Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Clarice Starling

Nailed to a tree as five separate signs, the message to everyone who dares venture into the FBI training ground is clear: Hurt. Agony. Pain. Love—it. Pride. With those words, the chilling movie The Silence of the Lambs begins.

Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster
Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster

As Women Who Wow Wednesday continues its month-long tribute to women who rock Horror, which began with Maleficent, and continued last week with Claudia from Interview with the Vampire, today we’ll have a look at Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), the detective who uses one psychopath to catch another with horrifying results.

She’s in the top quarter of her class, double major in psychology, criminology, and graduated Magna. She was an intern at the Reitzinger Clinic, and more than anything wants to work for Mr. Crawford (Scott Glenn) in Behavioral Science.

From the moment Clarice steps into the Behavioral Science Services office, the images of serial killer Buffalo Bill’s victims sink into her eyes. When Mr. Crawford walks in and offers her a seat. He remembers her from his seminar at UVA where she grilled him about the bureau’s civil rights record during the Hoover years—he gave her an A. Not quite. She remembers an A minus.

He has a job for her. The FBI is interviewing serial killers in custody for a psycho-behavioral profile. They’re looking for help in unsolved cases. He asks, “Do you spook easily, Starling?”

“Not yet.” She answers.

Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling
Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling

Crawford then asks Clarice to profile Hannibal Lecter—“Hannibal the Cannibal” as he is known. But he warns her to be very careful with Hannibal Lecter. She cannot deviate from the physical procedures she will take when interviewing him. Above all else, she cannot tell him anything personal. She cannot afford to have Hannibal Lecter inside her head.

Once Clarice realizes Hannibal the Cannibal is a monster, a pure psychopath and the asylum’s most prized asset, she takes precautions by heeding to the rules:

  • Do not touch or approach the glass.
  • Pass him nothing but soft paper.
  • No pencils or pens, no staples or paper clips in his paper.
  • Use the sliding food carrier, no exception.
  • If he passes anything, do not accept.

From there, Clarice takes it upon herself to play the game she needs to play with Lecter in order to get what she needs. She attempts different ways to get into his head, but he proves, with his genius ability to sense her next move, he isn’t a pushover. If anyone’s getting played, it’s her.

Throughout her interviews, she adapts and modifies her methodology to Lecter’s coy ways. With every play and counter-play, they raise the stakes until someone surrenders.

In the dark world Clarice inhabits, there are serial killers, murderers and psychos. However, that’s not to say she is weak when terrifying events knock her from her seat. She’s resilient, making it easy for anyone to choose her as the perfect example of a woman who stands up for her convictions against the evil in this world.

With Clarice in the room, darkness has nowhere to hide.


If you’ve seen Silence of the Lambs, what did you find most frightening?


Jack Flacco is an author and the founder of Looking to God Ministries, an organization dedicated to spreading the Word of God through outreach programs, literature and preaching.

18 thoughts on “Clarice Starling

  1. She is a great character. But what makes the performance is the chemistry between her and Lecter. Unsurprisingly both Foster and Hopkins won deserved oscars for their portrayals.

    The biggest shame is the follow-up films. Hannibal was not the same without Foster.

  2. As a teenager, Twin Peaks and Silence of the Lambs made me want to be an FBI agent, even though I’m British and live in England. Still, everyone has to have a dream…

  3. The scene where she’s looking for Buffalo Bill in his house is the high tension point for me, but the “who’s on top of the elevator car?” part was very special. I also noticed enough little background details that I don’t intend to watch it a second time. Ever.

  4. This movie is brilliant. I couldn’t sit through it the first time I watched it (and even today, I “FF” through the hardest parts for me) but the psychology of it is mindblowing.

    And yeah. Clarice is entirely awesome.

    (Still waiting for you to watch VIKINGS to see some more amazing heroines. 😉 )

  5. I’m currently assessing why we enjoy the company of villains. For all his horror and crimes Hannibal Lecter was one of the most compulsive characters ever to appear on screen. No one would want to be in the same room as him, but everyone would want him as a guest at a dinner party.

    I think not being a cardboard cut-out two dimensional villain, and his interaction with Starling was part of the magnetism. Very dangerous magnetism too.

  6. No matter how many times I watch this movie, it still creeps me out. The older I get, the more impressed I am with Clarice and how she handles Lector, too. I’m not sure why – maybe just from good ol’ life experience.

  7. Good reminder, Jack. Clarice is a great heroine (excelling in a “man’s world” of the then-FBI). If I recall correctly, I read the book, which I shared with a horror-loving friend, before I saw the movie (then later I read Harris’ Red Dragon, which introduces Dr. Lecter). Back in my horror days, I was a major fan of the book and movie. I would never have pegged Jodie Foster for Clarice Starling, but once I saw the movie, I thought she did a good job; even the West Virginia (if I recall the state correctly) accent was pretty decent. Despite Tony’s brilliance, the book is still better than the movie — or at least was more frightening to me. As for the movie, not exactly scary but haunting to me, was Clarice’s fess-up to Dr. Lecter about the lambs bleating and whether they’d ever stop. Also, the scene with the girl in the well, whose name I’ve forgotten (Katherine?), and how wily she was. I also hated Buffalo Bill’s voice (it was pretty well pitched as deep and creepy by actor Ted Levine), though I later liked the actor when he appeared as Cpt. Stottlemeyer in the Monk TV series. The whole skin suit thing was of course really gross.

  8. Jodie Foster was so young! Wow! I saw Silence of Lambs so long ago, and watched the entire thing with my hands clamped alternately over my eyes and ears. I maybe blocked the entire hing from memory but for human skin suit, and fava beans. Have you seen the new show, Hannibal? Clarice is rumored to be making an appearance next season.

  9. This is / was an interesting role. I’ll have to watch ” Silence of the Lambs ” again. Being exposed to pure but calculated insanity has to have an effect on people.

  10. I was just sitting here at work listening to the radio and Tom Petty’s American Girl was on the radio.

    I said to a coworker, “There’s no way for me to hear this song and not think of the young Catherine Martin (Brook Smith) just driving along without a care in the world.”

  11. She really is a great character and her and Lecter’s relationship can almost be compared to two people keeping the balance in check, but one slight move could tip everything over the edge. Hopkins and Foster really work their magic on screen.

  12. This movie inspired me to write the Record Killer. A serial killer novel with a twist. I think I sent it to you? Let me know if not or if you have an interest in reading it. It took two years to write. I had a lot of serial junk in my head and it became to dark even for me. Thinking like a killer, is warped to the normal person. And I believe I am a normal person.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.