There is an increasing and exciting academic literature about food on TV (e.g. TV chefs, cooking shows) and food on film (especially the "food film" genre). But what about the use of food in not explicitly food-centered TV shows? („non-food TV“)
What does Leslie Knope's waffle passion say about her, for instance? And why would it be unthinkable for Ron Swanson to love those same waffles as much as he loves his bacon and eggs? Which gender roles does that allude to? The more you think about it, the more significant the food representations in almost all kinds of TV fiction become - in a way other props or settings rarely are. Representations of food is "a perfect conveyor of subtext; messages which are often implicit rather than explicit, but surprisingly varied, strong, and sometimes violent or subversive.”
Take another, quite different example: Breaking Bad. Gilligan jokingly asked about the show, when it was first picked up by the then not yet rebranded AMC, „Why not just send it to the food channel? It’s a show about cooking, after all.“ Of course, no one thinks first about food when they think about Breaking Bad. But in fact, it is in deed a show about ‚cooking‘ - about an insatiable appetite. (Not to mention the symbolically loaded parallel between mass-produced meth and Gus’ fast food chain Los Pollos Hermanos). And it’s about a family completely crushed under the weight of that same heavy appetite. - Illustrated best in a series of breakfast scenes with the core family (until there is just Walt left, alone in a public place), and dinner scenes including Hank and Marie (until the concept of tableside guacamole becomes a sad joke and a hash tag (#AwkwardGuacamole)). What demonstrates Walter’s transformation more clearly than his three birthday morning breakfasts? His appetite rendered him, in the end, incapable of „bringing home the bacon“.
The slideshow offers examples from these two different TV shows of just how many (para)texts revolve around food as semiotic potentials. What might we gain in our understanding of any number of TV shows by looking at their use of food systematically?