Why Cannibalism Is Suddenly Trendy – The Hollywood Reporter

If you think people eating people is a bit everywhere lately, you’re not wrong.

Cannibal romance is here Bones and all, starring Timothée Chalamet, is in theaters now. Another current film, a dark comic thriller menu, flirts with the subject by juxtaposing food and death. Netflix recently had record viewers for September Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. In January, we had the acclaimed cannibal horror film fresh. And in recent years there have been worms Yellow jackets And the indie breakout rawAmong others.

So as you celebrate the festival with family and friends this weekend, we reached out to Long Island University biology professor William Shute, author of the acclaimed book. Cannibalism: A Perfect Natural History And Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures. Together we tackled the subject of cannibalism and entertainment, and what provokes the greatest Western taboo.

I think we are biologically driven to recoil from the idea of ​​cannibalism. But is that accurate?

I say no. I think culture is king. When I started writing the book about cannibalism it was surprising – it is so widespread throughout nature. I’m talking about hundreds and thousands of species, from invertebrates to monkeys, that eat their young for reasons we knew nothing about until recently. The party line is almost always that the only reason you see cannibalism in the animal kingdom is under starvation conditions or if you put the creatures in stressful captive conditions – except for some creatures like black widow spiders and praying mantises.

Scientists began to figure out that wasn’t the case. There are all kinds of reasons why cannibalism occurs – parental care or unpredictable environmental conditions or sexual selection. For example, if you’re a codfish and lay 5 million eggs, it’s not like Tony and Tina are there. You are looking at the equivalent of raisins. They are nutritious. There is no danger in consuming them. Perhaps most fish are cannibals.

But humans are not codfish. Even if there are some human cultures that do this, one would think that there would be some instinct in finding it wrong – how we are innately finding intercourse wrong, even if it still happens.

With mating, you’re limiting the gene pool, which is a problem. Along with cannibalism, there are diseases associated with eating humans – there was a disease in Peru, but I don’t think it spread worldwide.

Culturally, once you get into humans, we decide if it’s okay to eat grandma after she’s killed because it’s honoring her in a way — or if it’s disgusting and you think she should be buried.

In Western culture — from the time of the Greeks and then transferred to the Romans and all — there was this idea that cannibalism was the worst thing you could do. It has to do with the imagination of others. If you’re a good ancient Greek, you don’t eat bodies. But other people do, so they are not human either. A lot of people in the West jumped on that bandwagon. It became arguably the number one Western taboo. He insisted that if other cultures were practicing cannibalism when Westerners appeared, this behavior wouldn’t cut it.

So in a world dominated by Western culture, any vestiges of cannibalism as a ritual went out the window. The guys handing out the t-shirts didn’t stop there. But there were cultures that didn’t have that Western influence, where cannibalism took place until relatively recently for things like cremation rights. There were South American groups who heard from Western anthropologists that we buried our dead. So I don’t think there is something evolutionary or genetic that prevents us from cannibalism. I think it’s cultural.

Interesting. It is no. 1 You note that the Western ban. Prohibition in cinema is as old as cinema itself. But I can’t recall there being so many projects that mention this topic in such a short period of time.

Yes. I got an idea about it. Cannibalism is the no. Let’s say 1 is forbidden. Now you add food to it and you have charm. There’s this sort of gruesome element that appeals to people when you see it through a fairy tale filter or these stories about crazy killers and you have an attraction. Twenty years ago, it was Hannibal Lecter; Now it’s Timothée Chalamet.

Why, if you can imagine, do you think there has been a surge of projects on this lately? Why here and now?

We’ve become really numb to violence on screen, especially when you put a filter of fiction on it. Now you can have blood and guts and blood that people can get off, but also have this idea of ​​food. There may be another reason, but to me that explains why it’s so popular.

I suspect – and this kind of cross-pollination somewhat cross-pollinates what you said – that it’s a content maximization problem. There are more than 400 scripted shows regularly per year, as well as a lot of films. We are overcoming taboos to become taboo.

I think it started Bonnie and ClydeA 1968 film, you can splatter blood all over the place. We are intensely savage and sensitive to violence. Also, there is a built-in attraction when you hear the word. When I say the word “cannibalism” you have a knee-jerk reaction. So whether you’re writing a news article or a piece of fiction, you’ve got a built-in hook.

The same is true of this story. It may sound strange, but I’m thinking of a romantic thriller Bones and allAnd, to some extent, projects are like that fresh: Is there something addictive about cannibalism?

Good question. I’d say cannibalism is just as extreme as vampirism – the former is even more extreme. Again, these things only have that effect if they can be viewed through the filter of fiction. Food – often seen as an intoxicant – plus taboo equals attraction.

There was also the Army Hammer scandal. The idea of ​​cannibalism is as disturbing as real-life magic. How common is that?

I’m not a criminal psychologist, so I’m not someone who feels comfortable talking about this spectrum of crime. There are many disorders that can cause that kind of behavior. I believe it is popular because it jumps off the page. If you hear of someone being stabbed to death, it won’t be in the papers. But if you hear that someone has been killed and killed, then everyone will hear about it on the news.

Are you surprised by the number of projects, the amount of interest?

not me In the 1970s there was a fascination with the Donner Party and the cannibalistic stories of survival and the book. Alive – It made for a very badly made movie.

Instead AliveAre there movies or shows that tackle this topic that you feel are particularly, uh, well done?

A lot of good is being done in the Donner Party, the most famous example of cannibalism in United States history. The Silence of the Lambs It was a good thriller for many reasons. I don’t think it’s over the top [as a project with] Elements of cannibalism.

Is there anything I didn’t hear about cannibalism and pop culture that you think our readers would be interested in knowing?

People often ask me what the two most amazing things I came up with for writing a book. The first is how widespread cannibalism is in nature. But the second, given the Western taboo on cannibalism, was how widespread it was in Europe for hundreds of years. There was medicinal cannibalism, where every part of the human body was used to “cure” every kind of illness or mental disorder. Body parts were prepared and powdered or drunk. And this continued until the beginning of the 20th century. It was also in the Merck Index, a large pharmaceutical encyclopedia. Then it disappeared from the history books. He deleted it.

The last vestiges of it are now people who consume their placentas after birth. That’s the remnants of medicinal cannibalism. It’s fallen into alternative medicine under the idea that if you eat your placenta, you’re replacing the hormones that were lost after birth. That is not something that is widespread around the world these days. It was mostly Americans starting in the 1970s.

And with that, I hope readers enjoy their cranberry sauce today.

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