CBS’s Clarice promised it would add a trans character to address the “complicated” history of Silence of the Lambs and it’s finally delivered. Predictably, it’s just as preachy and annoying as it gets.
The May 13 episode “Silence is Purgatory” has our lead Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds) trying to decipher a conspiracy that has since led to the deaths of three women. During her investigation, she crosses paths with a pharmaceutical worker named Julia Lawson (Jen Richards) who may have the information she needs. However, Julia doesn’t trust Clarice and fears losing her job.
More importantly, though, Julia needs to let Clarice know how the FBI agent “made [her] life harder” by not openly advocating for transsexuals (the show takes place in 1993). Seriously, she appears to blame Clarice just as much, if not more, than the journalists who hyped Buffalo Bill as “transsexual.”
Julia: Buffalo Bill was clearly a m– a monster, a-a-a killer, and I don’t know what their story was, but they got labeled transsexual. And whether it’s true or not, that word was then in every headline, every story, every gruesome tabloid photo right next to “Murderer,” “Maniac.” “Psycho skins women, driven mad by transsexual desire.” That was the front page of the Baltimore Herald. Overnight, suddenly, the biggest story on everyone’s minds was that transsexuals were monsters.
Clarice: And this affected you personally?
Julia: Clarice… I’m transsexual. And… I have to keep that part of myself hidden because I could lose my job. My life. I have to hide who I am because of stories like Buffalo Bill. And at the center of all of those was… you. You made my life harder.
Clarice: I didn’t write those articles. I didn’t say those things.
Julia: No, but the press were listening to you. And people like me don’t have a voice. You had the power to say something, and…you never did. So I needed to say something now.
This speech, in fact, comes directly from the actress Jen Richards, who previously spoke about how the 1991 film has a “complicated legacy” that damaged the image of transsexuals, although now the preferred term is transgender. The episode itself was also written by a trans writer, lest the show stray from the transgender narrative for a second. Sadly, the character looks to be staying around, so the propaganda may just be beginning.
Meanwhile, Clarice’s friend Ardelia (Devyn A. Tyler) has since joined the Black Coalition with her colleague Agent Haynes (K.C. Collins). To help build their case that the FBI is racist, they go through old case files that seem to prove blatant discrimination. As they go through “so many” cases, Ardelia laments to Haynes, “If you ever have kids, how long are you gonna let them be kids before you give them the truth about this country?”
Ardelia: Agent Carter was refused a routine transfer when his dad was dying of cancer. That’s 15 acts of discrimination against Black agents.
Haynes: How many complaints does this lawyer want to see before he’ll take our case? And is it bad I’ve never heard of him?
Ardelia: George Castillo. Used to be an agent at the Bu. He’s not big, but he’s our guy. You’ll see. We’re meeting at 2:00.
Haynes: At 2:00?
Haynes: I have to be on duty.
Ardelia: Oh, Evans — someone left a brochure for life insurance on his desk… For accidental death.
Haynes: Clear threat of bodily harm.
Ardelia: Mm-hmm. Carlisle — his fellow agents pasted a cut-out of a chimp over his son’s photo.
Haynes: His 8-year-old. I would’ve walked out right then.
Ardelia: If you ever have kids, how long are you gonna let them be kids before you give them the truth about this country? Carlisle needed his salary, his pension. They knew it. They don’t want us to run.
Haynes: They want us to suffer. This is enough, right? For the lawyer?
Ardelia: I feel invigorated because we have so many that I want to scream.
Haynes: ‘Cause we have so many.
Haynes later convinces Ardelia to file a racial discrimination complaint against the FBI, listing Clarice as a factor to gain media attention. While anyone else in the world would see this as throwing a friend under the bus, Clarice actually apologizes for being implicitly bigoted stating, “I keep finding out I hurt people without knowing I did it.” Apparently, Ardelia hurting her friend while knowing it doesn’t matter.
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