Tuesday, May 25, 2010

happy to be consumed

A lot of Korean restuarants have signs above their doors displaying happy cartoon versions of the animal that they specialize in serving. Happy cows, happy squids, happy chickens wrestling with happy ginseng roots. It goes beyond animals even. We were driving through this town that is famous for red bean dumplings and the town mascot was a large cartoon statue of a red bean dumpling who was holding a platter with a big smile that was piled high with smaller red bean dumplings. The thing that eats the thing that eats itself and serves itself to be eaten. Perhaps this is to send out a message that the animal (or food object) is happy when it's alive and even happier when it's cooked and chewed and devoured by humans. I saw what I take to be a direct effect of this form of advertising on one of my kindergarten students just a few minutes ago. We were learning about the letter O, and in the coloring and tracing worksheet I gave them, there was a happy cartoon octopus wearing a baseball cap and juggling some oranges for them to color. He colored it all in red and then I heard him say in Korean that it's red because it's a spicy thing to eat, as if it was covered in chili paste. And I realized that not even silly looking cartoon animals are safe from the Korean child's appetite. Nor I guess should they be. Once when I showed a slideshow of cartoon animals I noticed that while looking at every new slide and repeating the English name I said, this one tiny girl in the class would say the animal's name followed by either "gogi" or "guee". Gogi means meat and guee means a form of preparing and cooking the meat in a marinate.

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