Cannibalism seems to be everywhere lately – movies, TV, books, and music. It represents a radical “othering” that appeals both to our desire to isolate ourselves into our tribe and deny the humanity of others, and our suspicion that we ourselves are the “other” that our society is seeking to jettison. This is particularly so for anyone who counts as marginalised.
No wonder then that cannibalism has repeatedly entered music, here in the shape of cyber-punk and rap.
Comethazine (real name Frank Childress) is a 24-year-old rapper and songwriter who is best known for his platinum-selling singles “Walk” and “Bands“. Both were on his 2018 debut mixtape, Bawskee. He is now up to Bawskee 5, released on November 18th 2022, the twelfth song on which is called Cannibal (link above).
Rap is not known for its gentle melodies or tranquil lyrics, so you can judge these for yourself.
(Comethazine in this bitch, nigga, I’m piped the fuck up) Come and get your man ’cause he buggin’ (Add1ct) Chop that nigga up, throw his body in the oven (Uh, mm, mm, mm)
Come and get your man ’cause he buggin’ (Bitch, buggin’) I’m about to chop that nigga up, throw his body in the oven (Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch) Cannibal, yes, bitch, I’m a real deal animal (Yeah) I be on the block screaming, “Kill, kill, Hannibal” (Alright) Fuck a snitch, bitch, this chop’ got a handle, uh (Boom) Light a nigga top like a candle Mop made a nigga flip, flop like a sandal Got his thot tryna hump like a camel Caught him at the light, and let it dump out the rental (Boom) Bitch boy, like bitch ’cause he sentimental (Hallow) Unload the clip, full clip to the temple Hollow tip hit, left a dent like a dimple If he a opp, he get popped like pimple Bitch, I don’t wanna fuck, give me top, I’m simple Bitch, you a thot so you get treated like a rental Put a fuckboy on ABC like Jimmy Kimmel
Come and get your man ’cause he buggin’ (Bitch, buggin’) I’m about to chop that nigga up, throw his body in the oven (Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch) Cannibal, yes, bitch, I’m a real deal animal (Yeah) I be on the block screaming, “Kill, kill, Hannibal” Come and get your man ’cause he buggin’ (Now) I’m about to chop that nigga up, throw his body in the oven (Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch) Cannibal, yes, bitch, I’m a real deal animal (Yeah) I be on the block screaming, “Kill, kill, Hannibal”
Not too sure what it all means, or maybe that doesn’t matter. Not sure Hannibal Lecter would be playing this in his car, despite the mention of his name. Although Hannibal does like artists who are driven to complete their work, regardless of the cost in human life – remember the guy who makes murals out of corpses?
Comethazine is clearly driven, and if that requires chopping up and throwing his fellow man into an oven, who are we to argue?
It’s five years since the greatTom Petty died from “mixed drug toxicity” in his California home on October 2, 2017. But many years before that (1985), he had a big hit with the song “Don’t come around here no more” (the clip is above), which caused some major controversy, as it prompted accusations that it was promoting cannibalism.
The backstory is that Stevie Nicks was initially going to record this. After spending the night with Eurythmics Dave Stewart, she woke up in a panic, realising that she still loved Joe Walsh from The Eagles, so she kicked Stewart out and told him, “Don’t come around here no more.”
Dave Stewart was no doubt heartbroken, or amused, but being a poet, he wrote a song based on her words. He asked her to record it, but she missed the recording session so he and Tom Petty did it instead.
The song’s video was a psychedelic, Alice’s Adventures inWonderland-inspired trip in which Petty plays the ‘Mad’ Hatter. Video director Jeff Stein was worried that Petty wouldn’t like the concept.
“I was little leery of pitching it to Tom, because at the time, in my mind, he was this straight-ahead rocker and maybe wouldn’t be that adventurous. For him to be in basically a costume melodrama, after whatever his image was before, was very daring, I thought. And he got totally into it.”
Many of the images from the book are shoehorned into the quite brilliant clip. There’s Alice drowning (although in tea rather than her own tears), the caterpillar sitting on a mushroom smoking a hookah, the Duchess’s baby who turns into a piglet, the flamingo croquet mallet, and of course the tea party.
The video caused instant controversy because, toward the end of the clip (which is at the top of this page), guests at the Hatter’s tea party slice up Alice and eat her as cake.
It was, reportedly, the motivation for Tipper Gore to launch the “Parents Music Resource Center” to establish a rating system for music. Stein said:
“Apparently, Tipper’s daughter saw that scene and freaked out — and then Mom started taking notice of what was going on, on MTV. And I’m not kidding: I was cited for promoting cannibalism by a parents/teachers group. I thought, ‘Well, this has to be a career high, if you can bring back cannibalism as a fad!’”
According to Stein, the final cut was not as graphic as they had planned.
“We had put strawberry jam as a filling, so when Tom was chopping it up, that kind of red strawberry sauce was going all over the place. It looked more like a slasher thing. But we weren’t going to include that in the final piece.”
Seems to be the month for cannibal music videos. Last week we looked at the new song CANNIBAL by Marcus Mumford, directed by Steven Spielberg. A beautiful ballad about metaphoric cannibalism, the kind of cannibalism that relationships can turn into, particularly abusive ones. Mumford seems to be referring to child abuse, accusing his abuser of taking “the first slice of me and you ate it raw. Ripped it with your teeth and lips like a cannibal.”
This week’s video (the clip is at the top of this blog) is by the industrial/electronic music duo SKYND, who pioneered the true crime music genre, which presents stories based on murders and other crimes. They have previously written about the death of Elisa Lam whose body was found in a hotel cistern in LA, the manslaughter of Conrad Roy whose girlfriend sent text messages encouraging him to commit suicide, the mass suicide in Jonestown, the Columbine High School massacre, and killers such as Gary M. Heidnik and Katherine Knight.
Most of those songs weren’t about cannibals (Katherine Knight maybe, who killed and cooked her husband, although she didn’t eat him). But the song we are reviewing today retells poetically the story of one of the world’s most famous cannibals, Armin Meiwes, the German man who advertised for someone who wanted to be eaten, and then ate him.
The song starts with the repeated refrain
Let him be fat or lean, let him be fat or lean Tomorrow I will kill him, tomorrow I will… Let him be fat or lean, let him be fat or lean Tomorrow I will cook him, tomorrow I will…
This is a reference to the fairy tale Hänsel und Gretel, recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. You may remember this one giving you nightmares when you were very small – two children are abandoned in a forest by their penurious parents and, on the verge of starvation, come across a gingerbread house which they proceed to chew on, only to be captured by the owner, a witch, who wishes to enslave Gretel and eat Hansel, be he fat or lean. The story was reimagined a couple of years ago as the splendid movie Gretel and Hansel.
Armin Meiwes advertised in 2001 on a fetish website called The Cannibal Café for “a well-built 18 to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed”. The only reply that seemed sincere, indeed eager, was from a man named Jürgen Brandes, who was not really well-built or 18-30, but Meiwes was a tolerant sort of bloke, or perhaps desperate for his first human-meat meal, so they got together and, after getting to know each other (which included slicing off Brandes’ penis and cooking it), Meiwes left his friend to bleed out in the bath, and then proceeded to butcher his carcass and eat the meat, in a variety of cuts:
Cutlets Ham Goulash Steaks Knuckles Bacon Portion by portion Cator, you’re a part of me now… Forever
There is also a reference to Meiwes in the Hannibal episode “Digestivo”, when Mason Verger is planning on eating Hannibal and refers to Meiwes and Brandes eating the latter’s penis, even though it was radically overcooked.
If you want to know more about the case (for which Meiwes is still serving time), there are several excellent links on the Skynd case files website (these guys do their homework!).
“When I investigated the case, I watched an interview with him. Meiwes didn’t seem like the typical beast you’d imagine when you think of a ‘cannibal.’ But then again, you might ask yourself, ‘What does a cannibal even look like?’ It’s a story that hasn’t left me for years and I feel like I have finally translated it into music.”
Or you can just watch this video, which sums up the salient points rather succinctly.
Table set for tonight Waited for this all my life Candle lights shining bright Pull the cork, pour the red wine Long, big steak on my plate Potatoes and sprouts on the side I savor my first bite Satisfied my appetite.
But before the killing and eating, which Meiwes had wanted to do for most of his life (and which Brandes seemed to want just as much), there was the question of what the “livestock” industry likes to call “humane slaughter”, one of the great oxymorons of the modern world. Brandes apparently wanted to be eaten alive, feel teeth tear into his flesh, but Meiwes was more considerate – pain may be a fun sexual fantasy, but it can really hurt. So they stopped on the way home (Brandes had only bought a one-way train ticket) and bought cough medicine (BREToN, which according to Google is Tulobuterol Hydrochloride and is for “asthma exacerbation”, although the website does rather hilariously say:
“Breton Syrup may also be used for purposes not listed here”
Two bottles of that, a fistful of sleeping tablets washed down with a bottle of schnapps, and Brandes was good to go. They collaboratively cut off his penis (again, it was supposed to be a tooth job, but it was too tough) and cooked it. It was inedible, and Meiwes threw it out (although an urban myth has developed that he fed it to a dog). Then Meiwes put Brandes in the bath to bleed to death and went off to read a Star Trek novel.
Pain killers, cough syrup Sleeping pills, bottle of schnapps Sink your teeth, chew it up Take a knife, make a clean cut Roast the flesh, medium heat Add garlic, pepper and salt Meat is too tough to eat So I’ll feed it to the dog.
Waiting for him to bleed out Reading Star Trek for three hours Finally kiss him once and kill him then slaughter him like a piece of… Like a piece of livestock.
The clip ends with Father (the multi-instrumentalist other half of the duo) appearing as Meiwes, sitting down to have ‘an old friend for dinner’.
Of course, that is the point of this story. Farmers claim to love their animals and then send them off to a terrifying death, hung upside down with their throats cut. There is evidence that Meiwes probably witnessed the slaughter of pigs when he was a child, and found it arousing. In an interview, Meiwes said the butchering was simple:
“It was like cutting up a pig. Meat is meat.”
Meiwes was originally convicted of manslaughter, which caused an uproar in the media. His story was soon adapted in movies, and in the song “Mein Tell” by Rammstein, who then faced the threat of being sued by the cannibal for plagiarism!
Meiwes’ verdict was later amended to murder, a strange decision – can you murder someone who wants to die? His simple claim in his defence was that, unlike pigs, sheep, cows, chickens and other animals, here was a willing victim who consented to, indeed demanded, his own slaughter and consumption. Is it not clearly more ethical to eat an animal who wants to be eaten, whatever the species, than one who does not?
Does Steven Spielberg make music videos? Well, not usually. But he whipped out his phone for this recording of a new single from Marcus Mumford (of Mumford & Sons) – his first solo venture, and the first song from his soon to be released (September 16) album called (Self-Titled). The album is produced by Blake Mills and featuring Brandie Carlile, Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo and Monica Martin.
Fans of Mumford & Sons have been perturbed to hear about Marcus’ solo album, wondering if it denotes the end of a great band, particularly considering that founding member Winston Marshall left the band in 2021 after calling controversial journalist Andy Ngo’s book Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy “brave”. But Marcus has confirmed that the band will not be disbanding and he will not be leaving, saying his solo album has the “full blessing and permission of the band”, who wrote on Instagram that:
“We are excited about the next chapter of Mumford & Sons, we’re working on what that looks like, but for now we hope you can enjoy this person, our friend, being a human being.”
Anyhow, the first song we have seen from the album is called CANNIBAL (the clip is at the top of this blog) which is lucky, as otherwise I would have had no excuse to crap on about it on this cannibalism blog. Marcus stated on his Instagram account that he had faced and danced with “demons” for a long time during COVID-19 isolation, and wrote “Cannibal” in January 21.
Rolling Stone wrote that the video was shot on July 3 in a high school gym in New York. Steven Spielberg “directed his first music video, in one shot, on his phone”.
Abby Jones on the Consequence website describes the song:
“Cannibal is a somber, rootsy tune that feels a bit like a pared-down version of Mumford & Sons’ arena-sized folk rock — that is, until around the three-minute mark, when the song transforms from an acoustic ballad into a rousing barnburner.”
The song is about the cannibalistic nature of relationships. The one described in the song appears to be complicated and toxic, arousing love and hate. For example,
I can still taste you and it kills me That there’s still some sick part of it that thrills me That my own body keeps betraying me There is such power that it may destroy me, but it compels me
Camille Paglia in her controversial book Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinsondescribes the sparagmos rite of the Dionysian cult in which the body of a god, or the animal (human or other) representing it, was torn apart and eaten raw, otherwise known as omophagy. Rending the body of the god and spreading the parts acted to inseminate the earth, so was an act of love, and Paglia suggests that oral sex retains a suggestion of omophagy – raw cannibalism.
“farmers who hand-raise lambs can love them and still send them to slaughter.”
Metaphoric cannibalism, particularly in terms of affectionate or sexual imagery, is a vast topic that cannot be adequately covered here. Suffice it to quote Italo Calvino in his book Under the Jaguar Sun perfectly summed up what he called “universal cannibalism”:
“…our teeth began to move slowly, with equal rhythm, and our eyes stared into each other’s with the intensity of serpents’ — serpents concentrated in the ecstasy of swallowing each other in turn, as we were aware, in our turn, of being swallowed by the serpent that digests us all, assimilated ceaselessly in the process of ingestion and digestion, in the universal cannibalism that leaves its imprint on every amorous relationship.”
“CANNIBAL” could be about the challenge of living and continuing to love someone during interminable COVID isolation. But at least one review suggests it is about childhood trauma and abuse, and posts a trigger warning. If that is one of your triggers, approach with caution. Such truths are hard, sometimes impossible to talk about: “when I began to tell, it became thе hardest thing I ever said out loud. Thе words got locked in my throat.”
I can still taste you, and I hate it That wasn’t a choice in the mind of a child and you knew it You took the first slice of me and you ate it raw Ripped it in with your teeth and your lips like a cannibal You fucking animal!
Sigmund Freud wrote that the two original prohibitions of humankind are incest and cannibalism, and it sounds a lot like Marcus Mumford has definitively linked them in this piece. The song finishes with a cry of pain: “Help me know how to begin again!”
Ever wondered what Trey Parker and Matt Stone did before South Park? Here’s a surprise – they went to college, where they wrote, directed, produced, co-scored and acted in a musical about cannibalism. This is it.
How’s your American history? It’s certainly never dull – full of wars, insurrections, and also a good deal of cannibalism – historical and contemporary. Probably the most famous incident is the Donner Party, a group of families who became snowbound in the Sierra Nevada over winter 1846-47, and famously turned to cannibalism to survive. Also up there in the mythology is the story of the famous typo, Alferd Packer, a prospector and self-proclaimed wilderness guide, who confessed to cannibalism during the harsh winter of 1874. Packer and five other men had attempted to travel across the San Juan Mountains of Colorado through the bitter winter snow, and Packer was the only one to arrive, some two months later, at the Los Pinós Indian Agency, near Saguache, Colorado. He first claimed the other men had abandoned him, then changed his story to tell of shared cannibalism of the men who had died of the cold, but was eventually charged with murder.
Incidentally, in case you’re wondering, his name was probably Alfred, but according to some sources, he changed it to Alferd after a mix up with a tattoo. Don’t know if that’s true, but just think of Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs, who refused to correct his birth certificate by adding an S to his first name. The author of that book, the meticulous researcher Thomas Harris, may have been having a wink at Alferd with that one.
According to a book on Packer, the judge at his trial sentenced him to death, saying:
Stand up yah voracious man-eatin’ sonofabitch and receive yir sintince. When yah came to Hinsdale County, there was siven Dimmycrats. But you, yah et five of ’em, goddam yah. I sintince yah t’ be hanged by th’ neck ontil yer dead, dead, dead, as a warnin’ ag’in reducin’ th’ Dimmycratic populayshun of this county. Packer, you Republican cannibal, I would sintince ya ta hell but the statutes forbid it.
Packer was not hanged, due to a legal technicality – he was sentenced under state law, but Colorado was not a state at the time of the cannibalism. Antonia Bird’s film Ravenous was also partly based on Packer.
That is pretty much the story that Trey Parker tells, using the names, dates and versions of the events that happened, and even in musical form, he tells it rather more accurately than an earlier biopic called The Legend of Alfred Packer (1980); also a lot more accurately than a later film calledDevoured: The Legend of Alferd Packer (2005), which offered audiences the ghost of Alferd eating people in the modern day. Parker and Stone add lots of humour and gore and some very impressive and catchy songs, all written by, and mostly sung by, Trey Parker. Parker and Stone are masters of irony, and it is laid on thick, starting with the card at the beginning saying that the film was originally released in 1954 (some 15 years before Parker and Stone were born) but was eclipsed by the release of Oklahoma. The card goes on to claim that the violence has been edited out, and they follow this with a scene showing Packer killing the other members of his group by biting their necks and tearing off their arms.
The film moves between Packer’s trial (the bloody scene at the start is the prosecution lawyer re-enacting the alleged crime) and Packer’s description of the actual events, complete with dance routines and love songs to his horse, Liane.
The group who persuade Packer to be their guide are totally unprepared for the march from Utah to the Colorado gold fields over the snowbound Rockies, and are warned not to proceed into a big storm by a tribe of Indians, played by Japanese foreign exchange students, who speak Japanese, and even carry Samurai swords.
In a nice bit of cannibal intertextuality (Homer’s Odyssey), they try to kill a sheep belonging to a one-eyed cyclops (actually a Confederate soldier who lost his eye in the civil war). Early shades of South Park, as the cyclops squirts pus from his missing eye.
Sitting around the campfire, starving, they recall the story of the Donner party, and that gives them an idea. Yeah, they eat the guy who was an incurable optimist, who they shot for wanting to build a snowman. Look, it makes sense at the time. They even discuss not exactly the ethics of cannibalism, but at least the aesthetics – they won’t eat the dead guy’s butt, and Packer (Parker) is sick at what part Humphrey (Stone) chooses to eat.
There’s a ballet dream with Alfred dreaming of a reunion with Lianne (the horse), who has run away with a gang of trappers. Yeah, you’ll have to see it.
But the snow has them trapped, and they run out of food, and now the discussion is not which parts of a corpse to eat, but which member of the team should be sacrificed for the next meal. There is a hugely extravagant massacre, following which Packer waits out the winter, but now with plenty of meat, and then heads into town with his story of losing the rest of his party. That doesn’t wash, particularly when the well chewed bodies are found.
There’s a bar fight, pretty much de rigueur in Westerns, and Packer escapes to Wyoming, which he says is worse than being torn apart by the furious townspeople. Eventually he is arrested and brought back to Colorado. During his trial, there is a love interest, Polly (Toddy Walters), who interviews Packer through the bars of his cell in a scene that kept reminding me of Clarice Starling interviewing Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, which had swept the Oscars in 1992, the year before this was made. She becomes convinced of his innocence and – well, it’s complicated. But the film is well worth your 100 minutes, just to see what Parker and Stone could do with real people instead of simulated cut-outs.
The film had mixed reviews, with some of the reviewers not knowing what to make of it. The critic score on Rotten Tomatoes is only 65%, but the audience score is 82%. The critic from Empire said: “there’s an air of genial enthusiasm, tempered by sick humour, that is surprisingly engaging”.
The tagline for the film is:
“In the tradition of Friday the 13th Part 2… and Oklahoma… comes the first intelligent movie about cannibalism!”
Parker and Stone are not shy about their fascination with cannibalism, for example, check out the South Park episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die”, in which Cartman takes revenge on a boy by killing the boy’s parents, and cooking and feeding them to him.
For a movie made by a couple of students at the University of Colorado, this is very impressive. It’s well made, the cast is great and the music is hard to get out of your head afterwards. I guess not so surprising, when we consider that four years later, in 1997, Parker and Stone launched South Park, which has been running ever since with over 300 episodes shown so far, and more seasons booked until at least 2022.
This blog is primarily about cannibalism in films and TV shows, but we take an occasional deviation (love that word) to discuss real-live cases, or other manifestations of the cannibals’ art. So today – cannibal music.
“Jónsi” Birgisson is an Icelandic musician, the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós. His new album “Shiver” is due in October, and he has just released the song CANNIBAL – the Youtube link is above.
For this one, he collaborates with Liz Fraser. Fraser is a Scottish singer, songwriter and musician, known as the vocalist for the band Cocteau Twins and on several tracks on Massive Attack’s album “Mezzanine”. She was sometimes called “the Voice of God” in Cocteau Twins.
One review says “If anyone could turn a song about being a cannibal for love into a glorious and gorgeous song, it’s the Icelandic singer [Jónsi]”.
You’ve got perfect skin Soft enough porcelain White teeth, but you’re sinking in I’m chewing cartilage Chewing your carpet Muscles, veins, and shoulder blades
You know I’m a cannibal, cannibal I remove your breathing heart
If you want to enjoy a song about cannibals, Jónsi is a nice peaceful place to start.
If peaceful is not your thang, Cannibal Corpse has been putting the death into Death Metal for over thirty years (spooky huh?) I should issue a warning – this is not the album to play if you have a hangover migraine. Oh, also that it has songs with names like
Meat hook sodomy
Under the rotted flesh
Vomit the soul
I cum blood
Cannibal’s Hymn is by the brilliant Australian musician, Nick Cave. I have used a line from this amazing song for the title of my thesis: “If you’re gonna dine with the cannibals“.
If you’re gonna dine with the cannibals Sooner or later, darling, you’re gonna get eaten But I’m glad you’ve come around here with your animals And your heart that is bruised but bleating And bleeding like a lamb.
While we are talking cannibal music, let us recall Katy Perry’s clip where she wanted to be “spread like a buffet”. If you were lucky enough to miss it or forget it, you can refresh the horror here.
Back in 2010, KE$HA released her cannibal song, with lyrics like “carnivore animal, I am a cannibal!” It became a hit all over again in 2020 when people realised it was a nice tune for exhibiting their talents on TikTok.
And let’s not forget (well, we can try) Robbie Williams’ Rock DJ clip from July 2000 where he is stripping for a group of women. When he is completely naked (with the naughty bits blurred out) and they remain unimpressed, he pulls off his skin and starts throwing pieces of his flesh out to the crowd, who eat it.
The video’s director said that the clip had been banned in the Dominican Republic for ‘Satanism’ and that they were ‘wanted in Papua New Guinea for cannibalism’. Now he wants to reshoot it.
It’s interesting from a cannibal studies point of view in that his penis cannot be shown, while his flesh, and the eating thereof, is perfectly acceptable, apparently. Also that cannibalism is depicted as of more interest than sex to his audience. Of course. Cannibalism is about the voracious and insatiable appetite of humans, of which sex is just one aspect.
Interesting, perhaps, but for what it’s worth, my recommendation, both visually and musically, is to stick to Nick and Jónsi.
Katy Perry goes full cannibal? Her 2017 online clip Bon Appétit was a huge hit, with 14 million hits in the first 24 hours. But is it liberation or just lunch? Well, she claims it is about liberation, posting that she is “hot and ready to serve but make no mistake I’m not your piece of meat”.
The clip shows her being covered in flour and kneaded by a bunch of chefs, her limbs stretched out, then dropped into a steaming cauldron to baste herself. At one point, her tongue is burned by the kind of torch you might see in a French or Japanese restaurant.
One tweet stated that Perry was “targeting the cannibal demographic”. Was she appealing to the voraphilia market, or criticising the objectification of the female body?
Appetite for seduction Fresh out the oven Melt in your mouth kind of lovin’ Bon a, bon appétit, baby
It looks a lot like exploitation pseudo-porn. But hey, maybe it’s a subtle and clever dig at the way artists, and particularly women, are ‘consumed’ by their fan-base. Yes, and maybe cannibal movies are a subtle and clever dig at the anthropocentric objectification of certain species to satisfy the voracious appetites of humans. Seems unlikely to be intentional but, perhaps at some level, that is what is happening here.