Monday, March 31, 2014

The Male Appetite

Appetite can represent the sexual realm or any manner of desire. Or it can simply refer to the prosaic activity of stuffing one's face, refueling for the next challenge. Many action film's feature a scene or two of the hero eating. Even this action must include some kind of reassertion or confirmation of his masculinity. Meat is the meal of choice, and sausage-y meals seem to win the day. Meat is bolted, eaten one handedly which is why hot dogs are the usual selection. It is often simply crammed into a corner of the mouth and chewed briefly while the hero stands and discusses his next plan. If he is seated to dine, he leans back or forward, taking up space, opening his lower body. Large quantities of food may also be eaten.

Arnold eating meat and making a goofy face.
Masculinity has been linked to meat eating since forever. There might be something to this as studies have shown that meat consumption increases testosterone levels. In the natural world, the predators eat meat. The prey forage for roots and vegetables and then usually get eaten by the predator while standing in a field or savannah somewhere staring into space and chewing. In the movie Predator, Arnold ate nothing. He rarely eats in his movies which is rather interesting as he seems to be above the baser appetites in his films. This might be an attempt to show strength of character (to match his physical strength) through abstaining. He does eat in Twins but that film is comedic and not action oriented at all so it doesn't really count. He is shown enjoying an ice cream cone with his daughter in Commando, but that scene is part of a montage used to reveal his devotion as a father. Once the action starts in that film, the food eating stops. In Conan, Arnold eats, drinks and notably, screws. But that was one of his earliest films, once he was established as action star, he abandoned decadent behavior and never fucked again (in movies anyway).

Testosterone aside, there is just something masculine about meat in itself. Sometimes it's skewered on a stick and roasted. Barbecue is usually performed solely by men. Even the name 'pit master' suggests something dominant or puts one in the mind of scenes from Conan the Barbarian. Compare carnivorous men to herbivorous men and it becomes obvious. Complete masculine failure is evident in the vegan man. They're typically emaciated and weak. They can barely speak above a whisper because they lack the energy. They are ghostly, undefined. They possess an air of sanctimonious vegan piety as they eat their pathetic meat substitutes. Food becomes all and the sex drive collapses. Much of vegan fare is estrogenic it must be noted, which explains the utter lack of masculine aggression most vegan men display.

Action heroes are never vegans obviously so we can be done discussing them. Yet in some films, they display some unusual eating habits. In Cobra, Sylvester Stallone is something of a picky eater, a rarity for an action star. He worries about his partner's sugar consumption and suggests he eat fruit (which is rather a feminine food). He is weirded out when Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen) drowns her fries in ketchup.
Cobra appears to be a deep thinker, he mulls over the world while he chews his toothpick- that seems to be his sustenance. His first name is Marion though so maybe that's why he is so sensitive. The only time he is shown eating is in the opening of the film. He cuts cold leftover pizza with scissors (a masculine and resourceful solution to a lack of proper cutlery...having said supplies would be feminine, no?) and eats absentmindedly while watching the news and getting upset over the state of the world. But then this action becomes meaningless when he doesn't even eat the whole slice, only a dainty corner that he eats slowly, meditatively.

Tough guy seeks sustenance.
In The Thing, MacReady's so tough he eats whiskey. In Lethal Weapon, Riggs (Mel Gibson) inhales a hot dog at the side of the road. In Lethal Weapon II, Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Riggs eat fast food with Leo (Joe Pesci) who gets stuck with a tuna sandwich he didn't order. Riggs and Murtaugh dine on more masculine meaty fare while Leo refuses to eat the tuna. The Dirty Harry films, too, are filled with hot dog eating. In Sudden Impact, Harry Callahan offers disgusted advice on the proper way to eat a hotdog to his partner: "nobody, I mean, nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog." In the first film in the iconic series, Dirty Harry stops a group of bank robbers by himself while casually chewing on the last bite of a hot dog. Said diner hot dog, we are told, is his typical lunch and dinner fare.

So why all this hot dog consumption? What is so masculine about the hot dog? The suggestive way it can be tucked into a bun? Is it its portability, it's phallic shape? Is it the insouciance and bravery that must belong to the hot dog eater, who is content, nay, eats with relish (heh) a tube of meat in a questionable casing fashioned from the flesh of various animals? Why do action heroes like hot dogs?

This is Part I of a four part series. Stay tuned for The Male Appetite Part II: Sex, The Male Appetite Part III: Altered States and The Male Appetite Part IV: Accessories and Acquisitions

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