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Shugart – Sumptuous texts: consuming “otherness” in the food film genre

Shugart, H. A. “Sumptuous texts: consuming “otherness” in the food film genre.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, 25(1) (2008): 68-90. doi:10.1080/15295030701849928

Key Words: Otherness, Food Films, Whiteness, Indulgence

Shugart examines how films whose central theme is food have now become their own film genre, called “food films”. Many of the films are internationally made, but tend to target the U.S as their main audiences. He chose to examine three popular food films, Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat, and Woman on Top. In these three films, food does not serve the purpose of feeding ones family. Food possesses mystique and a powerful social dimension. Food has the ability to separate between classes by what people eat, how it is prepared, and the richness of the ingredients they use.

Shugart’s goal was to examine how otherness plays a role in the three films. In a cast that is typically white, the othered character brings and exotic and romantic dimension to the film. Many times, what is othered is food, or the forbidden fruit, if you will. The consumption of something that is not allowed creates a manic effect in all that indulges, for example, in Like Water for Chocolate , when the main characters cooking makes all who eat turn into sexually crazed beings whenever she cries into her food. The consumption and tolerance of otherness helps others become more “whole” and can help create a sense of identity.

 

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