Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Starkist's Charlie the Tuna

And now, our tribute—long past due—to the spiritual grandfather of the Suicide Food movement: Charlie the Tuna. This is the fish who started it all, blazing a trail leading from Nature’s hallowed fastnesses all the way to our kitchens, lunchrooms, and stomachs. The very phrase with which he is associated—“Sorry Charlie”—has entered our collective unconscious, even if, over the years, it has become divorced from Charlie’s innumerable schemes to get himself hooked and filleted.

Our fine, finned apologist first made a disreputable name for himself in 1961. He went on to star in more than 80 commercials, each extolling the benefits of attempting to end one’s life by means of iron barbs and asphyxiation.

The tropes of suicidal “food” animals having become assimilated into popular culture so thoroughly, it can be difficult to remember just how obscene the whole matter truly is. A fish goes to great lengths—now taking up the harp, now sealing himself in a crate of spring water—to connive, to trick, to persuade The Man to kill him. He grabs for the hook, only to see it snatched away again and again. And again. And again.

We are meant to pity him. And we do. But not for the ineptitude of his ploys. No, we pity him for forgetting. He lost himself 46 years ago and has yet to rediscover the real Charlie.

Addendum (8/14/09): Charlie has been resurrected by his corporate masters!

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