If you know your way around an Internet meme, you’ve probably heard of the online cooking show Epic Meal Time, a Food Network–meets–Jackass celebration of heart-clogging lowbrow cuisine. Each Tuesday, its rowdy Canadian creators cook up something both imaginative (Chili Four Loko, for instance), gross (meat salad), or, more likely, both (the Thanksgiving episode found them taking Turducken a few carnivorous steps further, stuffing five different game birds into a pig). Since the show’s premiere on YouTube in October 2010, EMT’s channel has gotten more than 14 million views, and the hosts have appeared on The Tonight Show and ABC News; at press time, a TV show is being pitched to Comedy Central, Spike TV, and the Discovery Network.
The show has become understandably famous for its humor, its gratuitous use of bacon, and the creators’ proud disregard for suggested fat and cholesterol intake. (Each episode features a calorie and fat count with numbers that regularly reach the tens of thousands.) But what’s been less discussed is EMT’s more uncomfortably cavalier attitude toward women. Though the show regularly features guest eaters, female ones are present only when the day’s dish is appropriately sexualized: In one episode, a giant dessert crepe is eaten, hands-free, by two young women who are filmed from angles best described as “blowjob-esque.” And in the episode titled “Massive Meat Log,” host Harley Morenstein addresses his audience thus: “We all know that no one wants to see a douchebag eat a corndog. So we brought a little girl in for all you perverts.” (The camera cuts away to reveal a group of men sitting across from said woman, smiling.)
Isn’t making a giant corndog out of three different kinds of meat extreme enough? Why add a decidedly creepy, exploitative attitude toward women to the mix? Well, one theory is that, in general, cooking shows are fairly tame, and by infusing the show with sexual imagery and innuendo (e.g., “fast-food bukkake”), the dudes behind EMT are simply distancing themselves as much as possible from the likes of Rachael Ray and Sandra Lee. But in blurring the lines between sex and food to create a new type of cooking show, they reinforce a very stale image of masculinity, and make a connection between women and meat that’s pretty difficult to stomach. I’m no vegetarian, but no amount of humor or delicious bacon will mask the aftertaste of sexism.