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Cannibalism and its symbolism in media

A mild rant about cannibalism and it’s meaning in different fandoms and medias. Pt. 1

A topic that has been reduced to shreds as of late, and I’m sure you’ve been on TikTok and seen the same repackaged gender stereotypes with a video of a pomegranate with Mitski playing in the background. However, I am not talking about “Orange Theory” or “Blue Nail Theory.” (Side note: What’s up with people calling everything a “theory?” I’m as chronically online as the next girl, I’m just saying, it’s weird, man.)

What I’m writing of now, is something a bit more nuanced, “cannibalism as a metaphor for love.” A phrase many choked up fan-fiction authors have puked out to seem more deep on the internet. While they will insist it’s something refined and meaningful, they have no proof of that — unlike me.

Now, this is not the same topic as “tag your pomegranates as gore” 2011 Homestuck Tumblr, even so it is still very similar. To bring the true topic of this article to light, I should first educate you on the Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Written in the 70’s yet currently on Broadway for it’s revival, Sweeney Todd took the musical world by storm with its comeback, and set a record for the Lunt-Fontaine Theatre with 1.84 Million USD made with only seven performances in 2023.

By looking up a synopsis of Sweeney Todd, we can divulge that the musical is about a falsely imprisoned barber who returns to London to take revenge on the death of his wife. Very sweet of him, I know. He takes revenge by killing people, including the judge that is currently acting as a guardian for his daughter, with the help of the comic relief Mrs. Lovett. He kills them in his barbershop, and she hides the evidence by turning their remains into meat pies which are bought and eaten by the villagers. Relationship goals!

This musical takes a true hold on me with it’s dark themes and excellent score from Sondheim. I saw it live in New York City, mid 2023 for the revival, and I have been obsessed ever since. TRIGGER WARNING: Cannibalism is a main factor of the musical as well as this article, so if you are uncomfortable with the topic, I would recommend clicking off of this article immediately.

Okay! Back to the topic at hand. “Cannibalism as a metaphor for love” is a term typically used to describe a relationship in which one of the partners cannibalizes the other in hopes of reaching the purest form of love. Not really metaphorical at all, but I didn’t come up with the term.

This is not commonly seen in media, but a prime example of this would be the 1983 horror musical short film “Possibly in Michigan,” written and directed by Cecelia Condit. “Possibly in Michigan” is about two women shopping for perfume in a department store, while being stalked by a masked cannibal. (I do highly recommend watching the 12 minute film, it is rather nice.)

With a nice concept such as this, and a mention of Sweeney Todd, that leads us to wonder..

“How does everything fit together?”

Well, one of the main concepts throughout Sweeney Todd is killing people, turning their bodies into meat pies, and feeding the undisclosed type of meat to villagers. This brings us to another question,

“Where is the love?”

Could I be referring to the love between Sweeney and his wife? Oh heavens, no! I am of course referring to the one sided and very obvious will-they or won’t-they between Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett. In the musical, Lovett is seen to be very attracted to Todd (See a recording of “By The Sea” for an example) stating, “he was beautiful,” and even asking him to marry her on multiple occasions.

However, Sweeney does not love her back which is obvious from the way he blatantly ignores her advances throughout the time that they are on stage together until it benefits him.

During the song “A Little Priest,” Sweeney appears to finally realize that the woman he had discounted the whole time was one of his most valuable assets. It is here that he begins to allow her to believe he had some sort of fancy toward her. He begins using nicknames and niceties when talking about her, and he seems to genuinely respect her a bit more after this exchange. (The exchange being Lovett telling him that with the price of meat, they should begin selling human remains, which they could get for free from his barbershop killings.)

Sweeney and Lovett are, in my opinion, one of the purest forms of love in media. Stop judging me! With every teen drama romanticizing relationships that are awful and traumatic, why can’t I have this?

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