Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English



Notes: International Rainbow Pictures
Martine: Nelly Alard
Helaine: Lisa Richards (from Dark Shadows)
Kate: Mary Crosby (she shot J.R.)
Mother: Frances Bergen
Sophie: Gwen Welles
Sadie: Marlena Giovi
Nancy: Elizabeth Kemp
With Toni Basil

Written and Directed: Henry Jaglom

Summary: Helaine is celebrating her 40th birthday by havinga party at her home. Simultaneously, her friend Sadie, a talentagent, is turning 50 and her friend Kate, apparently happily marriedand inspiring of jealousy, is turning 30. Helaine’s husband promisesby phone to come later, but turns out to be having an affair andwill not arrive. Sophie, another friend, is vicious, jealous,and destructive. Sadie’s daughter Jennifer has an eating disorder.Helaine’s sister Nancy does also. The sisters’ mother stops byand is invited to stay: she seems to be the only mentally healthywoman regaring food, but our opinion of her is modified when sheadvises Helaine to overlook her husband’s affair as she and hergeneration used to do. Helaine’s French houseguest, Martine, isfilming Californian women’s attitudes about food and it is revealedthat she is motivated by an eating disorder in her own past.

The power of this film is in listening to the women speak to Martine’scamera about food. “I’m having a delicious time.” “Nothing’sready yet but can I get you something?” (Helaine). “It’sthe safest sex you can have — eating” (Jennifer). “It’slike eating their ideals.” “It’s eating at me”(Sophie).

“He really likes you.” “He sneaks me food.””If they feed you they like you.”

“I’m no longer involved with food.” “I was theapple of my father’s eye.” “I wear clothes to concealit” (Nancy). “Sweetness was something I was addictedto because I didn’t have that in my life.” “You’re makingme eat; you’re making me eat. You’re making me sick” (Helaineto Sophie).

Food is compared to an abusive lover. These women feel themselvesto be “at the mercy of food” as opposed to “normalpeople.” Sex used to be the taboo subject, but now it’s food.

Commentary: Food sweeps every aspect of this nation’s culture.Whether it is advertising for the food itself, professional sportsleagues, restaurants, hotels, even video games, the focus of Americansis on food. The movie Eating brings a different aspectof food to the forefront: women obsessing over it.

Along with all the food advertisements on television are the weight-lossprograms promising perfect bodies if you try their product. Theice cream shop is strategically placed next to the gyms to enticethose just having finished a workout and feeling they deservea “reward.” This whole cycle of eating, wanting to loseweight, and envying the bodies of people on television is whatkeeps the money flowing to the corporations behind each one ofthese enterprises.

But more than making me aware of this nasty industry targetedat women, watching the movie Eating brought my attentionto the little things that women think and say on a regular basis.We all catch ourselves staring at other women, whether gazingwith envy or glaring with jealousy. Women constantly want to betall if they are short, short if they are tall, have smaller breastsif they are big, and have bigger ones if they are small. Thisfilm focuses on women’s dissatisfactions with themselves and howthese cases of low self-esteem become intricately interwoven withattitudes about food, and the things women say naively unawareof the implications.

Gossip and glares fill this movie and show how much women reallydo obsess. Passing a piece of cake around and no woman wantingit is a tragic example that women cannot be comfortable enougharound each other to enjoy good food. This is because everyonein the group has competition engraved into their heads by societyto be skinnier than everyone else. Women often bring their ownsalad dressings or diet foods everywhere they go to be preparedfor the torturous temptation of a real, nourishing meal put infront of them.

Excuses then become a major part of eating after women constantlyremind themselves that foods with fat and carbohydrates are bad.It could be the birthday of a particular woman who says she caneat anything she wants on her special day, or because her relationshipwith her boyfriend didn’t work out. But these are special justificationsfor what is a basic human function: eating.

Of course there are exceptions to this kind of behavior, and weall like to think we are one of the exceptions, but inside everywoman lies some kind of unhappiness with her body. The movie Eatingshows all the little thoughts we think of, but mostly it is sooverpowering and annoying that it made me think I should watchwhat I say and complain about because no one likes to hear gripingon a regualr basis. This film could possibly have been made forthe women of the world to realize how annoying we are to men withthe obsessions of our bodies. On the other hand, it could havebeen made to show the men that we obsess over food and our bodiesbecause of them. So maybe one day a happy medium will be met whereno one gives a damn about flat stomachs, firm butts, or even bigbreasts, and all the money spent on fat-free foods, commercialsfor these foods, and gym memberships will be spent to feed someof the starving countries who truly need the food.

For further discussion, see the following brief essays:

“Evil Food”
Alison Jameson

“Sex, Food, and Sex with Food”
David Doran

“Food is my Booty Call”
David Doran

“Animal Cookies: A Child’s Substitute for Friends”
Kristi Folsom

Food Films
Food Frontpage