How The Simpsons Makes Foodies Look Like Smug, Elitist Schmucks
I didn't want to watch the latest episode of The Simpsons, the one in which Marge inexplicably becomes a food blogger. Yes, the foodie backlash has officially begun.
There must be a kitchen sink that we can get to do a cameo too, guys...
I haven't wanted to watch an episode of The Simpsons in a long time, however, specifically for the very nature of this past Sunday's food blog episode: The show has lost all ability to create situational humor within the confines of Springfield's residents and the Simpson family itself, despite a long history of idiosyncrasies and deeply developed personalities upon which to draw. As a result, it has increasingly relied on the type of stunt casting that typified Sunday's episode. Let's trot out Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay, and any other food folks who want an easy paycheck, in lieu of writing a deeper, more interesting episode.
The result of this was an episode that felt flat to me, and not just because of the flimsy way in which Homer and Marge and "the gang" were used as puppets for the show's attempt at skewering foodies. It felt flat and soulless because it seemed that -- although the foodie world is extremely ripe for skewering (see South Park's infamous "Crème Fraiche" episode for how it should be done) -- the show ultimately found no good or redeeming qualities in people who genuinely and passionately love food.
We are, in essence, people who invest too much thought and energy in -- as Homer so delicately put it --food that "is poop by now." At least according to The Simpsons.
What good I did find in the episode was far exceeded by the bad. For example, Bart and Lisa are shown enjoying their food adventure to Little Ethiopia (side note: I did find it hilarious that Springfield now has a Little Ethiopia to add to the town's many other, rarely seen ethnic ghettos) and discovering that Ethiopian food is, in fact, amazing and tasty stuff. Yes, parents -- you can take your kids on food adventures and broaden their young horizons, and they will enjoy it and learn from it and become even more multifaceted little things.
The good: The sheer absurdity of the Swedish Chef and Mario Batali on bouncy balls.
However, this discovery was quickly tarnished by Marge's haughty reply to some foodies who'd come to the Ethiopian restaurant "on purpose" that the large platter of food off the "non-translated side of the menu" was all she ever ordered there. The conversation quickly devolved into her new foodie friends discussing how they "discovered Korean barbecue" and that the Koreans may cook it, but they "don't get it."
Is this how you, as a foodie or food lover or food nerd, want to be perceived? As tacky, snotty, slightly racist, hoarders of food experiences that you gather like rare gems and patronizingly hold over other people's heads? Because that's how The Simpsons wants to paint us.
Gone is the idea that people can enjoy ethnic food because of the cultural connection it creates, the bridges it builds and the prejudices it destroys with a single, savory bite of doro wot or bibimbap. In its place, The Simpsons wants its audience to believe that foodies are arrogant schmucks and that food is best enjoyed when processed and hoovered out of a refrigerator, or pronounced as "sherbert." Being educated and passionate about food is a scarlet symbol of elitism in this universe.
It's upsetting, in as much as an animated show about food blogging can be upsetting. But only because in the end, the moral of the 30-minute episode was exactly that: Educated, passionate people are elitists. It reduces all the hard work that people put into creating good, honest food into a joke, and not a terribly funny one. There was no balance in the episode between smug, arrogant, obnoxious foodies and those who have a genuine, guileless interest in food and all its important permutations in our lives.
In addition to a Little Ethiopia and horrifying meth labs, Springfield also has its own version of El Bulli.
Yes, the molecular gastronomy-obsessed El Chemistri -- a witty little combination of places like El Bulli and Moto -- was worth a few good jabs. But when the episode ends, all of the foodies except the Three Mouthketeers have decided to remain behind at the table for another bowl of Regret rather than help a friend in need.
And that doesn't sound like a single foodie that I know.
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