Becoming a vegetarian was actually easier than I thought. I have never been interested in fatty meats. There is nothing worse than enjoying your delicious and supposedly lean beef and then suddenly you bite into a hard, fatty cartilage and it’s so disgusting that you have to spit it out in a Napkin, and it ruins the whole meal. What could be worse than that? Fat and black chicken. You enjoy it, then you break it down into smaller, easier-to-chew pieces. It’s not a beautiful view. There are only mushy veins, arteries and fat deposits, and you have no choice but to stop eating it and break it.
I was my mother’s primary caregiver until she succumbed to her four-year battle with Stage III ovarian cancer in 2007. I was heartbroken. I was scared too. As strong as my mother was, especially with her ridiculously high pain threshold, she had often seemed invincible. If she couldn’t beat cancer, then who?! Not only was I addicted to coffee, but even worse, I had been smoking cigarettes for about 15 years and all my previous attempts to quit smoking had been short-lived and unsuccessful. Something good had to come out of my mother’s away. Giving up meat seemed to be the most logical, feasible and realistic step in the right direction.
Richard Linkafter’s film, Fast Food Nation, had just been released on DVD. It was – and still is – easily one of his worst films. Not only does the Film have far too many characters, but they are all insufficiently developed and therefore it is impossible to be invested in one of them. To make matters worse, the Film is a depressing lamentable chant in which many of these characters go through a series of uncomfortable events with little or no grace.
Despite these flaws, the Film manages to show us what is really in our flesh; it was the last nail in the coffin that led me to banish meat from my life for the most part. The film is based on real events from Eric Schlosser’s book of the same name, which he romanticized. The popular opinion seems to be that the Film would have been much stronger as a documentary, and I agree. Much of the book focuses on real people who seem more interesting and relatable than the Hollywood actors chosen to play them in the Film.
When independent investigations reveal that there is a significant amount of manure in the fast food chain’s meat, Mickey’s, its marketing director Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), is sent to the fictional town of Cody, Colorado. After some digging, it turns out that Uni-Globe, the plant responsible for delivering Mickey’s meat, is too concerned about its unreasonably high productivity to bother to comply with some of the safety measures taken. One of them involves a thorough cleaning of feces from the entrails of livestock. Richard Linkafter fails to provide the important and complicated story of how we came to this horrible discovery that didn’t just happen overnight, with meatpacking giants like Hormel who deliberately abolished a significant part of their American workforce and replaced them with foreign ones
If you are wondering how the smell and taste of huge amounts of feces in meat are disguised, do not worry. They have Laboratories for this, with bottles of chemical additives that taste and smell real and are so advanced that they trick the consumer’s brain into thinking it’s real. In a scene at the beginning of the film, Don tastes the bottles and is particularly impressed by the one that tastes like meat straight from the grill. “Don’t you think we need liquid smoke?”asks the scientist. “No, I think it’s perfect,” Don reassures him. Shortly after, we are taken to Mickey’s kitchen, where a disgruntled and underpaid teenage employee, Brian (Paul Dano), drops food on the floor, picks it up and spits it out. If you have ever wondered why you often feel sick from the fast food you have just consumed, now you know.
The infamous Kill Floor scene at the end manages to be the ultimate disgusting feast one might expect. In fact, I had to grab the small trash can nearby and put it next to me, just in matter I needed to get sick. Gone are the days when the meat packaging process took place in an entire factory. Thanks to corporate greed, the meatpacking giants willingly closed half the area of their factories, and then rented them out to companies that would end up paying even lower wages to their workers. The entire meat packaging process has been compressed into a smaller area, with sterile and immaculate white walls, counters, floors and ceilings, which makes the contrast with the blood, entrails and blood of the meat packaging process all the more disgusting and psychologically demoralizing. Endless amounts of blood flow out of the animals and the process seems much less humane and much more rushed for everyone involved. Linkafter confirmed in a few interviews that the images of the Kill floor and the Kill Floor workers were all real.
It’s a prolonged exercise in Humiliation as we follow Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno), an illegal immigrant and the despicable foreman Mike (Bobby Cannavale) with whom she slept to get this shitty job. The camera switches as he leads her to her new job on the Kill Floor. Like you, we feel uncomfortable, as if we are fainting. Due to insufficient screen time for you and your loved ones, we cannot give everyone the proper and appropriate Sympathy they deserve. Like El Norte, far superior, the Film should have focused only on the fate of the illegal immigrant, with non-Hollywood actors playing the roles. Part of the breakup also comes from Catalina Sandino Moreno and Wilmer Valderrama, who look more like models than illegal immigrants. In addition, I only see Fez from the comedy broadcast in the 70s when Valderrama is on the screen. I just can’t take him seriously in this supposedly serious role here.
It’s been 16 years since I stopped eating meat and it’s easily ranked as one of the best choices I’ve ever made. It helped me maintain my weight. It has also given me more energy and mental clarity to make better and more informed decisions in my daily life. Whenever I try to go back to meat, I am almost always disappointed in the experience. Then I think about Fast Food Nation and how it’s still holding up all these years after. The meatpacking industry and fast food chains are selling some of the grossest illusions to our consumers to make a profit. Just as Sylvia is told to breathe through her mouth to better cope with the horrible smell of Kill Floor’s, this is a crazy and unreasonable request for something that makes her so obviously sick. I feel the same way when I go to a fast food restaurant. The smell is unbearable. Maybe it’s because my resilience is worn out and therefore my tolerance for meat is low. I have to run away for fear of getting sick. The smell has never been so bad – so wild, disgusting and putrid unfiltered. Fiction or non-fiction, Sylvia and I both know what it’s about. We have seen the meat as it really is and we know that there must be something better out there. There must be some. There must be some. And this is perhaps one of the best ideas we have come up with.Tags: fast food, food nation, Movie