least the 1980s achieves that status in part through its ability to mark itself off from soap opera” (2012, 99), particularly through the rejection or containment of signifiers of soap opera’s feminine orientation. At the same time, ‘Quality TV’ is equally distinguished from quotidian, feminized television through its deployment of cinematic aesthetics. Newman and Levine cite widescreen as one key signifier of this more ‘cinematic’ (thus critically and artistically legitimated) aesthetic. To this I would add moments of cinematographic excess that both draw attention to a show’s filmic aesthetics and demonstrate its film literacy. In Hannibal, such literacy is generally attributed to its overt references to the visually excessive films of Stanley Kubrick, David Cronenberg, and Brian DePalma, each of whose masculinist orientation is all but fixed. This paper proposes an alternative lens through which we might consider Hannibal’s aesthetics of excess; namely, the cinematic style of Douglas Sirk’s 1950s melodramas. Sirk’s films have received critical approbation for how they enact a Brechtian break from a film’s narrative through moments of overdetermined visual excess; moments that legitimate his films as ‘serious’ along the same gendered lines as Quality TV. Yet, as such scholars as Linda Williams, Ken Feil, and Barbara Klinger have argued, Sirk’s films are nonetheless melodramas – both intellectual and affective, troubling the gender distinctions on which their critical legitimacy rests. In this paper, I argue that Hannibal’s own aesthetics of excess equally trouble the gendered norms of Quality TV through Quality TV, critiquing from the inside even as it luxuriates in its own decadence, an “argument… that effect[s] an excess of pleasure in the viewer” (Winters 2012, 4.4).
    Last Updated:
    7 years ago
    All Rights Reserved


    Item Name: pdf outrageous_sirk-umstances_hannibal_and_t.pdf
      Download View in browser
    Activity: Downloads: 134