Eating Cartoons

by Justin

Even in my more carnivorous days the practice of anthropomorphizing the source animals never made sense to me, especially since it usually took the form of a joyous cartoon character.

The last neighborhood I lived in was largely Latin American, and the local carnicerias often had some winking cow or top-hat tipping pig on the awning. When I ate meat, part of the joy in eating came from the ease in ignoring the animal slaughtered to provide the food. But going to a Carolina BBQ restaurant and seeing Porky grinning up, even as a kid that was a little unsettling.

Maybe the idea, not necessarily unsuccessful for most of its audience, is to present the animal as an enthusiastic participant and even an advocate for the consumption of his or her species. You know, if a cow threw a comic grin at me and pleaded that I eat his brethren (or him) maybe I’d oblige. As I consider it, those cartoon icons may in reality (?!) be a dark cannibalistic element in the ranks of other pigs, cows, and chickens.

So cartoon endorsements aside, the stranger and less comprehensible animal spokesmen are the ones rendered to look really cute. Usually I see this as little chicks in an add for chicken nuggets, or recently posing adorably in an add for Chinese dumplings. Is that a successful ad strategy? I feel too far removed from the target to guess.

Final thought on this nonsense: Chick-Fil-A really flipped the script on everyone. One animal, in a desperate bid to save its own hide, campaigns for the consumption of another species. The anthropomorphizing goes far enough to gift the cows with the ability to write their own signs, as if the entire ad program was built in their bovine brains. Of course, the cows can’t spell well. But that’s all the more charming and offers up a naivete that acts in their defense. And if you go to the website it just gets weird. Such a strange and successful gambit to advocate one meat over the other by merits of personality.

But you know, personality is pretty much the only thing keeping dogs off omnivores’ plates.

Anyway. It’s an interesting phenomenon, one that struck me today walking around Chicago. Maybe people secretly do want to eat Porky Pig. Or after a face-melting solo would like the guitarist fried up and served on top of a burger: The Piggery Presents Pork-a-palooza.