Wednesday, 20 March 2013

"The Social Life of Tomatoes"

The short film we watched in class, “The Social Life of Tomatoes”,  uses the journey of one tomato to identify the similarities and differences between human beings and some of our social constructions, as well as to place major class divisions into context.  The film follows one tomato from a field, where it is tended by the Japanese man, Mr. Suzuki, to a supermarket, where it is purchased by a woman who throws it in the garbage.  It is then taken to a trash heap on the Island of Flowers, where it is meant to be fed to pigs.  The pig’s owner decides that it is unfit for pigs, and it is then thrown in a pile where poor women and children are free to scavenge it to eat themselves.

The beginning of the film has a light tone, and finds connections between such topics as opposable thumbs, whales, and money.  There is also a stress on religion, identifying Jews and Roman Catholics.  However, by the end, it is obvious that this film has a more serious message.  It uses satire to stress the major class divisions, such as the woman who sells perfume to buy food from the supermarket for her family, and the woman and children who line up to gather food which was rejected as pig food.  The film also uses serious images, such as footage from concentration camps.

“The Social Life ofTomatoes” shows how an everyday item or concept can be connected to countless other items and concepts.  This can be used as an exercise to open our eyes when considering our research projects.  Sometimes, important connections can be made where we least expect them.


  1. I thought the repitition of what made us human was also interesting; our highly developed brains and opposable thumbs. The narrator must have said that at least twenty times thoughout the film, as he showed one image after another depicting our existance. Our highly developed brains and opposable thumbs, both pieces of knowledge derived from scientific research, seemed to juxtapose the scientific notion of the human being against the more social concepts of our humanity.

    1. I thought that the repetition of the comment highly developed brain and thumbs as a defining factor of people was interesting as well. Perhaps the instance I though was most interesting was when the video used these factors to make a comparison between pigs and people. To paraphrase the video humans have a highly developed brain and opposable thumbs. The difference of pigs is they have no thumbs. I found the videos failure to state that there was a difference in the developed brain very interesting. Through doing this the video is implying that the difference between humans and pigs has nothing to do with intelligence.

  2. I also thought that the video related to developing research topics and ideas in the way it oversimplified everything and used these simple, straight-forward, true statements, such as Mr. Suzuki being human because of his highly developed brain and opposable thumbs to create an overarching, significant statement about how human beings are being treated in that area of the world as well as comment on class divisions, as you pointed out, Emily. These women and children on the Island of Flowers are placed lower than pigs in significance because of their social and economic stature, even though they also have opposable thumbs and highly developed brains like Mr. Suzuki.

    This short documentary exemplifies for me the importance of building an argument and how the importance of the structure of research is monumental in creating a successful argument. In light of this document, I need to make sure that my final research proposal is built on solid, simple statements and leads logically to my hypothesis. The film also highlights the importance of clarity. Each statement leading to the conclusion and purpose of the film was clear, concise, and true. Likewise, I want to make sure that my research proposal has similar attributes.