Avoiding Mentor Cliches

Sometimes the storyteller wants to surprise the audience with a mentor who defies convention.

Fagin from Oliver and Company (1988), and also in the classic Dickens novel, is an unconventional mentor as he teaches his students/pets to live the life of crime and be thieves and pickpockets. He doesn’t teach them to be good.

The relationship between Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs (1991) or his almost romantic relationship with Will Graham in the newer NBC television show is one of my favourite character dymanics in film and TV period. Hannibal Lecter’s relationship with Clarice in Silence of the Lambs is one of mutual admiration and respect. Hannibal gives Clarice information on Buffalo Bill and advice on how to catch him in exchange for her life story. He cleverly coaxes her to share her experiences and in doing so learns how to manipulate her into fulfilling his own wishes to be transferred to a nicer prison (though in the end he escapes).

Hannibal and Will’s relationship in NBC Hannibal was intentionally elaborated upon (as the first two series are set before Red Dragon, the first book in the series) and was confirmed to be set up to be romantic by the show’s creator Bryan Fuller. Hannibal is fascinated by Will’s unique concoction of mental disorders that allow him to be a flawless empath. He uses these to his advantage, slowly but surely persuading the darkness in Will’s mind to engulf him, and eventually, after several instances of the two trying to kill each other, the two join forces, calculating the perfect murders and feeling more alive than ever in each other’s company.

I heard a lyric in the Hannibal fan-song by Karliene that perfectly describes Hannibal’s intentions of coaxing the killer within Will out of him: “Do I terrify you, or do you feel alive?”

In fact, here is the whole song. It’s a hauntingly beautiful song and perfectly describes the relationship between Will and Hannibal:

Lyrics:

I’ve always been a hunter
nothing on my tail
But there was something in you
I knew
could make that change

To capture a predator
You can’t remain the prey
You have to become
An equal
In every way

So look in the mirror
and tell me, who do you see?
Is it still you?
or is it me?

Become the beast
We don’t have to hide
Do I terrify you
Or do you feel alive?

Do you feel the hunger
Does it howl inside?
Does it terrify you?
or do you feel alive?

Splinters of my soul
Cut through your skin
And burrow within
Burrow within

So embrace the darkness
And I will help you see
That you can be limitless
And fearless
If you follow with me

We are the lions
In a world of lambs
We are the predators,
The hunters,
The hunters,
The hunters

Become the beast
We don’t have to hide
Do I terrify you
Or do you feel alive?

Do you feel the hunger
Does it howl inside?
Does it terrify you?
Or do you feel alive?

Splinters of my soul
Cut through your skin
And burrow within
Burrow within

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