I live in a food loving family. My wife is in the restaurant business, and she and my son relax over big steaming pots on the stove, fresh bread baked in the oven and pouring over cookbooks. It goes without saying then that Ratatouille has always been one of our favorite movies.
That is, until dmcallum came along.
I mentioned, in mid-sequitur, about my love of the movie and he pointed out something – if rats are sentient in the movie’s universe, what does that mean for the food that Remy cooks?
Think about it – for anyone who is reasonably thoughtful about food and eating, the concept of eating meat has to be occasionally troubling (one thinks here of “Consider the Lobster”) if not outright impossible. But it’s something altogether worse to think of a sentient creature choosing to cook and serve another sentient creature to, what is basically, an enemy.
I am assuming here, of course, that rats are not the only sentient creatures in the movie. We don’t see evidence otherwise, but there is no logical reason to believe that rats are intelligent, creative and social, but no other animal is.
Now, Remy’s signature dish turns out to be vegetable-based, but at no point is it explicitly stated that Remy restricts himself to meat-free cooking. I believe that they do serve cuttlefish at some point in the movie, and a cursory check of the tie-in material for the movie lists a Filet Mignon recipe.
So we must assume that Remy is, at some point, serving up some of his cuddly compatriots for the patron’s pleasure. And in accepting that, as well as reveling in, or at least recognizing Remy’s gustatory pleasures, we must again face our own meat eating. In the fictional universe, Remy is committing a sort of pseudo-cannibalism for our eating pleasure (or, maybe worse, for his own pleasure in creating). At what point does the creepiness of such an act bleed over into our real life, where our animals aren’t necessarily as intelligent as Remy, but are certainly as cuddly? And what does it mean that I (and almost everyone else) do not notice this immediately upon watching the movie? Is it that our own moral blind spot (for us meat-eaters at least) is so large?
Or maybe ‘moral’ blind-spot is the wrong modifier. I find nothing inherently amoral about eating meat. But I have two dogs, and I often have to wonder why I find the concept of someone eating dogs to be repugnant, while I myself will willingly eat pigs. Because, really, what is the difference ? After all, pigs are smarter and cleaner, and are as capable of forming emotional bonds with humans. If you think about it long enough, you realize there is no difference beyond cultural programming. And when you realize that there are cultures that eat dogs, that eat people even, then you seriously need to question, what, really is the difference between their culture and your own.
I can reconcile the eating of meat in general, but not in specific – namely, for myself. If I choose, like Remy, to be deeply conscious of food, then that awareness forces me to see eating Orange Chicken to be fungible with eating, say, my dogs. And while I still see nothing morally wrong with that – I certainly can’t do it. Not anymore. Remy can cook his friends, but I can’t eat mine.
Vegetarianism, here I come (and pray I don’t accidentally watch a Veggie Tales movie).