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Why is Hollywood So Obsessed with Men Eating Men?

Armie Hammer Cannibal
Armie Hammer Cannibal

It’s hard to tell so far if 2021 will be worse than 2020. But two weeks in, it certainly is so much weirder. From an attack on the nation’s Capitol, to that Azaelia Banks video, and now Armie Hammer is … an alleged cannibal? Really?

*Content warning: Some of the following may be tough for readers with a more active stomach. Proceed with caution.

For those of you fortunate enough to have missed it—and boy, do I envy you—multiple women have released Instagram DMs allegedly written by Hammer claiming the “Call Me By Your Name” actor described various sexual fantasies going as far as, well, consuming human flesh (Note: These images have not as of yet been verified). Hammer has since denied these accusations, just as a very serious allegation from his ex surfaces. If you’re as uncomfortable as I am, then congrats, you are not a cannibal! But it may be high time to re-examine why Hollywood has such a fascination with these stories.

Of course, cannibalism is not isolated to Hollywood. Real life instances such as the Donner Party, Jeffrey Dahmer, and even many countries’ histories are rife with cannibalistic acts. But Hollywood’s excitement for it centers around the dreaded mystery and uncertainty about where, and with whom, it can manifest.  

From the controversial “Cannibal Holocaust” to more recent works like “Santa Clarita Diet” (yes, I would argue this show is more cannibal than zombie), entertainment is rife with cannibals. But what launched the cannibal as a staple of cinema was, of course, the aptly named Hannibal Lecter (seriously, how did the cops not catch him sooner?). What separates a character like Dr. Lecter from a flesh-eating zombie is that Hannibal can blend in. 

Sheila Hammond from Santa Clarita is just a normal suburban mom, and Hannibal is a highly respected forensic psychiatrist. The appeal to audiences is the terror in believing any seemingly normal person could have these hidden undertones. More grotesque than a serial killer or a psychopath (although often combined with one of these), but equally invisible, the cannibal is particularly appealing for storytellers as a tool of deception. They succeed in juxtaposing the civilized and the savage, the benign and the unnatural. 

Whether this Armie Hammer story proves to be fruitful—and it has already cost him a movie—there is no denying: Hollywood is nowhere near done with men eating men. 

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