When we see indulgence in “public life”, reactions vary depending upon several factors, including size, gender
Take, for example, the film Pretty Women (1990), in which Julia Roberts character chows down on a huge breakfast, noshing on huge pieces of bread and pancakes while sitting in a white robe, sexily showing off one leg.
In When Harry Met Sally, Meg Ryan, infamously demonstrates how easy it is for a woman to fake an orgasm as she eats her sandwich.
In both of these scenes, the leading women portray eating in delight, in public, but only to serve to enhance their erotic attraction to men. Because the bodies of these heroines portray the “ideal thin body”, it’s only ok for them to indulge in culinary delights. Particularly if the gustatory experience leads to heterosexual intercourse. However, if a female is overweight she isn’t allowed to “enjoy” eating. To do so is seen as overly indulgent, gluttonous and a loss of control.
Contrast the scenes I described above with Shallow Hal. If you haven’t seen this abhorrent movie, don’t bother, but I’ll give you the quick and dirty. Gwyneth Paltrow’s character (Rosemary) is obese but appears thin to her suitor (played by Jack Black). He will only date conventionally attractive women, but Tony Robbins hypnotizes him and makes him see ‘inner beauty’. This entire movie is centered on fat shaming. In the restaurant scene, Rosemary casts a downward glance, clearly feeling ashamed, as she orders a giant meal, including a “double pizza burger, large chili fry
We also see the theme of only allowing thin women to indulge in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. The film creates a dichotomy between “good eating” and “bad eating”, linking thinness with “good eating” and fatness with lack of control. The film follows Evelyn Couch, an overweight housewife with no self-esteem (of course, no overweight character is allowed to have self-esteem) and a husband who doesn’t pay attention to her. Evelyn is shown indulging in candy bars and other junk food, and it is portrayed as pitiful. Contrast that with how the film portrays Idgie and Ruth, both of whom are thin and attractive. They indulge in a variety of culinary delights and it’s seen as acceptable, even sexy. The scenes alternate between the stories of Idgie and Ruth, which are full of homemade pies, fresh berries and picnics and Evelyn’s pitiful life, which includes her devouring an entire box of Krispy Kreme donuts.
In a food fight scene, the cinematography and editing techniques set the stage by displaying a close up of the green tomatoes in a skillet, the film cuts to a bowl of red tomatoes, then plays the sound of tomatoes frying. The camera then cuts to fresh berries, eggs
Lindenfeld (2005) studied the film from a rhetorics of food perspective, she states:
“The film Fried Green Tomatoes(Avent, 1991) poses an interesting puzzle for me, as it is seemingly progressive in its treatment of race, gender, and sexuality,” (221). The film reaffirms hegemonic values and provides several examples of the relationship between gender, food
power (230).” and
I had the same experience, in that this movie serves as an interesting portrayal of the relationship between women, food