Monday, November 19, 2007

Good Octopus

Here is a "good" octopus, courtesy of the Jeonghwa company. He is not solely good, though. He is also, as his sign proclaims, "new." Moreover, judging by his impish wink, he is a real character.

But it is his goodness that is salient. It's part of his very identity, his very name:

(The Korean hangul writing "k-u-s" in the name of the product stands for good. In this context, "k-u-s" is pronounced koot, no doubt a Koreanized approximation of good.)

The octopus does not object to any of this. In fact, he is cutely agreeable to this whole situation. Which renders the product all the more objectionable.

We can hear your rational objection: Perhaps Korean food companies, like so many Japanese enterprises, rely on the Cult of Cute as a routine ploy. Perhaps, then, this image is nothing more than reflexive business-as-usual, no more revealing than any generic logo.

Well spoken, rational objector. Well spoken, but wrong.

Here is packaging from another Jeonghwa product, Soft Smoked Squid Leg:

The first thing to consider is that this is not an entire animal. These are the "legs" of numerous squids. As such, this product is resistant to the forces of Cute.












A close-up of the package will show definitively what Jeonghwa thinks of these squid:

Hatred might be too strong a word. But there is no love here. The squid is merely a victim, a dead thing dredged from the sea. Its x-eyes mark its affiliation in the brotherhood of inert objects, whose former status as living being may now be disregarded.

And now, at last, we understand the subtext of Good Octopus. Good does not refer to his palatability. It is not synonymous with tasty. It means "obedient."

The Good Octopus does not resist his commodification, as the recalcitrant squid must have. The octopus is compliant. He is safe—for the status quo, for the system. He is good suicidal food, ready for his turn in the bag, even going so far as to trumpet the novelty of his unique packaging and ingredients.


2 comments:

Francois Tremblay said...

"And now, at last, we understand the subtext of Good Octopus. Good does not refer to his palatability. It is not synonymous with tasty. It means "obedient." "

You nailed it on the head right there, insofar as most people's conception of morality goes... None is allowed to question their role in the social order.

Lisa J. said...

Ick. Squid & octopus have never passed these lips - and it is upsetting at how willing the squid is to take his turn in the cheap red & yellow packaging.