Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Faking It on Food TV

Food Network 'star' Giada De Laurentiis. Image Source: Foodnetwork.com

Buford talks about the mystification of The Food Network and cooking shows, "people have always liked to watch others prepare food—a social activity fundamental to the human race—and the network’s programming has depicted little else: the happy narrative of the raw to the cooked, the oldest story line in history"(Buford 1). According to Kaufmann's studies on 'gastroporn,' most Food Network viewers are not cooks or lovers of food, just spectators (see his video in the media section). Arguably, Food Network was made for the numbed audience, disembodied, "Any invention or technology is an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies, and such extension also demands new ratios or new equilibriums among the other organs and extensions of the body. There is, for example, no way of refusing to comply with the new sense ratios or sense "closure" evoked by the TV image"(McLuhan 67). Our senses are dominated by the visual, but food TV takes it over the top with moving, sexual visuals and sound. Taste is overthrown by this new food medium of food porn:

According to Cockburn's treatise on "Gastroporn," it is almost impossible to cook like they describe in cookbooks and cooking shows (Cockburn 1). The medium enables a self-fulfilling prophecy, "cable made the Food Network possible" as the new forms of food porn was not constantly available on your average TV station (Buford 1). The Food Network was more risky, fancier, new, and needed to catch the consumer's attention,"the point is to get very close to what you are filming, so close that you can see an ingredient’s “pores” (“You should believe the dish is in your living room”), which then triggers some kind of Neanderthal reflex...if you’re flicking from channel to channel and come upon food that has been shot in this way, you will be hardwired as a human being to stop, look, and bring it back to your cave"(Buford 1). The Food Network is sensational, sexual, and brilliant. All the content (the shows and the stars) on the Food Network is just an ad for itself, many of its products far out of reach to an average viewer: "Never in our history as a species have we been so ignorant about our food. And it is revealing about our culture that, in the face of such widespread ignorance about a human being’s most essential function—the ability to feed itself—there is now a network broadcasting into ninety million American homes, entertaining people with shows about making coleslaw" (Buford 1). Other stations like Bravo have food porn such as Top Chef. Food ads, as a percentage of total ads on television have peaked at 48% and average at 34%(based on Australian survey, Hill and Radimer, 1997). There is no escaping the prevalence of food porn and food ads on the TV.

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