Nov 22, 2018 in Analysis

The Silence of the Lambs directed by Jonathan Demme is a psychological thriller that presents some of the most magnetic characters in the history of cinematography. Among such, one may be captivated by an inexperienced and even, to some extent, naive Clarice Starling trying to find at least a small hint at the investigation of the serial murderer Buffalo Bill’s evil deeds. The director of the movie created a contrast opposition of the weak detective and strong serial killer. The character of Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial murderer who makes not only this young girl but also the whole audience feel uncomfortable, is even more magnetic. This cruel killer knows well the nuances of human nature, he has a magnetic look, and he is good at manipulating people. He serves as a great example of a well-organized, controlling, and hypnotic killer. However, this paper will focus on the third significant character of the movie: Buffalo Bill. The aim of this work is to show that this maniac killer is a mixed type of a murderer, whose crimes and actions are well organized. He is disgusting and ghastly but still resembles a vile parody and fakeness comparing to the real serial killer Lecter.

Buffalo Bill got his nick name due to the joke of one of the FBI officers who remarked that the maniac liked to “skin his humps” similarly to the Wild West Buffalo Bill, who used to scalp the enemies. The real name of Buffalo Bill was Jame Gumb. According to the novel that was a base for the film, he was born in California by a prostitute and alcohol abuser. His mother’s miserable life is emphasized by the fact that she has even misspelled the name James in the birth certificate. One can follow the analogy of how the lack of one letter has changed not only Gumb’s name but the whole life. The lack of the mother has influenced his childhood, personal development, and further adult life. He spent his childhood in the foster care and obviously got serious deviation in the early adolescent years. The traumatic childhood of the killer has made him a psychopath who believed that he was transsexual but was mentally unstable to get a sexual reassignment surgery. In reality, Jame Gumb is not a transsexual, he simply hates his identity. According to Lecter, Gumb “was not born a criminal,” instead “a systematic abuse” throughout his life was the main factor that made him a monster. It is surprising that in adulthood, when he became a serial killer, he cared about a poodle Precious that was his real deep affection. In such a way, one can see that this cruel person still had something human in his inner world though he hated himself and everything around. After the foster homes, when Gumb was 10, he started to live with his grandparents. In two years, they became the first victims of this impulsive young guy. After the incident, the future serial killer spent some time in a psychiatric hospital, where he learnt a tailor profession. His second victim was Raspail’s lover, Klaus. As this murder was caused by anger and jealousy, one can see that the first killings were not unified into one system and were evoked by some strong emotions. The previous killings were encouraged by the desire to see “what it would be like”. Nevertheless, the further evil deeds of Gumb comprised catching six plump girls, exhausting them until they lose weight, and killing them. After that, he took away their sagged skin and tailored the suit. To his mind, such stitched garment was necessary to become a woman. Apart from skinning and sewing, Bill put into the victims’ mouths the moths that were the symbols of regeneration and turned the killings into the conscious artistic action. The number of the murders committed by Buffalo Bill during his life was at least nine. Finally, his life was ended by a shot of the young detective Clarice, whom he was stalking in the dark.

 
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Paying peculiar attention to the style of Buffalo Bill’s murders of the period that shows the good and systematic organization of his killings, one can see that Gumb was focused on the overweight women. He only chose the women who had never met him before. In order to kidnap them, he asked for help and pretended to be forceless and injured. The deceiving method gave Bill a possibility to soothe the attentiveness and watchfulness of the victims to knock them out in a sharp attack. He took the women to his house and left them in a deep well that was specially constructed in the basement. The victims stayed there for a week or more to get the skin loose and easy to be removed. The first three victims were strangulated with the help of nooses around their necks and pushed down the stairs. Afterwards, he cut different parts of the victim’s skin and used them to sew a suit. Finally, he threw the bodies into the river to hide the evidence of crimes. He chose different rivers to destroy all the possible clues for the police. However, the killings were not identical. His first victim, Fredrica Bimmel, was the third to be found because Bill weighed her body down unlike the others. The fourth victim was shot. Nevertheless, all the victims were marked with the regeneration symbol of a death's-head hawkmoth in their throats.

The serial maniac Buffalo Bill is not a completely fictional character. He is the generalized character of three real serial killers: Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, and Gary Heidnik. Ed Gein lived in the middle of the twentieth century in Wisconsin and was a highly introversive man with many scars on his body. Similarly to Jame Gumb, he was a transsexual and wanted to change his sex. Ted Bundy killed approximately thirty women in 1970’s. He was characterized by the same modus operandi that was peculiar to Buffalo Bill. He used the fake plaster bandage to attract the naive and kind women. Luring the victims by pretending to feel unwell and being unable to load an armchair into the van was a good way to capture young women. Gary Heidnik had only one common feature with Buffalo Bill: they both kept their victims in the basement in a deep well and made them starve.

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The plot of The Silence of The Lambs shows that a psychopath kidnaps and kills young women in the west of the USA. At the same time, all the killings are unified by some common characteristics, but the FBI has no real clues and traces of the murders. Paradoxically, the investigation makes the representatives of the law seek help of the imprisoned maniac Lecter, who easily discovers the motives and the identity of the serial killer. From the very first meeting, doctor Lecter gave Clarice a hint where to look for Buffalo Bill. He described his first drawing that he made on the wall of the ward and emphasized that he had seen the same picture in the Italian Belvedere. Later, Starling found out that Jame Gumb lived in Belvedere, Ohio. Although Buffalo Bill was not acquainted with his victims, one can find a link between some of them. For instance, Bimmel, the first victim, worked for Mrs. Lipmann, whom he killed later. Gumb lived in the same town with the victims. Although this fact and the connection between his victims can be considered as his mistakes, it did not help FBI to find him. Therefore, his killings, search for the victims, and the goals he pursued were quite well planned. Thus, one can define Jame Gumb as an organized serial killer.

The classification and characteristics of the organized and disorganized serial killers was offered by Holms. His typology of the murderers is deductive and based on a number of characteristics. He paid peculiar attention to the obsessive-compulsive characteristics that can be observed through the verbal interview and the answers about the reasons of killing. Therefore, in order to understand the style of the serial killer and define their style properly, it is essential to analyze their interpersonal development. The addiction or self-defeating that make the basis for the violence comprehension let one understand the deep inner motivation of a person and sometimes even predict the further actions. The position of Buffalo Bill in the cycle of violence is obviously well planned. His degree of personality aberration is quite high, but he manages to control the crime scenes one after another. The only occurrence when he failed to control his actions and kill his victim was the final scene of his life. The lack of organization and control was caused by the unexpected coming of Starling. That visit made him change the plans of killing Katherine spontaneously. He had to postpone the murder but he behaved quite confidently and could easily plan the way to kill the main heroine. However, his puddle, which evoked his emotions and made his actions disorganized and dispersed, became the main distraction from his apathetic and rude treatment of his victims. Finally, the chaotic behavior became the main reason of his death.

Certain characteristics let one classify Buffalo Bill as a mixed type of organized and disorganized killer. According to Holms’ classification, the planning of the evidence suppression as well as his skillful skin cutting was highly organized and planned, which made it easier for him to kill the victims. The characteristics of the organized killer that are evident in Gumb are killing at one side, disposing at the other, using luring tactics to attack naive women, and controlling the crime scenes. The pattern of his attacks can be defined as a “blitz one”. Furthermore, he does not leave the bodies intact. Instead, he does numerous physical damages from strangling to skin cutting. At the same time, the number of features that let one refer to him as the disorganized serial killer is bigger. Firstly, he had no father example or caring parents at all and suffered from the emotional parental abuse. Therefore, due to the problematic childhood, Buffalo Bill can be defined as “asocial.” Moreover, the negative attitude towards gays made him a “loner” in the society due to his own choice. Social inadequate, feeling uncomfortable not only in the society but also by himself, Buffalo Bill does not look like a person who has high IQ level. It is especially obvious when one compares him with another serial killer: cool and magnetic doctor Lecter, who easily resolves all the schemes and patterns of Bill’s actions. Buffalo Bill lives alone and has no date and no friends. However, he uses a fake name in order not to be found. The audience does not know much about his education, besides the information about the foster houses where he grew up and the psychiatric clinic where he learned a tailor profession. According to Holmes, the organized victims do not live or work near the crime scenes, while Jame Gumb killed and kept his victims in the place where he lived: the well was his “secret hiding place”. Another feature that makes him close to disorganized killers is his minimal interest in news and narrow focus of attention solely on his own life and his sick goals. Apart from the fact that he lives alone with his dog, one can see that the scenery around is quite shabby and lacks hygiene. Therefore, he has poor house holding skills, which is also a common feature of disorganized killer. He does not return to the crime scenes as he has no possibility to do so. However, he has no strong interest in the FBI investigation progress that could let him realize and fix his mistakes of the previous killings. Therefore, Buffalo Bill lacks a number of characteristics to be considered an organized serial killer according to Holmes typology.

To sum it up, Jame Gumb or Buffalo Bill is a fictional character based on the real prototypes. According to Holmes theory, he can be classified as a mixed type of a serial murderer. The example of a highly magnetic, cool, intelligent, and organized Lecter shows that Bill lacks a number of features to be labeled as an organized killer. He is angry with himself, can choose and easily lure the naive victims, but is not cunning and intelligent enough to manipulate others and create the complicated schemes and plans compared to Lecter. Instead of being highly mobile and killing the women far from the dwelling place, he killed and kept them in his lonely place in the basement. However, one can notice that his attempts to hide his crimes were quite methodological, and the murders were investigated only with the help of Lecter, who already heard about Gumb. Therefore, he is a mixed serial killer, who is organized to some extent but is more close to the disorganized type.

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