studiodekadent Posted August 12, 2016 Share Posted August 12, 2016 In "Sausage Party," Seth Rogen delivers an extremely funny and brutally profane film which in some ways is the ultimate inversion of VeggieTales; the film is about talking food items at the local supermarket, but the plot is an anti-religious allegory. The anti-religious themes of Sausage Party make it of interests to Objectivists, but only for those who enjoy transgressive comedy. Animated in the style of Pixar films such as "Toy Story," "Sausage Party" centers around a hot dog named Frank, his girlfriend (a hot dog bun) named Brenda, and a smaller sausage named Barry. Alongside all the other products in the store, they see human shoppers as their gods, even greeting them with hymns in the morning (although humans cannot see that the produce is alive, at least under normal conditions). In their religion, the Gods who "choose" (purchase) them will whisk them away to an eternal paradise called "The Great Beyond," where the hot dogs and buns will no longer be bound by their packaging or mandate to remain 'fresh,' and the hot dogs may finally be inside their beloved buns. The allegory is pretty obvious here, and the viewer is never left in doubt as to what the produce items represent. When a jar of honey mustard is returned to the store and casts doubt on their religion (claiming that the Gods are brutal monsters before committing suicide), a chain of events is set in motion where Barry, Frank and Brenda learn the horrifying truth about "The Great Beyond." Along the way, they are joined by a bagel (who is a stereotypical Woody-Allen-esque New York Jew), an Arabic flatbread (who's own version of the produce's religion promises him 77 bottles of extra-virgin olive oil), and a sexually repressed taco who is (unsurprisingly) a Mexican and wrestles with her attraction to Brenda. Pursuing them is a (literal and figurative) Douche who blames Frank and Brenda for an accident which rendered him "spoiled merchandise." The comedy is raunchy, to say the least; in between the corny puns are sex jokes by the dozen, drug jokes, and even more frequent profanity. The obvious ethnic allegories and stereotypes come thick and fast, and of course the German mustard is preoccupied with exterminating the juice. Indeed, the film contains an orgy sequence so graphic that the only way the producers got away with it was because the characters are anthropomorphic food items; it makes Team America's "puppet sex" sequence look positively coy by comparison. But what really makes this film so good is its religious theme, which is a lot smarter than many would expect from a comedy with such bawdy humor. The film has a pretty strong anti-religious message, exploring misotheism/dystheism, the crisis of faith and disillusionment, questioning and rejecting dogma, and the typical stuff we see in Nietzsche and then the Existentialist philosophers. Hell and Satan are both given analogs in the religion of the produce, and ultimately the foodstuffs face the challenge of asserting and defining their own purpose as ends in themselves. Whereas Douche is driven mad by his loss of ability to serve his religiously-mandated purpose, other characters respond differently. One problem with the allegory is that in a later part of the film the anti-religious theme is slightly softened by a scene in which the character trying to spread the truth about The Great Beyond is chastised for being "intolerant" (including by the Nazi-stereotyped German mustard) of other people's beliefs, merely for presenting evidence and using some slightly harsh rhetoric. Another character explains that the secret is to give people something to believe in, and describes this in terms of having "faith" in something. This not only feels like an unnecessary "screw you" to the New Atheists (who got accused of being intolerant, smug and arrogant simply for making arguments that dared to be boldly phrased, at least in the case of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris' work), but its not even a particularly effective way to try to avoid alienating religious audience members since it concedes every important point to the atheist-analog side and merely suggests they're not phrasing the message sensitively enough. Not only this, but its outright hypocrisy to criticize New Atheism for being smug or arrogant when New Atheism arose to combat a moralistic, fundamentalist Christianity which certainly encouraged (even if perhaps unintentionally) a smugness about the righteousness of the believers and how all those people who dared to disagree are going to get eternally tortured in fire, and that those who are saved will not only be able to watch but that watching the unbelievers suffer will only increase their joy in heaven. Indeed, this is reflected in the opening song where its made clear that a shared tenet of the food's religion is "everyone else is f**king stupid, except for those who think like me." Apparently, this attitude is fine for religious people, but insufferably smug for the nonreligious. Not only that, but the use of 'faith' to describe having a positive confidence in something is an equivocation; there's a difference between 'faith' meaning confidence or belief, 'faith' meaning any particular set of beliefs, and 'faith' meaning belief in the absense of evidence. Of course, we could read the "people need to have faith in something" argument charitably, as an assertion of how people need ideals and values and a sense of meaning and purpose in their own life (which feeds into the Nietzschean/Existentialist ideas at play in the film), but frankly it weakens the strength of the anti-religious allegory; indeed, an early version of the script that was leaked by Wikileaks didn't have this whole "don't be smug/people need faith in something" aspect, and this version came off as much more intellectually pleasant. In addition, it didn't have the fourth-wall-breaking ending, which frankly made very little sense. But in spite of those small flaws in the allegory (and I will concede that the whole "people need to believe in something" angle did make the film more accurately emulate the heartwarming tone of Disney/Pixar-style children's cinema), the film still delivers an enjoyable critique of religion and faith in general, and satirizes a lot of the conventions and mores of much religion today. It does so with an endearing, pun-filled visual style and comedy that ranges from the cheesy to the dark to the utterly obscene. I'd unreservedly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys offensive comedy (and hence is likely to lack easily-offended religious sensibilities). However, Objectivists who enjoy such comedy will particularly enjoy the film for thematic reasons. Just like "Antz," this is a fantastic animated film with Objectivist-compatible themes. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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