Tuesday, September 4, 2012
You Are What You Eat
Made in the 1980s when rampant commercialism existed, The Stuff is equal parts satire and horror film, although the satire isn't funny so much as rather pointed despite the film being cheesy and campy. Larry Cohen has always been known for successfully making B-movies with low budgets, and here he tackles not only America's love for cheap, tasty food, a desire that overwhelms reason. Most of the time however we would rather not dwell on what is in the food we so often consume, despite consumer groups efforts to the contrary over the decades. The thought that even the FDA, a government entry that is supposed to protect people from harm, could be corrupted by corporations is no longer thought of as shocking, however at the time of this film's release that thought was an original fear. Parts of the film even call to mind the body snatching/taking over fears that were part of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers films, heavily inspired by Cold War era paranoia.
Yet Cohen aims this film at corporations and big business, not the Russian communists. Although one of the characters, a right wing militia leader, keeps making references to battling the commie influence, and views The Stuff as being something along the lines of fluoride being put into the water supply to brainwash the American public. More satire abounds, as the film's main heroes are not only said militia man, but also an industrial spy/saboteur, a PR woman who feels guilty about marketing The Stuff to people, and a kid who's way too paranoid and smart for his own good. Having a man hired by corporations to destroy another corporation speaks to the dangers of monopolies and fear of competition, however in this instance The Stuff corporation is harmful to mankind in general, so it deserves to be shutdown.
Spoilers (sort of): This movie could have inspired an actual trilogy, with the first one clearly covering corporate greed and the disturbing fact that Americans engage in corporate driven conformity. The second one would have focused on the fact that drugs are usually sold to poor people by groups usually run in the end by one powerful and rich individual, thus showing how the rich make their money off of the backs of the poor and the easily corrupted. As for the third film, it could have featured The Stuff being dumped on Third World countries, thus covering the fact that the First World pillages and steals from the Third World, and then usually leaves the mess behind. While this never came to pass, I wish it had, because Larry Cohen was on to something here. Despite people's dislike of remakes, this film could be remade today as a commentary on fast food, although Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me already covered that particular topic. 77