Food for thought: Revisiting Seth Rogan’s Sausage Party
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
A tasty, distasteful film, Sausage Party has nothing to do with food. Although the screenplay is often witty and loveable, putting clever food puns to good use, this animation film is not for children. In fact, it’s not for most adults either. Breathing life and purpose into a supermarket, Sausage Party found an interesting and unprecedented way to talk about mortality and religion.
In an AMC 14 theater in Saratoga, California the trailer for Sausage Party played before the Disney animation Frozen. It left children terrified and parents mortified. It was a slip-up that warranted someone’s termination. Even the trailer was powerful enough to rub all the right people the wrong way. This is because the film’s message might just be that life is about having sex and getting high. Full of sexual innuendos and an atheist view that sticks to logic, the film addresses a bold, even progressive idea that doesn’t resonate with the majority. But that’s the point.
Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jonah Hill have worked together on numerous films, including This Is The End, Superbad, and Knocked Up. This story was carefully crafted to engage their audience in a hilariously intellectual conversation about the meaning of life and society’s myths. Each character was chosen to represent a deeper symbolism. They all serve a purpose in critiquing our modern society.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Seth Rogan and Michael Cera explain they got away with things “you could never get away with in a live-action movie.”
Rogen adds that “because it's food and it's not real and it's not anatomically correct, it gives you that leeway.”
They are not the first to experiment with adult-generated animation, following others like South Park, Family Guy, and Beavis and Butt-Head; however, they did take the first risk with a full film.
What makes this satirical animation spectacular, is its ability to mock such contentious topics in a lighthearted manner. You might ponder religion and land disputes differently after watching these absurd cartoon characters talk about them.
To the audience, it’s hard not to see the big picture, but to the food, it’s hard to see any picture at all. In fact, the animated food characters don’t see the real world (otherwise known as the Great Beyond) until the end when a sausage tears a picture out of a cook book titled, “Beyond Great Cooking Book”. This photo shows humans eating and cooking them, rather than living happily ever after.
This is the point the writers are trying to make. Society blindly follows rules and devotedly supports beliefs that have been passed down and absorbed without question. Rogen, Goldberg, and Hill show the consequences of these beliefs through their animated world.
The humans represent the “Gods” and their vindictive ways. But really, humans represent apathy. They are unable to hear and see the food as they are—alive. The only time the humans can see the fourth dimension is when injected with bath salts, a synthetic hallucinogenic drug that lifts the veil of non-reality. In this state, they can talk to the animated food and hear their pleas for mercy. This idea is radical in its implication that drugs help us unlock parts of the real world that our brains couldn’t otherwise access.
Unfortunately, humans don’t remember anything when they sober up. Therefore, they don’t give purpose to the food, they don’t get mad at them for getting out of their packages (“sinning”), and they don’t righteously choose their food and take them to a wonderful afterlife. In fact, they don’t care at all, because at the end of the day they chop, cut, fry, sizzle, skin, smash, and crunch their food. The directors portray these in torturous and horrifying scenes, many of which show death and violence in a grossly graphic manner.
For example, when a shopping cart crashes and food falls to their death, chaos ensues. A bag of potato chips explodes and the chips slices through food as they run away. A bag of flour explodes, covering the air with thick white. The food items choke on its debris as they hold their loved ones. Peanut butter cries out, holding his deceased soulmate, Jelly. Canned Spaghetti bellows in agony as its noodles spill out his gushing gut.
Before this chaos, the film begins with laughter and bliss. The grocery store opens with a harmonized song—a tribute to the Gods. The store sings out, believing the Gods will control their fate and entrance into the Great Beyond, which is a parallel to the idea of the Promise Land. The chorus feels familiar, like many of the religious hymns we’ve heard in our lifetime.
When a God enters and picks up a condiment, the honey mustard screams in pure joy, “I’ve been chosen!”
The two main characters are Frank, a sausage (Seth Rogen) and Brenda, a bun (Kristin Wiig). They’re shelf-mates and hope to be chosen to enter the Great Beyond together. The first scene mocks the idea of “Bunogomy” and purity. The sausages and buns must stay in their packages (hold onto their virginity) and wait to be with each other in the Great Beyond. When Frank and Brenda break out of their bags just to “touch tips”, Brenda believes they’ve disobeyed and angered the Gods.
Frank eventually questions the validity of their future and Brenda explains, “We’re not supposed to understand the will of the Gods.”
Their relationship highlights the disagreement between believers and non-believers. For a moment, their conflicting beliefs even cause them to part ways. Frank doesn’t understand how Brenda can believe a bunch of stuff she doesn’t have any proof of, and Brenda doesn’t understand how Frank can all of a sudden only believe if there is proof. The final scene really touches on the idea that humanity needs hope to live. They need to be inspired. To some, the thought of a better afterlife makes life worth living. Why should they believe everything is pointless?
Sausage Party brings famous actors like James Franco, Salma Hayek, and Paul Rudd to voice over the anthropomorphizedfood. Some have clever and underlying jokes, like a douche, voiced by Nick Kroll, who also acts like a complete douche. Nick Kroll is also the radio show host “The Douche” in another television show, Parks and Recreation.
Sausage Party brilliantly constructs our entire world inside a grocery store. Each aisle represents a region or culture. The food groups each represent a current belief, stereotype, or conflict.
The liquor aisle represents the wild progressives who party, play spin the bottle, and come out of their packages freely. In other words, they are the sinners of the world.
The Mexican-themed aisle represents the southern border, where secret tunnels still exist from the coyotes who once snuck illegal products to a better life. Here we meet Teresa del Taco, a lesbian who must suppress her urges, because she believes the Gods are always watching. When she sees Brenda, she gets a sensation that she believes was the Gods telling her to help. She clearly doesn’t comprehend her own sexuality.
The film even attempts to solve the Israeli-Palestine conflict with a pacifist bagel, Sammy Bagel, Jr. and a conservative flatbread, Kareem Abdul Lavash. When they fall out of the shopping cart far from home, they are forced to travel back together. Their constant bickering and debates about displacement are clearly a jab at our own well-known religiously motivated territorial conflict. They even make a joke about settlements on the West Shelf (West Bank).
Kareem snaps, “You come into our aisle and take up more space.”
Sammy Bagel, Jr. then vouches for his people, “It’s not our fault we got kicked out of every section in the store. They tried to put us in the Barbeque section for God’s sake!”
Then there’s the Sauerkraut who scream, “Kill the juice!” A frightened orange juice looks up. Under Hitler’s rule the Sauerkraut want to annihilate all the juice (Jews).
The non-perishables are the only food items that know the truth about humans and immortality. In their tent, they consume a massive amount of marijuana. We learn that Firewater (representing Native Americans) were the original inhabitants driven out of their pristine aisle by the crackers (denoting white people).
“You don’t even wanna know what they did to Mr. Grits over here,” says Firewater. Mr. Grits signifies the oppression of black people in America and their current stereotypes.
Together, Firewater, Mr. Grits, and Twink invented the fabricated concept of the Great Beyond to establish peace and assembly in the store. However, over time different aisles started changing their song’s verses to start implementing their own views. They changed key lyrics, like “All products are created equal”. The screen then shows food holding up signs saying, “God hates Figs!”
These characters insinuate the flaws in our own society today and how some religious groups and political parties have twisted original scripts to justify wars, hatred, and discrimination. It also implies that religion was created to establish structure and stability in society, but also to give people hope and a believe they have a purpose. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Every character, scene, and song in this movie has a deeper meaning. Yes, stoners think it’s hilarious, and the basis of the story is in fact preposterous. Yet, the screenplay is much more than a happy animation film like The Secret Life of Pets. It’sdarker and sinister. Moreover, its analogous to our world and our institutions, providing a critical perspective in a new form.
With a juicy plot and meaty message, Sausage Party was the animation film of 2016, feeding our world with more food for thought.