Producing a product, consuming values : food films' critique of America's industrialized food system
Jelenchick, Jaime Lynn.
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In this thesis, I examine three films that construct a particular social critique of how Americans relate to food in contemporary society. I examine the documentary films King Corn and Super Size Me because they incorporate a unique depiction of America's industrialized food system and Americans' relationship to food. I analyze the fiction film Big Night because its depiction of recent Italian immigrants' relationship to food serves to expose the contrasting values that Americans have with regards to food, therefore providing insight into contemporary American food culture. Big Night represents food as a cultural construct, embedding it in a traditional narrative structure in order to portray the conflicting ideologies that surrounded food preparation and eating in post-WWII America. In contrast, the documentary film King Corn incorporates a scientific representation of food by highlighting a series of tests and experiments that expose how the industrialized food system has separated consumers from the land, the soil, and their food. Super Size Me combines these two approaches by depicting food as nature and culture, critiquing our industrialized food system through an investigation of fast food's deleterious effect on public health and an exploration of how it has penetrated our public institutions. By using Big Night as a framework for reading King Corn and Super Size Me, we construct an understanding of contemporary American food culture and American taste preferences. An analysis of these three films suggests that there are serious problems with our industrialized food system and the way in which Americans relate to food. After watching Big Night, King Corn, and Super Size Me, I hope that the public is motivated to make informed choices that will support the creation of a healthier, more sustainable food system in our country's foreseeable future and to reconsider the relationship that we have with our food.
Montana Fare is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.