The Celluloid Pantry: GMO Foods and Sleeper (1973)

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“You think it’s easy to run when you’re holding a banana the size of a canoe?

The year 1973 saw the release of two futuristic films making pointed commentary on the state of American food: Soylent Green, with its bleak and terrifying vision of overpopulation, scorched earth and dead oceans, and Woody Allen's Sleeper, which used sight gags and slapstick comedy to poke fun at a different kind of brave new world.

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In Sleeper, Miles Munroe (Allen), jazz musician and part-owner of The Happy Carrot Health Food Store on Bleecker, emerges, Rip Van Winkle-like, from a deep freeze of 200 years. Once his aluminum foil “Birds Eye wrapper” is peeled off, Miles has some catching up to do. The attending scientists discuss his case:

Scientist 1: This morning for breakfast he requested something called wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk.

Scientist 2: [laughing] Oh, yes. Those were the charmed substances that some years ago were felt to contain life-preserving properties.

Scientist 1: [astonished] You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or hot fudge?

Scientist 2: [shaking head gravely] Those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

Scientist 1: Incredible!

Because he has no traceable identity, Miles is soon enlisted by rebel factions as a spy against the totalitarian Leader who is heading up the ominous Aries Project. Along the way Miles disguises himself as a robot and does a brief stint as a butler for the vacuous and pampered poet, Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton). In her gleaming kitchen, he prepares for a party, making an instant pudding that takes on a life of its own—an oozing monster that could give The Blob a run for its money. But one thing leads to another, and Miles and Luna find themselves on the lam, camped out in the woods, ferociously hungry. Miles sets out to snag some produce from a nearby farm.

There, in the middle of a field presided over by a giant chicken, are enormous Franken-fruits and vegetables: 12-foot bananas, bunches of celery the size of trees, tomatoes the size of beach balls.

A guard appears and Miles must defend himself any way he can: “My God!" he says. "I beat a man insensible with a strawberry!”

- Nora

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The Celluloid Pantry

Nora Maynard is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her recent work has appeared in Salon, Drunken Boat, and The Millions. She recently completed her ninth marathon and her first novel, Burnt Hill Road. Nora wrote for The Kitchn from 2006 to 2011.

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