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Shame On You For Looking At Food Porn

In 2001, Anthony Bourdain wrote an article for SFGate on the subject of  “food porn,” which he describes as the “objectification of food – displays or descriptions of food – and its preparation – for an audience that has no intention of cooking or eating it.”  Bourdain’s theory was that, in the post-9/11 world, we are approaching a “crossroads” where instead of lusting after food, we will roll up our sleeves and actually start cooking it – a sort of sexual revolution for food, as he describes it.

Bourdain was, perhaps, overly optimistic.  Now, almost ten years later, what has actually happened is that food porn has gone mainstream.  You can find it in magazines, in books and on billboards.  There are websites enirely and unabashedlly devoted to food porn.  Indeed, there is an entire television network essentially devoted to food porn.

But what has happened in the last year or so is a marked trend toward blurring of the lines between food and sex.  No longer is it enough to show beautiful images of food or preparation of food, for the purpose of arousing the desire to eat.  Now advertisers – predominantly fast food advertisers – are directly linking their food with sex, in not-so-subtle ways.   So, maybe its all in good fun, meant to be amusing, ironic, etc.    But what surprised me is that it is so pervasive, and in many cases, blatant.

So, let’s take a quick tour of exactly what I am talking about:

Exhibit A:  This is the most infamous of the “Carl Jrs. series” – “Padma Eats A Burger.”  Honestly, its a lot more tasteful than some of the Exhibits to come, although there is no doubt that Anthony Bourdain would roll over in his grave if he saw this.

Exhibit B:  From this same series, here is “Paris Hilton Eats A Burger.”  Honestly, Padma is far more convincing, at one point Paris looks like she would like to fling it at the wall in disgust.  

Exhibit C:  Switching gears, here is the “Arby’s Birthday” commercial, where this lucky guy gets very excited about getting Arby’s for his birthday.

Exhibit D: Okay, on to Quizno’s famous “Toasty Torpedo” ad.  This one is just bizarre, I can’t imagine who signed off on this at Quizno’s World Headquarters.

Exhibit E:  Even McDonalds is getting in on the action……

Exhibit F:  Not to be outdone, Burger King has made their own questionable contribution.  This ad ran in Singapore, apparently, so you would not have seen it.  You would have remembered if you did.

Exhibit G:  Back to the good folks at Carls Jr., this time Kim Kardashian wants you to know that salads are sexy, and shows how turned on she can get by a Carls Jr. grilled chicken salad.

Okay, well you get the point.  And this is really just the tip of the iceberg as far as this sort of fast food advertising goes.  When taken to this extreme, food porn really is almost diametrically opposed to Anthony Bourdain’s notion of the “food revolution” that would send Americans back into their kitchens to whip up something good and wholesome for dinner.  In fact, fast food sees to it that Americans don’t even set foot in the kitchen, since they can have instant gratification at the drive thru.  And, as the advertisements are telling them, their need for fast food is a carnal craving that demands satisfaction.

So what are the long term consequences of all this?  That is a subject for another post.  But the following may give us some indication:

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Categories: Food Media

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