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HANNIBAL: Intimate, Visceral… and Asexual?

The Hannibal renaissance attracting fans new and old to the three-season arc now streaming on Netflix has Fannibals asking two important questions. First: Can we expect a season four? In the Nerdist-hosted reunion, cast and crew dropped hints that the creators of Hannibal are open to a fourth season. And second: If the show does return, will Hannigram make the cannibalistic beast with two backs?

As it became obvious across the show’s three seasons that Hannibal would deny himself no carnal pleasure, fans inevitably grew to wonder if Hannibal would take his relationship with Will into a sexual realm. Though creator Bryan Fuller, also famous for directing one of the most innovative and gratuitous (and emotionally satisfying) sex scenes between Salim and the Jinn in American Gods, admitted that a sexual exploration of Will and Hannibal’s relationship would be interesting subject matter, he also made a point of addressing the asexual Fannibal audience and the show’s exploration of intimacy without sex.

Hannibal and holds Will's head in his hands.

Sony Pictures Television

“One of my favorite things about talking with the Fannibal community is that there is a wide variety of people who experience sex and sexuality in completely different ways,” Fuller said at the reunion, “ranging from asexual to pansexual, and some of my favorite conversations have been with the asexual members of the Fannibal community who, you know, feel a lot of stress from society to function as sexual beings when they don’t feel it or don’t feel safe in expressing themselves that way. And what was safe for them with Hannibal and Will was that their love was about love purely and not necessarily sexuality.”

For this particular group of Fannibals, the non-sexual relationship between Will and Hannibal created something even more appealing. Asexual Fannibals have been rabid in their praise of the exploration of an infinitely intimate relationship that doesn’t express itself through sex. As an asexual Fannibal myself, I am attracted to the smorgasbord of sensory delights in the show’s aesthetic (especially the food artistry by Janice Poon) and the expertly rendered performances. The visual feast aesthetic of the production design creates an atmosphere so dense it hums and vibrates. It breathes and beats against the chest. It begs to be bitten into. But the whirring hum of sexual thrill is like a high frequency my brain will not register.

Will points a gun; Hannibal clasps Will's armed hand.

Sony Pictures Television

As we are lately gaining a little more mainstream attention I think it’s important to state that asexual people do not indulge by sitting in a cement room, wearing beige, reading municipal codes, and snacking on plain oatmeal all day. We crave. We hunger. We don’t shy away from sex out of a sense of puritanical morality, nor do we restrain ourselves from enjoying the things that truly give us pleasure.

The examination in Hannibal of desire and appetite, of intimate relationships, is entirely appealing to asexual sensibilities especially because these are explored through the lens of a relationship that increases in its depth and complexity without entering romantic or sexual territory. This particular focus on intimacy between minds gave asexual Fannibals an accessible window into the exploration of desire, which actor Hugh Dancy referred to as the “mutual recognition” between Will and Hannibal. “It’s two people who have been, if not lonely, completely unique and felt that way for the whole of their lives,” Dancy said. He compared this mutual recognition to being a chess prodigy in a world in which no one even knows what chess is, and suddenly in walks a person carrying a chess board under their arm. “But with a lot of blood, of course,” Dancy added.

Will stares off, while Hannibal stands behind him.

Sony Pictures Television

Mikkelsen touched briefly on the appeal of Hannibal and Will exploring sex in fan fiction, but also illuminated that Hannibal and Will, two men traveling through the world with an invisible and ever-present darkness in their hearts, long most for the quiet intimacy of being seen and understood by the person whose darkness mirrors their own. “There’s always one person in the room that you want to see you, and that person rarely puts his or her eyes on you,” said Mikkelsen, echoing one of Hannibal’s lines from the season two finale: “I let you know me, see me.

Hannibal afforded asexual fans an exploration of the sensuous and intimate as Hannibal and Will tenderly probed the darkness in one another, prodding a non-sexual yet entirely thrilling darkness inside of us into wakefulness. For asexual Fannibals, it is not that the existence of a dam-bursting sex scene between Will and Hannibal would be a turn-off. However, in watching their relationship deepen without sex, in hearing Bryan Fuller address platonic intimacy, it has been deliciously validating to be seen.

Featured Image: Sony Pictures Television

Amani Hamed is a writer, blogger, and film critic. When not writing, she can be found scrounging for chocolate or placating her feline overlord, Kirin. Follow her on Twitter @Amani_Marie_.