Food & Alcohol as a Means of Comfort

In Vibrator, the role of food isn’t a traditional one, but it is essential nonetheless as it is what Rei, the female protagonist of the film, seeks comfort and refuge in. Rei, a freelance writer struggling with bulimia and alcoholism, finds herself drawn to bottles of gin and wine for the sake of maintaining sanity and sleep.  For her, consumption of food and alcohol takes the voices and pain away. Yet, the drawback of such overindulgence is the distorted body image she has of herself as she gains weight.  As a “bulimiarexic”, she throws up after each meal or gallon of alcohol so that she could remain thin and accepted in society.

Vibrator begins and ends in the convenience store, where Rei begins her stream-of-consciousness narrative that allows the audience to delve deep into her character.  Rei searches through the convenience store for German white wine to ease her troubles when Okabe, a truck driver that immediate draws her attention, interrupts her life by intentionally swiping her behind. As Rei enters into his truck, here begins a journey of two alienated individuals building a strong emotional and physical relationship.

In this scene, we see Rei’s first encounter with both food and alcohol. She utilizes the corn chips and the alcohol to calm her nerves as she prepares herself for her first sexual encounter with Okabe.  Rei portrays her utmost desire for love, care, and attention as she repeatedly mentions, “I want to touch you” and “Don’t make me sad”. Two complete strangers become intertwined into this first scene.

The same liquor and chips is thrown up in the following scene, demonstrating Rei’s bulimic routine. Rei steps out of the truck to throw up the little that she ate away from Okabe’s view. In this period of time, she still holds her guard in front of Okabe, hiding her vulnerability. Both parties are alienated and distant at first. For instance, Okabe lies to Rei about the wife, kids, and stalker, yet Rei is so enchanted and drawn by this man that it doesn’t matter to her.

It isn’t until Rei hears the voices from the walkie-talkie and radio that she is fully exposed, as her very own self-destructive, vulnerable self. . Ryuichi Hiroki presents her emotional instability through various flashbacks and voices that show her as an obviously, wounded person. At this point, she’s already mentioned to Okabe about her eating disorder. As they stop on the side of the road, Rei is sprawled on the floor beating her-self up. Yet nonetheless, Okabe is there to support her and understand her. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Okabe remains by her side.

Although Okabe isn’t there to save Rei or to force her to change, he shows his nurturing care for her both physically and emotionally. As the film neared the end, Okabe comes clean with Rei about his nonexistent wife, kids, and stalker and asks that she go with him, a gesture of his acceptance of her. Through this endeavor with Okabe, she finally sees that there is someone out there that can accept who she is. Even the music that resides in the background in later scenes uses the words, “I still love you even if you’re nobody”. In the end, she chooses not to stay with him but she is a happier person. Food in Vibrator remains an object of comfort and refuge for Rei. Although she no longer hears the voices that torment her towards the end of the film, she still uses alcohol to ease her in her healing process. Her relationship with food becomes very similar to her relationship with Okabe, irresistible and tempting. As she consistently describes Okabe as “tasty” and “good enough to eat”, she links her intimate relationship with food with her relationship with Okabe. Like she mentions by the end of the film, “He was good enough to eat but he ended up consuming me”, Rei relates Okabe to the food that she seeks so often to help her cope with her struggle for acceptance in a consumerist society. Rather than puke out Okabe like she normally does with food, she nourishes him, so that she can begin a new life.

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