Fast Food Morality

Image via Fast Food FAILS Ads vs Reality

Appetizing, right? This image comes from one of several websites devoted to examining the differences between fast food as-advertised and as-is. These sites make the same argument: the ads promise fresh, attractive food, but what you get when you buy it fulfills the worst fears of the fast-food consumer. These photographs are the equivalent of showing how images of cover models are photoshopped for magazines. They imply that the companies who push such disappointing food are dishonest cheats.

Lee Price and Exposed Eating

bird's eye view of a woman eating a lot of food in a pretty living room

Lee Price, Sunday.  H/t to Jezebel, Sociological Images

Lee Price paints photorealistic portraits of her subject (usually herself) consuming food that we might label "bad:" for example, McDonalds, cupcakes, pie, and so on. While Dr. Lisa Wade's piece for Sociological Images focused on the way these paintings make public what is often a shameful, private act and elevate it through the use of "high" medium (painting), I was most interested in the way these images seem to acknowledge these commonly held beliefs about indulgent consumption even as they complicate them. I'd like to take a stab at raising more questions about Price's work and how it formulates an argument about bodies, pleasure, shame, and excess. Pictures after the jump are NSFW.

Meat America - a photographic celebration by Dominic Episcopo

ground beef spelling WTF

WTF, by Dominic Episcopo, from Meat America

Dominic Episcopo wants to explain to you "the indefinable adjective that is 'American'." And as far as he's concerned, the best way to do that is with meat.  The images are funny, deeply ironic, and often ambiguous given Episcopo's purported mission. 

Documenting Need

peanuts on a newspaper

Stefen Chow, The Poverty Line

Earlier this week, I tweeted about Stefen Chow's The Poverty Line, a collection of photographs that documents what an individual can buy with a daily wage of 3.28 yuan (49 cents), and here I want to draw more attention to this project and another like it. In documenting the choices one might face with this daily wage (significantly below the World Bank's poverty line, $1.25/day), Chow dramatizes the plight of the poor while staying within the language of economics and exchange.

Meat is Couture? - Lady Gaga's Meaty Message

Lady Gaga's VMA meat dress

Image Credit: Lady Gaga at the VMAs, Designer Franc Fernandez

I realize that I may be a bit behind the times to be addressing (ha!) Lady Gaga's fashion stunt of last fall, but meat's been on my mind this week as I'm about to embark on 30 days of eating vegetarian - largely as a result of the text we're teaching in our introductory rhetoric classes here at UT: Colin Beavan's No Impact Man. But that's another story.  Gaga's appearance at the Mtv Video Music Awards sparked controversy that dissipated rather quickly, and though this may have been due to the singer's own inability to adequately (or logically) explain the reasons behind her wardrobe choice, the images left behind offer a really interesting opportunity for varying and disparate interpretations.  

What's Eating You? Viewer Expectations and Food Art

Thanksgiving turkey cake

Image (and recipe): Chow

When I discovered the true nature of the image above, which appeared to be a delicious carrot cake, I felt an unexpected disgust. Full disclosure: I am a vegetarian with a sweet tooth, so the fact that what appeared to be cake was, in fact, ground turkey was pretty gross to me. However, I imagine that someone who had been dooped might initially feel the same way, before, perhaps, shifting into delight that an entire Thanksgiving dinner had been contained in one slice, and so masterfully. My reaction, however extreme, made me think about food as a medium, the arguments it makes, and the arguments we make about it.

New Theory Page: Visual Literacy and Solidarity


Image Credit:

I recently posted a new page on "Visual Literacy and Solidarity" to the "Theory" section of VIZ. It passes back over some of the material from my posts this semester on food, food culture and food policy, but I also couldn't resist encroaching on Rachel's pop-culture territory with a few references to The Breakfast Club and Kanye West (to be fair, though, the movie is named after the most important meal of the day).

New Media, Old-school Agriculture

Image Credit: screen capture from

I sat down in front of the television this Tuesday to watch the PBS premier of Dirt! The Movie on Independent Lens. I had been looking forward to seeing this documentary about the soil cylce and its importance on agriculture, health and geopolitics, and I had even planned to write about it for this week's post. As you can see, that plan fell through: I went in expecting a dirt-y movie, but mostly what I got was a mess. While there was plenty of titular soil in Dirt!, the film came across as a random collection of dirt-related vignettes that were either purely repetitive or entirely unrelated. In all fairness, cutting the film down to fit a one-hour running time may be responsible for the disjointed presentation, but most reviews of its Sundance screening agree that it is an unnecessarily rambling documentary. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but I had spent that morning talking to David Parry about the effects of internet technology and networked space on the established institutions of democracy, and as POV took over my television screen with its adapted running of Food, Inc., I began to think about documentary films-- and, in particular, films that intend to effect social and democratic change-- in the online time and space of the internet. Thinking about documentary film within a networked social space reminded me, fortuitously, of Cooking Up A Story, an internet hybrid that bills itself rather oddly as "an online television show and blog about people, food, and sustainable living." More about soil, sardines and the web-lives of food-docs (including video) after the break.

Satire Sandwiches: Stephen Colbert's Thought for Food

Image Credit: screen capture from

Food policy can be pretty disheartening stuff: anything that combines environmentalism, worker's rights and public health in a single topic is likely to include bad-to-terrible news pretty much every day. With the Senate underfunding the Child Nutrition Act, bluefin tuna set to go extinct and Dirt! The Movie preparing to air on PBS, even my fairly-high tolerance for crisis fatigue was wearing thin this week. Thankfully, Stephen Colbert was there to talk me off the ledge. As is often the case, Colbert managed to make life livable with his pringle-and-whipped-cream-like blend of irony and humor-- two remarkable human capacities that are often undervalued because they elude satisfactory explanation by rhetorical, literary or philosophical models. While even Jon Stewart's comedic analysis of politicians and pundits can often be as depressing as it is amusing, Colbert's satiric send-ups consistently manage to wink their way through all kinds of maddening news stories and leave me with a crisp, clean finish. His new "Thought for Food" segment lives up to those expectations. Rather than attempting (and almost certainly failing) to explain the jokes, I thought I'd share a few videos and comment as needed. More on Colbert, corn-surpluses, advertising and unholy sandwiches after the break.

Victory Gardens and Retro Propaganda


Image Credit: Joe Wirtheim

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I have always had a soft spot for "victory gardens" and mid-century propaganda. It may be a result of the countless times I watched Bugs Bunny steal carrots from the Saturday-morning victory gardens of my childhood (how many of us were introduced to serious political concepts like shortage, rationing and military conscription through the Flatbush intonation of Mel Blanc?). It may have been the vintage singns and posters ("Loose Lips Might Sink Ships") hanging on the wallls of the local burger joint that was a favorite haunt of my grandfather. Whatever the reason, my eye is always drawn to the bold fonts, severe angles and jingoistic slogans of WWII era posters, particularly those aimed at action on the home front. This week, while trolling for vintage design and espirit d'corps, I came across "The Victory Garden of Tommorrow," Joe Wirtheim's modern day art/propaganda campaign that repurposes and reinvents the genre. More on Wirtheim's project, refurbished propaganda and mobilizing the population after the break.

Recent comments