1. Several people gave me particularly acute responses to earlier drafts of this article: Dave Andrews, Dave Tolchinsky, Catherine Clepper, Julia Lesage, John Hess, Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece.
2. Links to JC TOC pages for 49, 50.
3. “Serving the People: Dumplings,” Jump Cut no. 49 (April 2007).
4. I don’t have a precise source for this quote, which I wrote down when I first heard it, so I’m sure it is accurate, but I’d appreciate any help in tracking down the reference.
5. Although of course this is not uniform. In the U.S., people in rural areas often see dogs as primarily work animals and value them as such; people in the inner city often view them as primarily watch dogs and automatically considered dangerous and threatening unless proven otherwise. Recent scandals around organized dog fighting and dog racing dramatize the norm that canines should not be treated cruelly. In most of the developing world, only the wealthiest have companion animals; rather than members of the household, dogs are considered functional with barely any sentiment attached to their injury or death.
6. Chuck Kleinhans, “Dog Eat Dog: Neo-imperialism in Kim Ki-duk’s Address Unknown (Suchwiin bulmyeong (2001),” Visual Anthropology. 22: 182-199, 2009.
8. Richard Spencer, “China hunting for online kitten killer,” National Post (Canada) March 4, 2006, p. A15. Later reports indicated the woman was found and turned out to be a distressed single mother who did it for the money. Apprehended, she expressed regret.
10. A dish that consists of codfish processed with lye and subsequently reconstituted.
11. Though I have tried eel (seemed creepy to my mind), whale (before they were declared endangered), snails (NYC French restaurant), horsemeat (in France and in Chicago), guinea pigs (in Peru in a peanut sauce), and rabbit (when I was in the Navy; it was offered for the sailors from the South while the ones from the North had lobster—each thinking the other choice was bizarre or gross).
British cinema professor Geoffrey Nowell-Smith once told me that early in his career he taught in a French boarding school which served rabbit once a week. The serving platter that went to the teacher’s table was first given to the biology teacher who inspected the anatomy to ensure it was rabbit after an earlier cook was caught serving cats.
12. Evidenced in the book Fear Factor: Yuck! Grossest Stunts Ever, aimed at the 9-12 year old market. See also:
Of course academic food anthropologists study cuisine as an entry point to understanding specific cultures in larger terms, and are attentive to the social and historical context of food and food preparation and consumption customs. Entertainment shows seldom touch on these matters.
13. For a fuller discussion of Chan’s work to date, see Wimal Dissanayake’s essay, “The Class Imaginary in Fruit Chan’s Films,”
14. I don’t think it’s impossible or undesirable to teach the film. Rather, I think that teaching it and dealing with abortion imagery requires an expenditure of extra class time and energy that I wasn’t willing to make in this particular case. I discuss a similar problem in teaching graphic sexual images in my article: “Teaching Sexual Images: Some Pragmatics,” Jump Cut no. 40 (March, 1996), pp. 119-122
15. Those outside the U.S. might not be aware of this. The anti-abortion movement ranges from moderates who seek changes through traditional pressure group efforts such as electoral politics and chipping away at abortion rights through legislation, judicial decisions, and administrative practices to right wing media pundits such as Bill O’Reilly who label medical personnel “baby killers” and dismiss women who seek abortions as only motivated by self interested convenience. The aggressive activists who publicly demonstrate and harass at women’s clinics extend to fringe elements who have attacked and assassinated MDs. At the current moment, some abortion foes are denouncing the use of oral contraceptives as a form of abortion. As I was completing this article in Spring 2009, a Kansas doctor who performed abortions was shot to death in his church. The movement prefers to call itself “pro-life” rather than “anti-abortion.” On the other side, the counter movement prefers to identify as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-abortion.”
16. I have witnessed this at attempts to blockade women’s clinics, in marching demonstrations against abortion, and at rallies. At certain moments in the past some anti-abortion groups purchased large billboard space to present such images as part of their campaigns; this seems to be dormant at present. One of the repeated and most memorable images is of a bloody “fetus” in a plastic bag attached to a long pole or placard. It is often claimed that this item was “found” in the waste trash behind a clinic. Given the item’s size it seems much more likely that it is a medical/anatomical sample such as a dissection pig, or a dog or sheep fetus, or a doll. Of course the contrast between an official rhetoric of “honoring life” and the grotesque display of bloody dead flesh for shock purposes reveals a contradiction which might indicate a mental disorder among the people waving these items. Moderate elements of the anti-abortion movement try to distance themselves from these extremists and crazies.
17. The events are summarized in Robin Wilson, “Yale Student’s Art Project Stirs Debate Over the Limits of Academic Freedom,” Chronicle of Higher Education daily news, Monday April 21, 2008.
But the incident was also part of ongoing Chronicle newsblog coverage from April 17 to April 22. The blog comments section was especially intensive and gave evidence of the variety of possible responses. An updatre of the controversy: Robin Wilson, “Controversy Over Student's Art Exhibit at Yale Raises Issues of Academic Freedom,” Chronicle May 2, 2008.
18. Abortion foes would argue that the fetus is a third person present; I do not believe a fetus is a person.
19. Abortion was illegal throughout the U.S. at that point except under certain conditions which threatened the mother’s life in which case a medical operation might be possible. Restrictions on simple contraception were also severe. Connecticut, for example, outlawed even condoms, diaphragms, and spermicidal jelly. Many college student health clinics would not prescribe birth control pills or diaphragms for unmarried students. The wealthy and privileged could and did go abroad for medically supervised abortions.
20. The first two episodes were written and directed by Nancy Savoca, while the third was directed by Cher. It is perhaps the most bizarre wrenching of Cher’s star image because the role of MD and outspoken abortion clinic administrator seems so at odds with the star’s image as a singer and entertainer (with especially glossy and campy over-the-top music videos and Las Vegas stage concerts at this point in her career), pitchwoman for her brand named line of cosmetics in TV infomercials, and a previous dramatic career effectively playing working class women (e.g., Silkwood, 1983; Mask, 1985, Mermaids, 1990). The flawless surgically enhanced and cosmetically perfect face seems remarkably at odds with the role of socially conscious crusading feminist health professional.
21. Julian Stringer, “Category 3: Sex and Violence in Postmodern Hong Kong,” in Mythologies of Violence in Postmodern Media, ed. Christopher Sharrett (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1999), 361-379.
22. But he doesn’t fully account for the general decline in Hong Kong theatrical gross in the colony and abroad due to factors such as the bursting of the 90s Asian economic bubble, the expansion of VCD and DVD sales and piracy, marketing barriers such Hong Kong films faced abroad in major markets such as Taiwan, the PRC, and Singapore, and local censorship barriers elsewhere. The Category 3 films do not cross over as easily as other Hong Kong genres such as comedies, pop musicals, martial arts, police action, etc.
23. For a forceful example, see Roger Ebert’s review of Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible which depicts a violent beating and what is commonly acknowledged as the most violent and relentless rape shown on film.
24. Tony Williams, “Hong Kong Social Horror: Tragedy and Farce in Category 3,” in Horror International, ed. Steven Jay Schneider and Tony Williams, (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2005), 203-219.
25. The film opens with a night time street-level panning shot, looking up, which identifies the neighborhood and presumably the place we are in after the cut as a small restaurant. Both Springer and Williams make a great deal of this as establishsing the environment (incredibly, Williams compares it to Hitchcock), but it is really a very quick and conventional establishing shot; for a comparison to shots that really do establish the Hong Kong tenements and slums, see my analsysis of Dumplings, or other Fruit Chan films such as Hong Kong/Hollywood, Little Cheung, etc.
26. John Carpenter’s Pro-Life for the Showtime Masters of Horror season two depicts a young woman who goes to an abortion clinic seeking to terminate the life she carries. Her father and brothers show up, guns in hand, to stop the procedure, only to discover the birth is of a monster protected by its demon father. [return to page 5]
28. “Eating Fetuses: The lurid Christian fantasy of godless Chinese eating ‘unborn children’.”
See also: “Urban Legends and Folklore: Do They Eat Babies in China?”
29. The question of aesthetic distance and empathetic response will be addressed in detail in a later section of this essay.
30. Cronenberg has occasionally again become a focal point for controversy with Crash (1996) becoming a central argument about censorship in the UK.