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Culinary Horror and the Aesthetics of the Purgatorial in ATHF

by Ethan Tussey

by Michael Frazer for IN MEDIA RES

Aqua Teen Hunger Force, exemplar of the oddities of Adult Swim, features three anthropomorphic fast-food objects who experience many bizarre adventures. In "Broodwich," the trio encounters a paranormal sandwich that sends its consumer to a purgatorial space. Described by a disembodied voice, the sandwich was "forged in darkness from wheat harvested in hell's half acre, baked by Beelzebub, slathered with mayonnaise beaten from the evil eggs of dark chicken forces into sauce by the hands of a one-eyed madman, cheese boiled from the rancid teat of a fanged cow, layered with six hundred and sixty six separate meats from an animal which has maggots for blood." The sandwich, broken into its parts, points to the absurdity of its construction: to craft artfully is to generate evil, each component more sinister than the last. Where deconstructing a joke renders it null, the end result of deconstructing horror is the inverse: comedy. Note the description of the sandwich and the lengths to which the underworld goes to construct something so diabolical. The overly-deliberate intent makes the sandwich comedic. Pair this with the fact that the Broodwich has a devil tail, horns, and a devilish red bun. Crafted sensitively aware of the fine culinary arts, this sandwich is overkill. Further, "[t]he Broodwich cannot be taken apart or disassembled" - this is eternal law. Nevertheless, Shake removes the sundried tomatoes from it, and the irritated voice insists he replace them. Again, it is the insistence that creates comedy here: the voice is desperate to maintain wholeness because the sandwich must remain complete to claim its “victim.” Shake remains unconvinced as the voice continues in hopes that he’ll eat the tomatoes: “Look, they’re good!” The horrific is dispelled into comedy as the back-and-forth banter delves into irritation on both parties’ parts. The voice's desperation heightens the fact that horror is an intricate artistic process. As the process derails, the deconstruction of the sandwich itself (and horror by proxy) generates comedy.

Horror Comedy and Culinary terror

A clip from Aqua Teen Hunger Force

from Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2012)
Creator: Adult Swim
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey