“Few modern films are as riveting as Jonathan Demme‘s The Silence of the Lambs, which swept the 1992 Oscars and whose central villain (besides Hannibal Lecter) is the wannabe transsexual Jame Gumb (played by Ted Levine) who happens to be a serial killer — a character, according to Demme, who simply hated himself and wished he was a woman.

“This brilliant and terrifying movie contained a handful of memorable movie characters (from Hannibal to Clarice Starling to Dr. Frederick Chilton to U.S. Sen. Ruth Martin to, yes, Jame Gumb) who are all in a swirling pitch-black thriller for adults and not starring in a public service announcement. It wasn’t concerned with ideology or representation (though in many ways it is a feminist movie), and its main focus was to simply tell a gripping story with everyone working at the peak of their craft.

“One gets the terrible feeling that this classic would never be made today, let alone win the Oscar, in our current culture where everyone is screeching about victimhood and inclusivity and representation and identity politics — all of which distort reality and have absolutely nothing to do with creating art.

“By the time The Silence of the Lambs was heading to Oscar glory, earnest if misguided protests from the gay and trans communities appeared, and it feels like this was why Demme immediately made the overtly earnest Philadelphia — as if he was apologizing for all the fun-house dread, excitement, gore and thrills he supplied in The Silence of the Lambs.

“Despite the controversy and the protests at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the movie ultimately deserved the awards it won. Because the Oscars are supposed to ultimately go to talent and merit and not merely representation. When talent and merit are replaced by representation, then we’re living in a world that doesn’t care about movies anymore.” — Brett Easton Ellis in a 2.19.19 guest column for The Hollywood Reporter.