One of the most iconic horror villains, Hannibal Lecter, has undoubtedly left his mark on pop culture forever. He has also left his teeth marks on several victims, both in novels, film, and even a short-lived TV series. What is it about this brilliant, cultured cannibal that sticks with us, like stubborn pieces of meat caught between our teeth? An equally interesting question: How would you survive an encounter with Hannibal Lecter if he were a real person?
Though I haven’t read the novels (sorry), I have seen every one of the movies and watched one season of Hannibal. I feel informed enough to take a crack at this question, and devise some approaches for staying off this maniac’s menu.
A good start? Be Clarice Starling. Some people, like Clarice, Lecter simply likes, for one reason or another. He identifies with them seemingly instantly. Unfortunately, you’re probably no Clarice Starling. Still, no matter who you are, one of the best approaches is to not be rude to him or other people in his presence. Ironically, Lecter is known to chow down on people he finds distasteful, calling them the “free range rude”. This means you should be polite, considerate, and not bigoted.
You should also not be a murderer, rapist or pedophile (and, actually, you shouldn’t be any of those anyway). You should be intelligent around him and able to carry on a conversation, but you shouldn’t try to outshine him in any way. Being competitive, he may take such a thing personally, and therefore add you to his diet plan. However, even being nice to him could carry risks. Lecter is a narcissist, so he may respond to compliments favorably. However, he would undoubtedly see through false flattery, so you’d want to choose even compliments wisely, and put them in a proper context. If you don’t do that, he may not trust you. Even worse, he may assume you’re simply lying to him for disproportionate advantage. He probably won’t have that if he can help it.
On top of this, Dr. Lecter loves getting inside people’s heads, and apparently not to just help them out. With only rare exception, Hannibal the Cannibal will derive sadistic pleasure from making you confront some darkness, some weakness from your past. This is not a mental confrontation you will likely win, as the game will be rigged somehow in his favor. After all, this is a man who convinced the pedophilic Mason Verger to take PCP and carve up his own face, feed parts of it to his dogs, eat his own nose, then hang himself (though, in the novel, I’ve heard what Verger’s sister does to him is actually weirder).
Perhaps better than all these options: Try to stay anonymous and out of his hair altogether. He can strike for even flimsy reasons if he sees fit. For example, he killed flutist Benjamin Raspail for playing poorly in concert, then he served parts of his body at a dinner party to the board of the Philharmonic Orchestra.
If you get far enough on his bad side, it’s difficult to say exactly how you could defeat him in battle. Despite being relatively small in stature, he is definitely a force to be reckoned with due to his high intelligence and animal cunning. He strikes relentlessly — viciously — without hesitation and ultimately rises above most of his opponents. In many ways, you would need to be equally matched with Dr. Lecter in order to stand a chance, because physical strength would likely not be enough against such a foe. In fact, heightened endurance would probably be more crucial than sheer muscle. Weapons could certainly help, as Lecter is a mortal man. Still, of the best weapons against him would be your own intelligence and evasive maneuvering.
Hypothetically, these considerations could keep you off of Hannibal Lecter’s menu. One last thing: You probably don’t want to steal any of his personal recipes. Even average chefs don’t take kindly to that.