So last night I went with a fairly diverse group to Rogue Apron‘s showing of Food Inc. By diverse I mean we had another artist who grew up in a small farm setting, a nutritionist and avid gardener, and a tech guru who grew up on a cattle ranch. I went in not really expecting to learn anything new, but I wanted to support the release of the movie, and more importantly, I wanted to hear the perspectives of my friends about the subject. The audience in general appeared to be made up of a few people who were really into some particular aspect the movie touched on… slow food, organics, local food, etc, and a lot of other people who were probably just learning about the issues and wanted to know more. It seemed like a good mix.
Since I read an awful lot already about most of the subjects in the film, the premise was pretty familiar. However, the one thing I thought the movie did extremely well was creating a narrative that connected the dots. Meaning, it gave at least some time to almost every aspect of our industrialized food system – everything from the scope of it, to the animal cruelty, to the problems with the regulatory agencies, to the multiple health issues and immigration problems…. all the way down to the downright terrifying intellectual property precedents that are being set in court cases brought by Monsanto. In other words, there was something for pretty much everyone to relate to, and that’s the first step in getting people talking and working together.
The downside was that the ending almost ruined it for me. The end is full of the sort of feel good, write your representative, vote with your wallet, we can make a difference crap that I personally thought belittled the rest of the movie. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like they spent the movie talking about how the people in charge of the system were in bed with the people ruining the system, so I wasn’t really sure why we were then supposed to think writing to them to tell them we didn’t like it was going to do any good.
Beyond that, I was really bothered by the ending’s comparison of the fight with Monsanto to the fight with and defeat of big tobacco. Tobacco use has always been a choice. Monsanto controls most of the world’s food supply in one form or another, making it anything BUT a choice for an awful lot of the world’s population. See: India. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
That said, I don’t know that people who are already well versed in the industrial food crisis were this movie’s target audience, and as such I’ll let the things that bugged me go. Judging from crowd reactions around me, I think it most definitely appealed to people who are just starting to really pay attention to their food, or who maybe only really know about one or two aspects of the problem, and if it gets more people from different facets of the issues to realize they are all fighting the same battle, then great. The lady sitting next to me seemed fired up by the movie’s proposed solutions, so clearly it works for some people.
There’s one piece of this argument that I’m going to save for another post, however, and that’s the entitlement argument. A guy says somewhere in the movie that people who don’t care about how their food is treated are the kinds of people who will also find ways to marginalize the workers who produce it, and so on. There’s a whole lot wrapped up in that meat for every meal mentality that I’m going to need a few more cups of coffee to tackle.
In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great weekend!