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Appetites and Anxieties

Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation

Cynthia Baron, Diane Carson, and Mark Bernard

Publication Year: 2013

Cinema is a mosaic of memorable food scenes. Detectives drink alone. Gangsters talk with their mouths full. Families around the world argue at dinner. Food documentaries challenge popular consumption-centered visions. In Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation, authors Cynthia Baron, Diane Carson, and Mark Bernard use a foodways paradigm, drawn from the fields of folklore and cultural anthropology, to illuminate film's cultural and material politics. In looking at how films do and do not represent food procurement, preparation, presentation, consumption, clean-up, and disposal, the authors bring the pleasures, dangers, and implications of consumption to center stage. In nine chapters, Baron, Carson, and Bernard consider food in fiction films and documentaries-from both American and international cinema. The first chapter examines film practice from the foodways perspective, supplying a foundation for the collection of case studies that follow. Chapter 2 takes a political economy approach as it examines the food industry and the film industry's policies that determine representations of food in film. In chapter 3, the authors explore food and food interactions as a means for creating community in Bagdad Café, while in chapter 4 they take a close look at 301/302, in which food is used to mount social critique. Chapter 5 focuses on cannibal films, showing how the foodways paradigm unlocks the implications of films that dramatize one of society's greatest food taboos. In chapter 6, the authors demonstrate ways that insights generated by the foodways lens can enrich genre and auteur studies. Chapter 7 considers documentaries about food and water resources, while chapter 8 examines food documentaries that slip through the cracks of film censorship by going into exhibition without an MPAA rating. Finally, in chapter 9, the authors study films from several national cinemas to explore the intersection of food, gender, and ethnicity. Four appendices provide insights from a food stylist, a selected filmography of fiction films and a filmography of documentaries that feature foodways components, and a list of selected works in food and cultural studies. Scholars of film studies and food studies will enjoy the thought-provoking analysis of Appetites and Anxieties.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: The Cultural and Material Politics of Food Representations in Film

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pp. 1-24

Films depend on food. Slapstick comedies need pie-throwing scenes that escalate into brawls. To build their resolve, tough guys in westerns and action fi lms down shots of cheap liquor. Gangsters talk with their mouths full. Noir detectives drink alone. Comradeship leads soldiers and offi cers to share food and drink. Melodramas require disastrous...

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1. Foodways as an Ideological Approach

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pp. 25-52

“Foodways” refers to “the entire complex of ideas and behaviors associated with food” (Lockwood 11). It concerns “the beliefs and behaviors surrounding the production, distribution, and consumption of food” (Counihan, Anthropology 2). This multidimensional concept provides a framework for investigating the cultural, aesthetic, and material dimensions...

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2. Food and Film Industries: A Filter for the Food We See in Films

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pp. 53-82

Representations of food seen by large audiences refl ect the infl uence of commercial media’s century-long support of “mass consumption, especially of convenience foods” (Belasco, Appetite 156). Today, the vision of food as a consumer product and vehicle for selfexpression is continually reactivated by “advertising’s big four,” Omnicom, WPP Group...

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3. Foodways Syntax: Utopian Films’ Use of Food to Create Community

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pp. 83-105

The influence of food companies such as Kraft, ConAgra, and Burger King and fi lm companies such as Paramount (Viacom), Twentieth Century Fox (News Corp.), and Universal (NBC) has long shaped depictions of food and food behavior in mainstream cinema. In recent decades, the film industry’s escalating involvement in co-promotions...

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4. Foodways Structured to Convey Disorder and Dysfunction

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pp. 107-127

Sharing a collection of semantic elements, food films tend to be set in diners, kitchens, and restaurants. Stories focus on cooking, eating, and drinking. Interactions surrounding food products, recipe design, and food consumption convey characters’ changing relationships. However, food films also employ strikingly divergent...

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5. When Humans Are the Food Product: An Ideological Look at Cannibal Films

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pp. 129-152

Cannibal films have a complex and unsettled relationship to food films. Discussing the food film genre that emerged in the 1980s, Anne Bower highlights the genre’s use of restaurants, kitchens, and food shops, and its focus on food as a means for conveying characters’ identities, social situations, and personal relations. Having identified...

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6. Food as Threat and Promise: Genre and Auteur Analysis

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pp. 153-178

Cannibal films use violations of food taboos to explore the figurative consumption of individuals and cultures whose livelihoods and traditions are destroyed by “progress.” The films reveal that food behaviors are often fraught with contradiction. Even less sensational narratives reflect people’s conflicting associations with what they eat...

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7. Foodways in Documentary Films: Consumer Society in a Wider Frame

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pp. 179-199

Fiction films weave foodways into their representations in genre-specific ways. Directors’ representations of food activities are sometimes integral to the meanings conveyed by their syntactical arrangement of narrative and mise-en-scène elements. Syntactical arrangements of foodway elements in fiction films create...

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8. The Politics Surrounding Documentaries’ Depiction of Foodways

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pp. 201-223

Documentaries emphasize that food belongs to culture and nature. As a consequence, they indirectly illuminate fiction films’ focus on the cultural dimensions of foodways. Food documentaries also indirectly but vividly illustrate the politics surrounding representations of food in mainstream cinema because...

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9. Food as a Window into Personal and Cultural Politics

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pp. 225-250

Food documentaries examine the material economy of food by exploring the full arc of foodways, from extraction to production to distribution to consumption and then on to disposal. Yet Hollywood sidelines fi lm products that fail to promote the mainstream vision of food as an expendable consumer product. Their limited distribution...


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pp. 251-284


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pp. 285-303

Works Cited

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pp. 305-319


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pp. 321-334

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814338056
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814334317

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 37
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1
Volume Title: N/a
Series Title: Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series