To Serve Man: Cannibalism In History, Pop Culture, And Nature

An exploration of mankind's oldest taboo.

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Gaspard Ulliel as young Lecter in Hannibal Rising.
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To Serve Man: Cannibalism In History, Pop Culture, And Nature
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To Serve Man: Cannibalism In History, Pop Culture, And Nature

Two cannibals are eating, and one of them says, "I don't like my mother in law," and the other one says: "So just eat the noodles."

Old joke and one of scores and scores of jokes about cannibalism. It's one of the ultimate taboos, so why is there so much comedy about it?
 
Maybe the answer is contained in the question. Cannibalism kicks one of our massive anxiety tripwires, and we convert that into comedy because, we think, it's something we would never do.
 
But as you'll hear on the show today, cannibalism is not as rare -- you should pardon the expression -- as you might think. Slate editor David Plotz, reacting to the recent news about cannibalism in the Jamestown colony, wrote that it might even be a rational response to desperate circumstances. 
 
You can join the conversation. E-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.

  

Comments

E-mail from Meg

Are you aware of a Monty Python sketch that depicts the Pythons as sailors in a small boat at sea, long separated from other contact? They are able to turn it into a humorous reflection on who eats whom, who looks most delectable, etc.
Thanks for doing this program.

E-mail from Jack

Will you dare to mention the ritual cannibalism inherent in the Christian rite of Holy Communion? Transubstantiation and all that. From 1 Corinthians 11:

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Interesting show even if you don't get to this topic.