“There’s no “I” in TEAM. But if you swap the letters around, it spells MEAT”
Last week’s blog was a psychotic serial killer based on the case of a real psychotic serial killer, so maybe a bit of comedy to lighten the mood this week? Cannibal comedy of course. This is a cannibal blog.
Corporate Animals opened at Sundance in January 2019 and in selected cinemas in September, so it’s right up to date, both in its release and its message. When you google “cannibalism”, you will get lots of flesh-eaters, but also lots of stories about businesses swallowing competitors or smaller subsidiaries – which is often described as “corporate cannibalism”. To Marxists, of course, the relations of capital to its workers has always implied a type of cannibalism – production is supplied by the labourer but owned by the corporation, and surplus value is syphoned off, consumed, before payday.
Corporate Animals is a story about a rapacious business owner, Lucy (a wonderful performance by Demi Moore), whose main product is edible cutlery.
Lucy wants to revive her failing company by taking the staff on a team-building expedition, caving in New Mexico. Team building is about conquering fear, and so she takes them on an extreme caving expedition, despite their fears.
A “geological incident” (an earthquake and rock fall) kills their guide Brandon (Ed Helms from The Daily Show and The Office) and leaves them stranded in the cave. A perfect opportunity for team building and positive thinking.
Instead, they can only think about imminent death, which makes them both hungry and, as Jess (Jessica Williams from The Daily Show and 2 Dope Queens) points out, also super-horny. Lucy takes charge here too
Which leads to a discussion of power and exploitation and the coining of a wonderful word
The heart of the film (I’m trying to avoid the cannibal puns, but it’s hard to resist) is the debate. As they get to day five without food or water, they start to discuss the elephant in the room, which is the dead guide.
Lucy expresses disgust, and they all agree.
The debate is a spoof on a few cannibal films, most notably Alive! In which Ethan Hawke’s character suggests eating the pilots of their plane who were killed in the crash which left the others in the snow on top of the Andes.
There is also (I presume) a reference to Snowpiercer, when Lucy suggests that they are hungry enough to eat someone, it’s
Then they get this idea mixed up with the movie 127 Hours
Nah, James Franco, had to cut off his own arm to escape a large boulder that had trapped him, but he didn’t eat it. In Snowpiercer, lots of people eat their own arms. It’s kind of a badge of honour to be lop-sided.
In Alive! Ethan Hawke wanted to eat the pilot, remember, for crashing the plane. Jess points out that in Alive! the bodies were conveniently frozen until required by the high altitude snow, but in the cave
Now we get to the key question of cannibalism. Who gets et? Ethan Hawke was the one to suggest cannibalism in Alive!, but only agreed to join in if the others could assure him that he wasn’t actually eating his sister. In the cave, they are consoled by the thought that at least Brandon wasn’t part of their company.
It wouldn’t be like we’re eating a colleague.
So it’s OK to eat a stranger, just not your mom?
I’m not saying it’s OK to eat anyone. But yes, I’d rather eat a guy I just met who I thought was an asshole, than my mom.
Lucy objects to cannibalism, first on the basis that they are making individual decisions during a team building exercise, using her usual inspirational jargon, but Derek (Isiah Whitlock Jr) has the line of the movie.
But then Lucy moves to the ontological question, the key question of cannibal studies – does cannibalism define or exclude humanity?
They take a vote, and decide to eat him, but find he is already missing one arm. Who took Brandon’s arm? Yep, it’s Lucy, objecting to cannibalism per se, but not to assuage her own hunger.
They decide to eat the rest of Brandon, and Jess volunteers to start.
Does it taste like chicken?
Before long, Brandon is all gone.
Jess asks Freddie (Karan Soni from Deadpool) how he feels after eating a fellow human?
Brandon comes back to Freddie in a hallucination, and now we are referencing the Eucharist
So then, having reduced Brandon to a memory (and a meat god), the question becomes: who is next? Each person’s ailments, and the likelihood of mortality from them, become of huge interest to the rest of the group. Aidan (Calum Worthy) has a weeping wound which could turn gangrenous and require amputation.
Gloria (Martha Kelly) has Lupus, and could have a seizure (they kind of hope).
So this is the debate over what William Irvine calls active vs passive cannibalism. Even though both are usually considered repugnant, eating someone who has died is passive, but killing them to do so, active cannibalism, is considered far worse. In this case, they are willing to eat a corpse with no hesitation, but killing someone to harvest that corpse? As Lucy says
“Not everyone has balls big enough to make the hard decisions.”
So cannibalism, traditionally ascribed to the non-white, non-European, the “savage”, is now the white man’s burden in this looking-glass world (which, to keep the Alice reference going, is down a rabbit-hole).
The active/passive debate goes on after rescue. At first, they claimed they survived by eating the edible cutlery, then Jess admits
The apologia of he carnivore: I don’t eat much meat; I only eat humanely killed meat. But when there’s nothing else to eat, no other species available, murder is still murder, but cannibalism is just a handy meal.