When I was a little kid, I would remember watching Popeye all the time when it played late at night.
As a kid, I remember loving Popeye and staying up super late at night just to watch it all the time. Some would say that was pretty irresponsible of my parents’ right? Wrong. My parents thought that Popeye was great. They thought he was the type of man I should be like one day and he even influenced me to eat a lot of spinach as a kid. However, did they let my sister watch Popeye when she was a kid? The answer would be no. My sister was told by my parents that she was supposed to watch tv shows for girls.
Now, let’s watch a brief episode from Popeye and see what it says about gender and food.
First and foremost, it is important to note that this episode of Popeye is an adaptation of the famous bedtime story, Jack and the Beanstalk. In the episode, we can see that Popeye is trying to get three young boys to eat their spinach by telling them the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and replacing the character Jack with himself. Instead of tricking the giant like in the original story, Popeye saves the golden hen by eating some spinach (which gives him incredible strength) and beats the pulp out of the giant.
Ok, so what does this tell us about gender and food?
It is basically telling children that if they want to become big and strong like Popeye and be able to beat up bigger opponents than you, you should eat a lot of spinach. Also, in terms of examining gender and food, it is also important to see that this episode/show specifically targets boys. As we see in this episode, Popeye is telling the story to boys only. There are no girls in this episode. This episode and show also tells us a lot about expected gender roles. In the show, Popeye always has to eat spinach in order to save the female characters. What this tells us about gender roles is that men must eat healthy foods like spinach in order to become tough and strong. While on the other hand, women must wait for strong masculine men to come and save the day.
However, let’s think about it rationally.
Does eating spinach really make someone into a tough person? The answer is yes and no. Although spinach is high in fiber, has vitamins to strengthen your bones, and great for your health, it will not turn you into a super tough macho man (Poulos). And if women REALLY need a good rescue, couldn’t they just eat some spinach too?
I know, Popeye may seem a little outdated for our time but I challenge you to watch children’s movies and televisions today and tell me that these ideals don’t still exist. And you know what? This type of mentality totally existed in my family, so who is to say that it doesn’t exist in other families.
Poulos , Rob. “Spinach Nutrition Facts – Health Benefits of Spinach.” Fast Fit Tips. N.p., 2006. Web. 1 May 2012. <http://www.fatburningfurnace.com/blog/spinach-nutrition-facts-–-health-benefits-of-spinach>
s275ironman. “Popeye the Sailor-Let’s Stalk Spinach (1951)”. 17 Jan. 2010 Online video clip. Youtube. Accessed on 01 May 2012. < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Xw7BZ3613M>.