Is Clarice a True Story?

‘Clarice’ is a CBS drama that revolves around its titular protagonist, with unchallenged expertise in crime-solving. She works in the FBI and is reassigned within a program called ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program), a strategy to solve three murders that are allegedly performed by a serial killer. It is a sequel series to the movie titled ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ and takes place roughly a year after the events in the film.

Clarice is still her focused and dedicated self externally, but her internal locus is heavily disrupted by occasional hallucinations and post-trauma stress, triggered by past experiences. As crime and mental illnesses take center stage, a question of their origin arises. Let’s find out whether the story of ‘Clarice’ is rooted in reality!

Is Clarice Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Clarice’ is not based on a true story. The recurring themes of the series, such as crime, criminal psychology, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc., are all heavily in line with reality or at least relatable to people on a broader level. Yet, the source material for ‘Clarice’ comes from a book called ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ written by Thomas Harris. The writer brilliantly weaves an inclusive world of crime-solving that introduces a variety of themes ranging from forensic psychology to autopsy, with influences from the forensic examination.

The book’s first adaptation stands as a movie of the same name that stars Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins as the villain named Hannibal Lecter. The show is set in 1993 and follows Clarice Starling after her traumatizing experience with Buffalo Bill – a murderer who ruthlessly skins his victims. She returns to the field in pursuit of solving crimes related to serial murderers and sexual predators while adapting to the dynamic politics that characterize Washington, D.C.

Her drives stem from disheartening childhood experiences that have honed her into a strong woman capable of surviving in a patriarchal world. Hence, all the three mediums – the book, movie, and the show, inspire feminism. Other than its empowering message, the setting of Washington, DC in ‘Clarice’ is heavily reminiscent of other crime dramas with darker tropes like ‘Criminal Minds,’ one of CBS’ best shows. The show also incorporates a few real-world events that took place around the time it is set against, including the sieges at Ruby Ridge and Waco, along with the first World Trade Center bombing.

Rebecca Breeds talked about her character as Clarice, who is from West Virginia and has an Appalachian accent that happens to be an important aspect of the character. She said that its familiarity would link up the two worlds – the book and the movie. For her, the moment she found the accent, she had also found Clarice. Thomas originally created her character from a real-life experience with FBI agent Patricia Kirby, who he had chanced upon while researching his novel. Like Clarice, she interviewed serial killers for the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, which were useful in creating individual profiles of the convicts.

Thomas and Kirby had met a couple of times, and Harris had inquisitively filled her up with questions. But unlike Clarice, Kirby is from urban Baltimore. As far as the series is concerned, it was strongly declared that ‘Clarice’ is not a procedural series about a hunt for a serial killer, unlike what the novel essays. Executive producer Alex Kurtzman stated that it instead deals with an entity bearing a bigger representation.

According to him, the series is related to something that everyone indefinitely encounters, perhaps a bigger concept that cannot be contained within its materialization as a serial killer. He added that it is a more expanded, nuanced, complicated, and topical version of a serial killer. Hence, even though it is established that the show is not based on a true story, it is clear that Kurtzman wants to relate to a bigger audience and address a wider spectrum of issues experienced by people.

Read More: Is The Silence of the Lambs a True Story?