The Silence of the Lambs: Buffalo Bill’s Moths, Explained


The moths from Silence of the Lambs have turn out to be well-known symbols from the movie, and here is the rationalization behind Buffalo Bill’s insect of selection.

The dying’s-head hawk moth is a well-known image from The Silence of the Lambs, however there’s extra to Buffalo Bill’s insect of selection than mere coincidence. This darkish psychological thriller from 1991 adopted FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) as she tracked down Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), a killer who hunted and skinned ladies. Since Bill’s killing spree has even seasoned FBI brokers and profilers scratching their heads, Clarice seeks assist from cannibal-murderer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) for assist in understanding Bill’s psyche so she will catch him. Despite Hannibal’s considerably overpowering presence all through the movie, the character himself solely seems onscreen for round sixteen minutes.

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One of Buffalo Bill’s MO’s in The Silence of the Lambs is leaving a peculiar staple behind inside the throats of his victims; a dying’s-head hawk moth. This is first found throughout an unnerving post-mortem scene, and the symbolism behind the moth turns into a key half of understanding Bill’s motivations. As Lecter himself later imparts to Clarice, the signification of the moth itself is change. “Caterpillar into chrysalis, or pupa, and from thence into beauty.” Lecter is referring to the course of of metamorphosis, and this idea runs deep all through Clarice’s journey too.

Related: Clarice’s Silence of the Lambs Flashbacks Create A Weird Plot Hole

Of course, in relation to this, there’s the problematic depiction of Bill’s seeming gender dysphoria and the way he offers with it. In The Silence Of The Lambs, he needs to transition and tackle a gender id that matches his internal, genuine self. Unfortunately, although the metamorphosis symbolism makes logical sense, boiling down a three-dimensional character to a dangerous stereotype is not solely unfair, it is confirmed painful for the trans neighborhood too. In a time the place there wasn’t an awesome deal of illustration for LGBTQ+ individuals, portray a person who needs to transition as a brutal assassin who hatefully envies ladies and collects their skins was hurtfully detrimental. The film’s poor dealing with of trans materials and Buffalo Bill’s sophisticated legacy are addressed in the recently-premiered CBS sequel collection Clarice

The moth symbolism extends to Clarice’s story too, with The Silence of the Lambs opening together with her nonetheless in coaching at the FBI academy earlier than she quickly undergoes her personal transformation and is baptized right into a world of darkness. While Clarice begins the narrative as an inexperienced agent who wants assist understanding the psychology of killers, the film ends together with her and Lecter being the two individuals who perceive Bill finest. Any semblance of innocence has been eroded and beneath Lecter’s tutelage, she’s grown on each a private {and professional} degree.

There’s additionally the evident symbolism behind the dying’s-head hawk moth itself, past metamorphosis. The moth derives its foreboding identify from the reality it has a design resembling a human cranium on its higher physique. Even after he is completed along with his victims, Bill leaves an emblem of dying inside them; almost certainly left of their throats as a result of these moths can squeak, thus mocking the unfortunate souls’ fearful screams. Just like Buffalo Bill and The Silence of the Lambs as a complete, the moth theme is layered in disturbing subtext.

Next: Clarice: How The CBS Show Fits Into Silence Of The Lambs Movie Timeline

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