Friday, July 15, 2011

Vegans are Obnoxious Assholes!

I know that I've discussed my frustration with the way that skeptics are treated in film and television. It's obnoxious and misleading, but from a storytelling perspective, I get it. Even I would prefer the film in which the skeptic who doubts aliens or magic is wrong - aliens and magic are cool.

What really bothers me, however, is how vegetarians and environmentalists are portrayed. They are always shown to be self-righteous and smug, they are always hypocritical and annoying. Perhaps these people really do exist in real life, but I've never met anyone who is environmentally conscious or vegetarian (which is a highly environmentally friendly lifestyle) for anything other than good motives.

I was watching the not-so-great movie Baby Mama the other night. Tina Fey's character worked for a highly exaggerated caricature of Whole Foods. At one point she went on a date to a raw food/vegan restaurant. They made comical faces at the yeast balls and seaweed they were served. Then after some hilariously awkward conversation, it turned out that, despite working for a company that was environmentally friendly, healthy and natural, she still liked to eat meat. Of course she does! Just because the company is full of obnoxious hypocrites, that doesn't mean that Tina Fey's character is a hypocrite. She loves to eat meat! 

It may seem like a harmless stereotype, an easy joke that does no real damage, but I think that it is a real problem. It is important to point out that "environmentalism", and everything that entails, is a good thing. Climate change due to human activity is a scientifically established fact. Recycling and renewable energy are positive actions. Likewise, it is a fact that factory farms are a significant polluter and eating a meat-free diet is better for the environment than changing from a Hummer to a Prius. However you feel about the suffering of animals, most people value human life and comfort, and climate change affects us all. My point here is not that everyone should become vegetarian or reduce their energy and plastic consumption - I obviously do think that they should - but that we should not treat those who do those things as assholes or objects of ridicule.

I honestly do not know where the trope of the self-righteous vegan originated. As I said above, perhaps these people are real, but I can't understand that attitude and I seriously doubt that it makes up a large portion of the vegan/vegetarian population. At the core of this stereotype (I think) is the idea that vegans and vegetarians are hypocrites. The idea that they really do love to eat meat just like the rest of us, but they abstain in some kind of absurd and impotent protest. Not to speak for all vegetarians, but I don't abstain from meat for my sake. I do it for the animals. However much I might like the way a hamburger tastes, I don't eat it because of the animal that lived a miserable life and died for the sake of a cheap sandwich.

The point of all of this is not to be preachy. The point is that I am tired of seeing good deeds and noble aspirations mocked so easily and carelessly.

To give credit to my favorite television comedy, Britta from NBC's Community is a vegetarian and, although the character is sometimes obnoxious, she is well-rounded and a good person. Her vegetarianism (and atheism) is never made into a punchline.


emma wallace said...

Great post! "Bedtime Stories" was on tv once - not that I ever planned on watching it, but the entire first portion of the movie made fun of organic eating and people who drive Priuses (at that point I had switched the channel but it still bothered me!).

Elizabeth Douglas said...

I've never met a vegetarian that was rude, obnoxious, or preachy. Honestly, all of my veggie friends are great people who care about the planet, animals, and their own healthy lifestyles. They've never tried to challenge my diet, and I totally respect their choices.(Plus, they've got some great recipes!)

Conversely, every vegan I've ever met has been beyond the pale when it came to forcing their beliefs on other people. Rude, obnoxious, zealous, and overbearing...would be the adjectives of choice. Perhaps I've just had extremely bad luck, but once I got compared to Hitler for liking a steak, I was pretty much done.