Candy and the Simulacrum
Did you read the piece in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review by Steven Johnson about studying semiotics at Brown? I wasn’t at Brown, but that was basically my intellectual formation too.
In the spirit of semiotics, then, I offer this candy-related thought, dedicated to my fond memory of grad school in the late 1980s. Here it is, the missing link between Theory and Candy, with a shout-out to Baudrillard:
Processed food is an imitation that promises to surpass the real or original: Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pie will be so much better than Grandma’s.
Candy, too, is processed food, but processed food with out reference to any original. Candy is the pure simulacrum, copy without origin.
As Baudrillard learned from Derrida, there is no “real” or “original,” only always already a copy. Grandma’s pot pie was an attempt to re-create the one she had at the Roadhouse Restaurant back in 1942, which was a version of the owner’s mother’s recipe, which was… No real food, always copies.
Candy as simulacrum cuts loose from the chain of origins and descent. It’s fake, and unashamed of its fakeness and therefore not in need of connecting itself to some legitimating narrative of ancestry and origin.
So candy as fake food is more true than food that disguises its fakery. Candy, perfect post-modern food. Make that “food.”
Got all that? Hmm. Not sure I miss those 1980s so much.
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