Author Archives: artudetu45

SeaWorld: The Cove’s Continuing Nightmare

SeaWorld is one of the premier aquatic theme parks in not only the United States but globally, as well. Opened in 1964, these theme parks make use of captive orcas, sea lions and dolphins in various types of shows and attractions. SeaWorld has also been known for its animal rescue and rehabilitation programs: programs that, since their inception, have saved around 22,000 animals from endangerment and extinction. However, these programs have brought a lot of criticism from wildlife groups all over the world such as Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project Inc. In the movie, The Cove, which showcases O’Barry and his followers’ attempts to stop the annual slaughter of almost 2, 000 dolphins in Taiji, Japan, the lives of dolphins in captivity are portrayed as sad and detrimental to the lives of one of the world’s smartest creatures. Confinement in captivity seriously compromises the welfare and survival of these animals by altering their behavior and causing extreme distress. From this movie, an example of participatory documentary, the world is able to see the truth behind dolphin slaughter as well as the secrets behind dolphinariums such as SeaWorld.

Ric O’Barry’s conviction throughout The Cove is that no dolphin can thrive in captivity, regardless of whether it was bred there, or caught in the wild in a drive. Dolphins are anatomically built for life in the open sea. They have very sensitive organs that detect small vibrations in the waves and can act like sonar, and it is sensitive enough to detect other sea life for miles away. It doesn’t make a difference where these animals come from – the wild or breeding centers – their bodies, sensory system, and nervous system are not built for small areas. They will never be able to be released in the wild. The Cove stresses that “dolphinariums”, such as SeaWorld, are responsible for buying live dolphins from the Japanese fishermen for use in their dolphin shows, aquariums, and swim-with-the-dolphin programs.

 

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A typical dolphinarium show.

 

Though SeaWorld itself does not directly buy dolphins from Taiji distributers, O’Barry still believes that SeaWorld by keeping the dolphins in captivity, they are nevertheless killing them. Even though he was one of the founding fathers of the dolphin entertainment industry, he has changed his stance regarding their use and wants to end the use of dolphins, as well as other animals, in shows across the globe. He states, “I spent 10 years building that industry up, and I spent the last 35 trying to tear it down” when asked about his efforts to end the dolphinarium industry. He maintains throughout the film that it is not only the slaughter of the dolphins which he fights against but he also believes that “all of these captures help create the largest slaughter of dolphins on the planet” because whether dolphins are captured or not, their outlook is just as bleak being used as entertainment as being used for food.

 

Up until the 1980s, SeaWorld did in fact import whales from slaughter sites such as those in Taiji. It wasn’t until things like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and work by environmentalists in the early 1990s that finally curbed the importation of dolphins into the United States. However, as seen in The Cove, this has done little to curb the use of these animals in SeaWorld and other similar amusement parks in the US. Instead, dolphins are simply bred in captivity and never actually experience what it is like to be free and a real dolphin. “It’s the captivity industry that keeps this slaughter going by rewarding the fishermen for their bad behavior” and paying for the dolphins to be exported across the world as food and amusement. O’Barry shows through his film how SeaWorld and other aquatic entertainment centers refuse to criticize other facilities that buy animals from Taiji and have not taken any plans or moved in a direction to stop the hunts themselves.

 

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A dolphin suffering from depression in captivity.

 

By using participatory documentary, we can see what it actually takes to make a dent in the capture and murder of dolphins. O’Barry’s chronicle of his groups attempt to be the first to document the slaughter of the dolphins in Taiji and document the outside forces which help continue these slaughters. We also get a sense of how situations in the film are affected or altered by his presence. He must disguise himself, shake the tails that companies put on him, and avoid pesky fishermen in order to achieve the goal of his film. The encounter between him and the subject becomes a critical element of the film and allows us to see into the actual battle that is being waged in Japan. He makes the film in a way that allows him to shape the issues according to his own sense of what is important, and controls how the audience sees the story as well. By participating and actually showing the changes that his persistence brings, he is able to better explain the predicament of the dolphins and allow for a larger backing of his cause by the audience. His admittance of his involvement in creating this problem and the pain that he feels for being a major cause of dolphin slaughter and capture, allows the audience to gain an emotional connection to the dolphins.

 

            Overall, SeaWorld continues practices that O’Barry and The Cove aim to stop. We see that though they don’t directly support Taiji, their lack of work towards the prevention of these acts is apparent. For a company that is at the forefront of marine entertainment and “rescue”, they have not used their global influence as much as they should. They don’t take action because it could potentially hurt the multi-million dollar profits that they make every year. People don’t see what goes on behind the scenes after hours. The best way to end dolphin captivity for entertainment and general slaughter is through the education of the public about the dark side of that captivity and what it does to the health and lives of these captive ‘entertainers’. Thankfully, The Cove does its best to portray these problems best they can because without documentaries like this one, our global wildlife will suffer greatly. As stated in the film, “If we can’t stop that [dolphin capture and slaughter], if we can’t fix that, forget about the bigger issues. There’s no hope.” 

 

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Entrées of Consolidation

When we eat, we establish a direct identity between our culture and the natural world. Food reflects social identities and membership in social groups.  It not only unifies people from all aspects of life, it serves as a facet of society and socialization throughout the world. People are able to gather together when food is present. It allows us to feel relaxed and socialize with one another even if there are stark differences between groups. Food allows us to strengthen social ties and serves as a unifier not only within cultural groups themselves, but between those groups. It reduces cultural differences to a minimum, reducing the disparities seen between groups of various races, ethnicities and even socioeconomic standing. This unification can be seen in the tales of Momotaro or Peach Boy, a Japanese folk hero whose stories have remained incredibly influential in Japan for the past three centuries. Food serves as a main unifier throughout the various adaptations of Momotaro. Whether they are in literature or film, food is used to symbolize community and functions as a method by which Momotaro can contract animals to help him with his quests. Throughout these variants of the story food remains a common element; food as a method to portray nationalism. The characters in the story represent different elements of Japanese society and are united by food.

In the original Momotaro story published by Iwaya Sazanami, food, specifically millet dumplings, play a crucial role in Momotaro’s development into a hero. At the very beginning of the folk tale, Momotaro’s adoptive parents discover him in a giant peach. They are “both so astonished at this appearance that they were frightened out of their wits, and they fell down” (15). The peach symbolizes life in Japanese culture and thus Momotaro’s appearance brings new life into the lives of the old couple. He is portrayed as coming from Heaven and thus has a mission on earth that he must fulfill. Once he reaches the age of fifteen, he feels an intense desire to go “wage war against them [the oni], to catch and crush them and bring back all their treasures” (19). He bids his family farewell but not before his father prepares “suitable food for a warrior on a journey” (21). This food, Kibi-dango or millet dumplings, may not seem out of the ordinary, but in reality it is these dumplings which are the means by which Momotaro can ultimately be successful at the end of his journey. As he goes about his quest, he gives half a millet dumpling to each animal he encounters on his journey. The dog, monkey, and pheasant each, in turn, become his honorable retainers and thus accompany him to the Ogres’ Island to defeat the oni. The dumplings serve as ways to bring the group together and to maintain respect and loyalty to each other. At first, the animals are incredibly aggressive towards each other but after receiving their dumplings, “all three animals were the best of friends and obeyed Peach-Boy’s commands, heart and soul” (32). The humility and esteem the dumplings bring the group into a familial connection. Prepared by Momotaro’s parents who love him dearly, these dumplings spread their love for him to the animals that end up becoming unconditionally loyal and respectful to him. His “influence of a great General is a great thing!” (32). Thus, with his new army, he is able to overcome the demons. The millet dumplings are what lead to the intense camaraderie between the group and shed light into the ability of food to bring together people from all different backgrounds for a common cause. Food is portrayed not only as a labor of love from his parents but also as a method by which Momotaro becomes a hero. With the support of this food, he accumulates all he needs to accomplish his goal and it allows him to reap the benefits of the spoils of victory.

Mitsuyo Seo’s adaptation of the traditional Momotaro lore, Momotaro’s Sea Eagles, utilizes some of the same food elements seen in the traditional tale. However, this adaptation is not used solely for the purpose of entertainment but takes on a slightly darker, propagandist twist. In the film, the millet dumplings don’t have the same emotional effect as seen in the original tale, but they seem to still have a significant effect on Momotaro and his minions. The millet dumplings, as seen in the hands of a monkey, give a reaction similar to the one seen in the American Popeye cartoons. They give him the strength and fearlessness needed in order to complete his mission for his country.

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                     The similarities between Popeye and the monkey in Momotaro’s Sea Eagle

The dumplings are also used as rewards for the retainers and are part of the spoils, which they take after defeating the demons. The benefits of the dumplings are evident as the soldiers overrun the demons’ ships and decimate their forces. This sweeping victory aims to showcase the Japanese superiority over their American counterparts. It lifts the attack on Pearl Harbor to a mythical level; Momotaro leads pheasants, monkeys, and dogs into a fight against evil demons. The millet dumplings are more complex in Sea Eagles; the sense of love and camaraderie seen in the traditional story takes on a much larger nationalistic meaning. The nationalistic approach sheds light on the dumplings effects versus those that of the effects of the alcohol on the captain of the demon ship. While his fleet gets destroyed, he squirms around in his drunken squalor helpless to stop the invasion. The stark contrast between Momotaro and the demon captain is apparent in that the captain continues to drink while Momotaro executes his plan to perfection. The captain is not only a drunkard but is also incredibly overweight. These two characteristics are obvious propaganda tools portraying the American diet as unhealthy while that of the Japanese is lauded for its benefits to its soldiers (such as with the monkey). Overall, food in Sea Eagle represents more than just a “superman drug,” it represents the desire for Japanese global dominance in World War II. The dumplings serve as the unique aspect of Japanese culture that is untouched by Western influence; this distinctiveness aims to show the Japanese as good while the Americans are portrayed in a much more negative light.

            Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s documentary Minimata: The Victims and Their World aims to show the negative effects that food has on communities as a whole. Unlike the Momotaro stories, this documentary shows the unity that families and communities have during times of intense suffering. Throughout the entire film, the audience is exposed to residents of Minamata and the mercury poisoning caused by the fish contaminated by Chisso fertilizer factory. The families suffer from deformities and other critical diseases and thus are subject to intense hardships due to lack of government effort and the slow response by the factory itself. The food itself is the reason why the people are in such a bad state yet they continue to share their food because of the rich culture and sense of community that is felt through these eating interactions. The endurance and love they show each other is inspiring, but the conditions for life is so fatefully tragic due to the seemingly endless amounts of mercury found in the nearby water sources. The food that they need to survive is what is actually killing them. This vicious cycle only continues even when they go to the shareholder meeting because of the lack of compassion Chisso shows for its victims. This film is a window into the anger, grief, and agony that lasted a lifetime for the people involved. Family members share the agonies endured by their loved ones before they died of the disease and show the consequences that the food around them had on their lives. However, throughout all the suffering and tragedy, the community grows closer together; the people unite under a common goal, much like in the Momotaro stories, and work hard together to overcome any obstacle in their way. The film serves as a disturbing reminder of the indifference of corporate entities to human welfare and stands as a testament to the power of community in overcoming that indifference.  

The theme that becomes apparent in all three works is the ability of food to be a uniting factor within and between communities. Food establishes bonds and maintains those same bonds throughout the test of time because of its cultivation, preparation, and consumption which all represent a cultural act. Food serves as a representative of unity and community. Whether it be the coming together to fight against demons or to fight against an insensitive, corrupt company, the fact of the matter remains the same: food is the facilitator of modern culture. Without food, we are left with a fragile society that lacks the intrapersonal relationships needed for a fully functioning humanity. Food is no longer just a normal material object; it is a symbol of the synthesis required for the successful advancement of a nation.   

Food and Exoticism – A Pathway to Intercultural Influence

 

In Junichiro Tanizaki’s Gourmet Club, the plot revolves around a group of “gastronomers” and their quest for the ultimate dining experience, one that would put “poetry, music, and painting in the shade” (99). The members of this club are true connoisseurs of food; they spend every day attempting to find the most unique foods that would quell the boredom they find in the foods found in Tokyo and the surrounding areas. Their “tongues lost all taste for the usual ‘fine cuisine’; lick and slurp as they might, they could no longer discover the excitement and joy in eating that they demanded” (102) and thus, “driven by their gluttony” (103), they created a contest to see who could discover or create the most delectable and exotic dish.

The leader of this club, Count G., takes it upon himself to find the dish that would blow the minds of his comrades. He wanted to discover “foods whose flavors would make the flesh melt and raise the soul to heaven” (104), ones that would be so unique that it would be virtually unfathomable to the rest of the club. He begins his journey into the depths of Tokyo within an inclination that he would discover his the winning prize. He travels deep into the depths of Tokyo, ignoring the major restaurants and stopping to test out the smaller, less well-known eateries. He finally discovers a building in a back alleyway that seems as if it holds the answers to his quest. He is fascinated by the fact that it is a “three-story wooden house of Western style” (108) with just the name Chanchiang Hall written on a sign by the locked door. The music that comes from the third floor stirs up images of food within the Count, instantly igniting his already roaring appetite. Tanizaki states that, “from the moment he realized it was not a restaurant, his desire to sample the food here had burned all the more fiercely” (111). The building itself and his realization that within laid a genuine Chinese club with traditional Chinese food, could perhaps “be the grail that he’d been seeking” (112).  Within the club, he encounters an environment that overwhelms him. The hazy atmosphere combined with the smells and sights that he is unaccustomed to make his experience all the more intense. He meets the president of this club and is dismayed at his rejection from this exclusive Chinese dining club. He states “I’ve been longing to encounter a man like that-the ultimate connoisseur” (126), a man whose food surpasses even that seen in Count G.’s dreams.

Through sheer persistence, the Count is able to convince a member to let him secretly observe the meals in the club and from this he gains his inspiration for the ultimate dining experience. He brings this inspiration and creates dishes that electrify and stupefy the rest of his club. His dishes are far more exotic than the other members could have imagined. With names like “Pigeon-Egg Hot Springs”, the Count was able to create a dining experience that was unbeknownst previously. He states “in order to provide ourselves with other satisfying tastes, we must both greatly expand the range of that ‘cuisine’ and also diversify as much as possible the senses we use in enjoying it” (137).  This last statement epitomizes the idea of exoticism and its connection to food. The concept of exoticism is something that is attractively strange or remarkably unusual. The Chinese restaurant is familiar and fashionable to the Count but at the same time, it is different and strange, thus peaking his interest and creating the sense of exoticism that he desires. Exoticism exists in the folds between notions of inside and outside; these “exotic foods” desired by the club are connected to the mainstream market, but still maintain themselves as separate from mainstream culture. The Chinese club serves as the inspiration for the Gourmet Club, it serves as the representation of one culture for the consumption of the other; in other words, it is exotic. 

Risking Life for Food: The Importance of Food as a Source of Happiness and Fulfillment in Tampopo

 

 

 

 

 

Food is a necessary part of everyday life. It shapes how societies function and serves as a major tool in globalization and the spread of culture within a country itself. In Tampopo directed by Juzo Itami, the major plot revolves around a woman, Tampopo, and her desire to be a successful ramen chef. Through persistent research and development, she eventually becomes successful. She takes a risk by opening a ramen-ya in the first place. She is not well trained and thus runs this mediocre restaurant until Goro, the trucker, helps train her to become better. He takes a huge risk on her; he goes in blind only hoping that his knowledge and dedication to ramen will transfer over to Tampopo. Thankfully, Tampopo is the ideal student; she does whatever it takes to try and become successful. She risks life and limb to make sure that she produces the best ramen. She puts everything on the line to pursue her life dream and doesn’t let anything stand in her way. This major theme that resonates throughout the story of taking risks and challenging the social norm, is not only shown in Tampopo’s story, but in that of that various side-plots throughout the film.

The old man in the scene below perfectly exemplifies the necessity of taking risks in life. He is told specifically to not eat the shiroko, the kamonamban or the tempura soba because “they almost got you last time” (as stated by his wife). However, the moment that she leaves, he immediately begins to gorge himself; so much so that he gets food stuck in his throat and begins to choke. He so thoroughly enjoys this food he eats with a blatant disregard for the warning he receives. He loves the food so much that he doesn’t really care what it will do to him; he only knows that he must risk eating it in order to be happy.

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The old man is warned that if he eats what he likes, he is risking his life.

In general, however, living involves many risks. The old man is told that he can’t eat this, that, and all sorts of other things. But he still orders all the things he’s not supposed to. Why? Risk makes us feel alive. Life without risk is life stuck in a rut. Like Tampopo, the old man is not content with barely living, he wants to do what he wants, and not let anyone dictate what he can or cannot do. The predominant characteristic of humans is our ability to take risk. We need change and growth in our lives. If you’re not growing, then you’re dying. The old man literally takes this to heart, disregarding his previous negative experience.

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The old man gets the food vacuumed out of his throat, saving his life. 

Itami shows the true importance of food and its correlation with happiness. Though this scene can be taken as a simple comedic interlude, I feel as if it is one of the most important moments in the film. It shows not only that food is something that people really enjoy, but it also shows the risks people will take to pursue something that they love. Food is an important status in Japanese everyday life. They unite family, community, society, and culture; things definitely worth taking risks to attain.