On Sunday night, my Carnist boyfriend and I cuddled up to watch Simon Amstell’s brand new mockumentary, Carnage. For the next hour, we alternated between me hitting the side of the sofa yelling “YES. DID YOU HEAR THAT?! THAT IS SO ON POINT!”and both of us giggling away at the silly, sharp humour of this bizarre vegan future.
A month previously, Conor (aforementioned boyfriend) had introduced me to Brasseye. Most notably, we discussed that infamous episode and the outrage it garnered due to its pushing limits, no-fucks-given glory. This is exactly why I was so excited when Carnage popped up on my newsfeed alongside comparisons to Brasseye. Could this be a movie about veganism that we might actually both enjoy?
Yesssss! We did both enjoy it! It was interesting to see the different points at which we laughed in the movie: sometimes we laughed together, but often I would be cackling away whilst Conor was silent, not quite understanding that special brand of humour that’s gained from being on ‘the inside’.
“Who would want to watch a movie about veganism?”
Living in a society where satirical art, like Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, is a key way to get people engaged with problematic societal issues, this movie could be a modern stroke of vegan genius. Its self-awareness -: “who want to watch a whole movie about veganism?” mocks its own existence whilst also pointing out the need for an alternative vegan message that can live alongside documentaries like Earthlings and Forks over Knives. The movie’s journey from 1944 to ‘modern day’ 2067 shows a blend of reality – slaughter footage, adverts, cooking shows and more – contrasting with Amstell’s manufactured facts, seeking to disturb the comfortable using techniques such as faint audio of pigs screaming interlaced with a shot of frying bacon.
Speaking of bacon. Was anybody else absolutely horrified at the fact that McDonalds did a Babe Happy Meal? Are you KIDDING?
“I heard on the internet that if you hold a microphone close enough to a carrot you can hear it screaming”
Our fictional Carnist vlogger Graham, alongside the slew of animal cruelty footage, demonstrates to viewers what Vegans have to put up with in our meat-orientated society. Graham is reminiscent of Brexiteers and Trump-lovers, with his ‘bring back the old ways’ attitude, the mocking of young people and distaste for the progressive. Graham is, basically, a dick to any vegan he meets on the street and brings up ‘plants rights activism,’ with a guest on his vlog remarking”I heard on the internet that if you hold a microphone close enough to a carrot you can hear it screaming”. Throughout the mockumentary there are more eye-rolling platitudes like this, ones that vegans have heard over, and over, and ooover again. The movie also shows disapproval about the idea of ‘free-range’ and ‘organic’ as if these labels make slaughtering animals any less cruel:
“That was organic. For a man to fist a cow.”
But, the Vegans don’t escape criticism either
Alright. We’re not perfect. And I’m actually glad this movie exists to point out the problems with some ‘cruelty-free fashion’ (“it’s still made in China!”), PETAs, often, questionable approach, and the appropriation that can occur within the vegan movement (what, you mean we didn’t invent quinoa?). I personally found the Bland family quite hilarious and inoffensive as jokes go, and I couldn’t help but giggle at the portrayal of the gentle, sensitive 2067 teens – I feel I would look right at home in that shot.
Intersectionality (or a lack of it?) in Veganism
Will the idea of Meat-free Mondays ever be as offensive as the idea of Ethnic Cleansing Free Tuesdays – will it, though? Really? (I’m asking you. Tell me in the comments.) Or is this pointing fun at vegans who constantly feel like they need to rely on holocaust and slavery comparisons to make their point?
Carnage tackles patriarchal values and how they are intrinsically tied to animal agriculture. We explore the sexualization of Nigella Lawson sticking her hand up a chicken’s ass, the semen-reminiscent milk poured on celebrities in music videos and the ads centered on beautiful women orgasming over stolen, congealed udder fluid (yogurt). In future UK, this vegan feminism goes further and extends the idea of feminism and ‘reproductive rights’ for all animals, not just human animals.
“What’s some ice melting in the South Pole got to do with me eating a cheeseburger in Croydon”
Oh, the ignorance. I’m pretty sure this part of the movie was acted. But honestly, I can not be sure. Because this is, sadly, how so many of us see the world and our actions in it. Due to willful ignorance, due to suppression of information, due to so many circumstances that are both people’s fault and not their fault. This quote was excellent in highlighting the ignorance of our society about the far-reaching consequences of our actions, and people’s denial that Climate Change is happening, or that it will ever happen to them.
BAM. Climate Change can happen. Antibiotic resistance can happen. They are both happening. And viewers are reminded of this because Amstell shows us. Straight away, after our Brit reassures us that his chomping on a burger has nothing to do with anything bad that happens in the world, the movie takes us on a journey to future flooded Britain, and then onward onto a future Britain where tens of thousands die from a super Swine Flu. This
A place of love, rather than fury.
I’ve read reviews of Carnage; praise of it for it’s ‘revolutionary’ approach to veganism. The Independent described it as a vegan movie that’s ‘almost perfect example of how to push a worthwhile message without being preachy’. And to a point, I do agree that using satire and humour is a smart way to go. But, I also think that this kind of message needs to come from all fronts. It needs to come from passionate, sometimes furious, protesters who are marching in masks in every major high street, it needs to come in hilarious comics where carnists are the butt of the joke, it needs to come from a place of strength and a place of love. It needs to come from a myriad of cultures and individuals.
Thanks, Simon Amstell. I’m both shocked and excited to see such a positive portrayal of veganism in the mainstream.