Belcher Gastronomique

A cheerily unalphabetical dictionary of food terms

Food in popular culture #1: In The Loop on cling film

Toby Wright talks to his girlfriend Suzy on the phone as he enters a lift with Malcolm Tucker on his first morning at work.

Malcolm Tucker: [on phone, trails off as exits shot] Fuckety bye.

Suzy: Sorry darling just a quick thing, did you put away the lasagne?

Toby: Of course, it’s in the fridge, it’s got cling film on it and everything.

(Toby Enters lift and steps to the back. Malcolm hovers in the foreground, pacing occasionally as he talks into his phone.)

Malcolm and Toby later in the film

Suzy: Why d’you put cling film on it?

Toby: Because that keeps it fresh. That’s the point of cling film.

Malcolm Tucker: Can I speak to James Lewis of the PM programme please?

Suzy: [Indistinct due to Malcolm Tucker talking in foreground] …keep it fresh.

Malcolm Tucker: No I don’t want to hold. He’s had me on hold already.

Toby: But but but, It might dry out, that’s an amateur mistake you’re making.

Suzy: [indistinct]

Malcolm Tucker: I’m not holding any longer right, what’s he waiting for a fucking sex change?

Toby: It’s not carcinogenic

Suzy: [faint, exasperated] It is.

Toby: …Cling film doesn’t give you cancer… this is insane, what kind of a country do you think this is? Cling film doesn’t give you cancer

Malcolm Tucker: What, Simon Foster? ‘Diarrhea for nobody’ yeah I like that.

Toby: …any more than aluminium foil gives you…

Malcolm Tucker: Ok, apropos of that, tomorrow I want… [becomes indistinct]

Toby: …AIDS or, you know, lasagne gives you syphilis. That’s, it’s not a.. thing.

Malcolm Tucker: [shouting] NO YOU RELAX!

Suzy: [indistinct].. god who’s that?!

Malcolm Tucker: [shouting] GET ME FUCKING BRIAN!

Suzy: [indistinct] …cream on your way home.


Opening credits.

Armando Iannucci’s flawless satire opens with this impeccable example of jousting dialogues and scene-setting. Here, Suzy’s awareness of the dangers of household chemicals serves to do two things. Firstly, it places her squarely in the ranks of the Guardianista, a certain type of middle class liberal. Secondly it, effectively and comically, shows him to be the kind of man who is ‘under the thumb’ in his relationship. (It is interesting that were the roles reversed, Toby would likely still be emasculated by his concerns about chemicals and domestic arrangements, but Suzy, would not be so deflated in the viewer’s eyes by his asking her to pick up cream on the way home. Interesting too how Toby’s failure to make it to his first day at work with a compartmentalised independence from his girlfriend shows him to be an ineffectual underdog while Tucker aggressively impugns a man’s masculinity on the phone beside him. Tucker, of course, it is impossible to imagine having such a conversation with a wife or girlfriend. His work life is regimentedly compartmentalised from his home life, whatever that should be.) Overall, this is an interesting twist on the typical use of chemical sensitivity/food intolerance as a direct indication of a character’s neurosis ie. Lilith Frasier/Sternin, and, possibly, on the strength of a hilarious viewing last night, Sheldo Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. It is also, in common with Iannucci’s other work, extremely effective, incisive, and very very funny.

This aside though, also of interest in this piece is the functionalist fallacy expressed in Toby’s ‘what kind of a country do you think this is?’ Toby is a Guardianista in an outwardly cynical mode (he often expresses himself cynically though he is, at heart, an idealist; this is common among the Guardianista, who are familiar with the pitfalls of appearing to be worthy) and so it is not wholly surprising that he should believe it to be impossible that everyday household chemicals would not be permitted to be in any way dangerous. Elsewhere, however, variations upon the ‘what kind of a country do you think this is?’ expression of the functionalist fallacy, are very often heard in connection with such expressions of suspicion towards the safety of chemicals in foods, often spoken by those who would, in common with many of this films’ viewers, believe that we live in the kind of a country that would fabricate evidence for war, bully, manipulate , threaten, blackmail and harrass people (or worse), to achieve that end. Cling film, however, could not be carcinogenic, be a hormone disrupter, or in any other fashion in itself or in combination with the cocktail of chemicals we are exposed to every day, be cause for concern. After all, in the logic and parlance of the United States of America we are increasingly coming to mimic in our conversation and thinking, cling film has, like, been around forever.

Gav B


January 6, 2010 - Posted by | commentary, Food in popular culture | , , ,

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