Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving leftovers

It's tempting to think people can only consume animals by forcing themselves to look away.  We can't resist the taste, okay, so don't tell us about it and we'll block it out of our minds, okay.  But then you look around during the Thanksgiving holidays and you see it's not like that at all.  People are very much okay with the idea of turkeys slaughtered for their pleasure.  Start with the football games on TV Thanksgiving Day.  They kept cutting to the same shot of turkeys in a claustrophobic turkey farm, pecking wildly, frantically climbing over each other, as terrified of the blade awaiting them as any human could ever be.  And, no, PETA didn't buy air time, this was the image the network used to get us in the Thanksgiving mood.  Whenever they cut to this turkey farm image, they'd cue the lush, orchestral schmaltz networks usually reserve for profiles of Olympians from small midwestern towns who overcame personal tragedy to triumphantly pursue their lifelong dream.  This schmaltzy music/turkey farm image combo would create the requisite evocative Thanksgiving mood and the play-by-play announcer would shift his voice down into a solemn baritone as he wished all America a happy Thanksgiving then expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the guys in the production truck, who would then wave to the camera and mouth the words, happy thanksgiving, everyone.  Okay, so there's that.  But we don't just use imminent turkey slaughter to conjure up feelings of humanity and empathy.  Emotionally versatile as we are, we're also able to see the lighter side of turkey slaughter.  Turkey consumption is the source of a neverending font of jokes.  These jokes tend to come in two forms:  1)  the turkey is the siren leading us to our gastrological doom.  These jokes feature us, as the self-deprecating glutton.  We fondly ridicule ourselves about the weight we'll put on, speculating on tomorrow's bulge in the belly after all that turkey.  We hold the turkey accountable for our sin of gluttony, but it's a good-natured condemnation.  After all, the turkey tastes so darn good, so how mad can we be, we're not total ingrates!  2)  the second common joke theme is variations of the turkey doing its level best to avoid slaughter.  These jokes are everywhere.  I just passed a lawn sign, next to an inflatable turkey wearing a pilgrim hat (subject for another time).  The turkey in the sign urges us to eat ham instead.  Heh heh!  Clever turkey understand we only have room for one species of animal at a time in our guts and by god he means to take advantage of this knowledge.  Not so clever turkey, there's room in our guts for every last one of you!  Talk about anthropomorphically projecting our traits, we manage to make this turkey sinister, deceitful and deluded in one fell swoop.  So, what else?  There's a Far Side cartoon that's been showing up on a lot of sales and marketing blogs, I guess because salesmen understand the importance of levity as a pre-requisite to human bonding.  In this cartoon, the turkeys attempt to fool the blind farmer by mooing like cows.  (The ever-observant suicide food handles theme #3, turkey consuming itself, applicable Thanksgiving and all year round, a theme but really miles and miles from being a joke, though that's the only way you can treat it.)  Then there's this one here, pictured above.  It's not a joke exactly either.  A lot of time went into it, whatever it is.  It seems to be a rendering of the turkey contemplating its imminent slaughter with a monkish stoicism that would make Marcus Aurelius proud, and in an unconventional medium to boot -- a wallace & grommitish claymation, I guess.  It looks good. It'll probably earn the studio that produced it the opportunity to bid on a car commercial.  so.  Animal slaughter that makes our food possible isn't our dirty little secret.  We don't have to look the other way, remaining purposely ignorant of the slaughter perpetrated for our benefit.  Just like Sarah Palin using the slaughter as a backdrop for her pardon the turkey so I can look presidential stunt, we're pretty much cool with the whole thing.  So fatten up them turkeys because Christmas is right around the bend.  wE'll replace the pilgrim hats with santa hats on our inflatable turkey lawn ornaments and we'll be good to go.