Cannibal Culture .... 3BACK | HOME | NEXT4


While literal cannibalism may well be relatively rare in our society, I have to agree with Margaret Morse when she says that cannibal imagery is ubiquitous: "One could call 'eating/being eaten' and 'enveloping/being enveloped' both metaphors that pervade the 'most advanced' cultures and the 'highest' art forms" (167). And it is easy to focus on cannibal imagery with destructive implications, since violence has become a way of life (124). Even our formal dinner etiquette alludes to this underlying violence, with rules explicitly intended to prevent the utensils from appearing threatening (Diner's Digest). The film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover depicts society's unabashed gluttony for flesh. It is also revealing that, as a society, we cannot seem to regulate our own food consumption: while the majority of Americans are overweight, many children go starving. And while the market offers us a myriad ways to make our bodies beautiful, we are simultaneously entrenched in physical vanity and self-loathing of the body, another metaphoric cannibalism. Just as women in literal cannibalistic societies have typically been the victims devoured by their own communities, so have women in our society typically become the devoured: the eye candy, the low-wage worker, the mother/nurturer. And when she is seen as the cannibal herself, it is perhaps the male models that depict her in threatening terms--as castrator, as man-eater. While those terms often dictate how we see the feminine desirer, at other times she seems to creatively transcend her position on the food chain.