EATING HAS ALWAYS carried threat. “This is an act that can be exquisitely pleasurable, but also frightening; an act that nourishes, at the same time as it increases the chances of death or illness by toxins and microorganisms,” the psychology professor Paul Rozin writes in his 1999 essay “Food Is Fundamental, Fun, Frightening, and Far-Reaching.” When we eat, we take what's exterior and thus basically alien and make it actually a part of us. It’s the breaching of a boundary, as Rozin places it: “The world enters the self.”
With a lot at stake, each society has arrange prohibitions on what's and isn’t acceptable to eat. In the West, canine are pets; elsewhere, they might be meat. A lamb’s eyeball — an Eastertide deal with in Greece, bestowed on honored visitors — begins off crunchy, then collapses into gooey lusciousness. Live octopus is gelatinous and slithery, its textures nonetheless past the pale for many American palates.
This could partly clarify the reactions to “Oldboy.” Some reviewers and on-line commentators deployed the language of nausea, warning of the necessity for a “strong stomach.” There was, too, the occasional whiff of xenophobia: The movie critic Rex Reed went as far as to put in writing, outrageously, “What else can you expect from a nation weaned on kimchi, a mixture of raw garlic and cabbage buried underground until it rots?” (Disgust is an evolutionarily protecting measure, holding us again from consuming issues we don’t acknowledge — or from being open to studying from different cultures — as a result of we concern they may damage us.)
Yet for all of the murmurs of “poor octopus,” the revulsion appeared to have little to do with animal rights. Octopus can be eaten within the West, in any case — however provided that its struggling and loss of life happen out of sight. This is the case with virtually all animals eaten within the developed world. The writhing octopus on movie provoked shock in American audiences not a lot out of empathy for a dying animal however as a result of it defied the script of straightforward victory. It revealed an animal nonetheless able to battle, refusing its future. Is the horror the slaughter, or being pressured to acknowledge it?
IN THE PAST twenty years, nice crowds of jellyfish, referred to as blooms, have begun to wreak havoc world wide. In Japan, large Nomura’s jellyfish, some with almost seven-foot-wide bells and weighing 450 kilos, are sometimes by chance swept up in fishing nets; they’re so heavy, they'll smother the catch, and as soon as even capsized a trawler attempting to pull them in. Other species get sucked into nuclear crops once they’re nonetheless within the early phases of growth, then develop too massive to flee and congeal en masse within the pipes, prompting shutdowns and lack of energy. They’ve been recognized to disable plane carriers, thus changing into a menace to nationwide safety.