The Sex Reference NBC Gave Hannibal Hell Over

Though we may never see it on network television again following its last episode on NBC, Bryan Fuller’s lush interpretation of Hannibal will remain in our memories for ages, due to its haunting imagery, stellar performances and vicious murders. And one might think that gory impalements and (mostly) dead bodies sewn together would be the thing that network censors would have a big problem with, but no, it was apparently something more sexual that NBC wanted out of a particular episode.

During the excellent Hannibal panel at this past weekend’s Comic-Con, Fuller was asked if NBC ever balked at anything the extremely adult series was presenting, and he went a little deeper into an anger-fueled tweet he’d sent out last year during Season 2.

There was a lesbian sex euphemism the second season, and it was like, ‘Can we say this? Can we say this?’ And it’s like, ‘No, no oral implication whatsoever.’ And then I Googled ‘lesbian sex euphemism.’ And ‘button-stitching’ came up, which was hilarious. And that’s the one we got by. We just kept going ‘what about this one?’ and she said that one would work.

For ages, conversations have been had about violence getting less scrutiny than sexual situations on TV and in movies, and though Hannibal was more into disturbing psyches through artistic means more than crassly violent ones, there have been loads of severely fucked up scenes that sensitive children ideally wouldn’t have access to. So it’s a good smack to the forehead that NBC is more comfortable showing adults gruesome sequences that almost never happen in real life than a slang phrase for something that happens every day all over the world. But it’s not surprising, really, but I can’t complain about the head-scratching phrase “button-stitching” being the way to go here.

Later on in Season 3, Fuller is introducing the Red Dragon storyline, for which Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) makes his entrance as a people-biting, family-murdering sicko whose dual life is brought into motion by a William Blake painting. It’s not the most easily digestible arc for those with a weak stomach or mind, and it’s certainly more challenging to the senses than a tossed-off sexual comment.

Wondering what the initial phrase was? Here’s Fuller’s tweet.

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Perhaps if we ever see Hannibal on cable or streaming for a Season 4, assuming everyone signs back on, then Fuller can use all the euphemisms he wants while making the things happening onscreen even more ghoulishly gut-wrenching.

Watch Hannibal on Thursdays on NBC. Somebody has to!

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.