Flesh and Blood

This post may be a bit raw, but there's reason for it. Just warning you if you're squeamish, you may not want to read on.

Only hours after going under the knife this past Tuesday, I found myself holed up in bed, watching two particularly fleshy dramas: Jonathan Levine's Warm Bodies and NBC's Hannibal. 

Don't ask me why those were the two media outlets I latched onto after having a growth removed from my ear. You would think that while popping painkillers I would want to escape from what I had just experienced under local anesthesia, or that movies and shows about flesh and blood would not be the right comfort. But nope! I'm silly.

Two different depictions of flesh became clear while I watched--one in Warm Bodies, and the opposite in Hannibal. Warm Bodies is told from the point of view of a romantic zombie who falls for a human. I know, it sounds gimmicky, but it works, mostly thanks to Nicholas Hoult's convincing zombie/human balancing act. As his character 'R' eats human brains or receives a knife in his chest, his dead flesh and that of the humans he eats seems trivial and unimportant, just a corporeal encasing. All that matters is the heart and soul that makes up these creatures, not whether their flesh is decaying or alive.

R in Warm Bodies does not have a warm body. 

On the other hand, Hannibal is all about flesh and blood as signifier. Killers, cannibals, and even cops are defined in this show by their fascination with, ability to identify, and temptation to destroy, flesh. It's a very gruesome show, with lots of splattering and high-production-value gunfire. It's too bad the narrative tends not to explain itself well, dropping plot leads and secondary characters who could be intriguing too quickly in order to concentrate on its monotonous central pair, Dr. Lector (played by Danish heartthrob Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). With more investigation into the killers and less role-play between deranged psychiatrist and afflicted subject, the show could the enthralling psychological thriller it strives to be. But that's not my point.

My point is that I feel so immune to flesh and blood on screen, but in real life it's still very raw. I was awake during the procedure on Tuesday, which meant that from my reclining position I got to see my own blood get sucked into a tube and a piece of my ear get clipped off, trimmed, and reattached. As it was happening, I had the strange distance of a curious moviegoer, wondering what they were doing next and why my blood was so pink. But since I've been out of there and the pain has surfaced, I get queasy whenever I picture that sliver of my own skin lying on the surgical table.

Which is reassuring, in a way. I'm glad to realize that our cinema culture of ultraviolence has not completely penetrated my everyday relationship towards flesh and blood. I'm still sensitive, like my throbbing ear.

L'auberge espagnole over the years

Melodrama and Performance in The Real L Word