Vore: The Pipeline of Cannibalism as Horror to Romantic

Reader discretion is advised as cannibalism is a sensitive subject involving gore, death, and other forms of violence. This article will tackle its history and explore the connotations of romance hidden within this nature of behavior, whereas the written contents do not and will not support any form of discrimination or harassment against any communities that are affiliated with any sort of religious, sexual, social, and political groups.

When we used to think about cannibalism, the first thing that would pop into our head would be Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs; Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, etc. A common theme between those pieces of media is the horror genre since cannibalistic nature has always been portrayed as something sinister and violent, defying the laws of humankind- An insatiable appetite for the flesh and blood of humans. 

History and its Context

We may appropriately assume that cannibalism has stemmed from pop culture and various cult classic films, where vampires, zombies, and other supernatural creatures have begun to overtake our genre consumption since “Night of The Living Dead,” with zombies being one of the faces of cannibalistic society. 

Apart from the notorious Meiwes-Brandes case in 2001 Germany that circled political waters with a question about consensual murder through cannibalism- essentially the concept of Vorarephilia, cannibalism was said to have historical evidence from almost 100,000 years ago, according to European historians. In a 2013 Smithsonian Magazine article entitled ‘Europe’s Hypocritical History of Cannibalism’, the bones and brains of Neanderthal bodies were said to have been missing when found in Moula-Guercy, a French cave, noting that the thigh and tongue meat were also extracted from the body as well. “The cannibalism at Moula-Guercy wasn’t an isolated incident in prehistory. In the past two decades, researchers have reported other evidence that Neanderthals continued eating each other until just before their disappearance.” 

The most notable take from the article would be the mention of how cannibalism was heightened during a time of famine and need, so it leads to the bigger question of whether or not class struggle and poverty contributed to such a crisis of cannibalistic nature. 

“Part of the problem was that cannibalism at Ma’arra simply didn’t fit in with the European self-image. In medieval times, cultural enemies- not military or religious heroes- were commonly depicted as cannibals or giants, “especially in narratives of territorial invasion and conquest,” argues Geraldine Heng in “Cannibalism, The First Crusade and the Genesis of Medieval Romance.” “Witches, Jews, savages, Orientals, and pagans are conceivable as, indeed, must be cannibals; but in the 12th-century medieval imaginary, the Christian European subject cannot.” – An excerpt from Smithsonian Magazine article by Sarah Everts. 

Roots in Bondage

Zombies have grown to be one of the largest pop culture icons in the 21st century, creating hundreds of movies about this supernatural creature: An undead man that has a thirst for blood and brains. But, what is completely neglected by its fanatics is its historical significance, stemming from Haitian culture and African slavery. 

Despite “Night of the Living Dead” being the first American horror film to depict zombies, it did not identify its iconic antagonists as such. It was in the 1932 Bela Lugosi film, “White Zombie”, that culturally acknowledged the term. These films were followed by “Dawn of the Dead,” “Shaun of the Dead”- A personal comedy-horror film favorite- as well as “iZombie,” “World War Z,” “Zombieland,” “28 Days Later,” “The Walking Dead,” and a parody: “Pride and Prejudice Zombies.” From comedy to horror to action-packed films and TV shows, zombies have become a staple of the horror genre, but the creature is rooted in Haiti in the 17th and 18th centuries during the French occupation, referring to the country as Saint-Dominique at the time. Though, further detailed reading can be done through The Atlantic’s article by Mike Mariani, entitled “The Tragic, Forgotten History of Zombies”. 

Rooted in Haitian folklore, zombies were considered to be the product of Boko- A voudou sorcerer. Though it is of West African origin, it was brought over to Haiti by its slaves. Because the slave labor in Haiti was brutal, its slaves found suicide to be the only solution to escape from oppression. 

“Death was the only real escape and seen as a way to return to Africa or Ian Guinee (Translated to mean Guinea).” – A quote from Lakshmi Gandh’s 2013 article entitled, ‘Zoinks! Tracing the History of ‘Zombie’ from Haiti to the CDC.’ 

The concept of becoming a zombie was what led to the hesitancy of slaves from taking their lives, and a certain anecdote from the article struck me about the lives of slaves during such a time: “To become a zombie was the slave’s worst nightmare: To be dead and still a slave, an eternal field hand.” 

From such a tragic history to a concept that has turned romantic, cannibalism is a subject that is definitively sensitive. I find the cultural negligence of zombies and cannibalism to be astounding, and how it transitioned from a horror genre to tragically romantic. Is it because of desensitization to slavery? To death? To history? I have wondered what other pop culture icons have a history that is just as tragic as the undead that has now become the face of cannibalism. How has cannibalism become so popular? And why? Does it have something to do with personal kinks? Or something more sinister? 

Meiwes-Brandes 2001

In 2001, Armin Meiwes decided to advertise a post on the internet for a “young, well-built man, who wanted to be eaten,” and Bernd Brandes replied with interest to the post. This fantastical desire of Meiwes has been lingering since the age of eight- As confessed during his court trial, since he was young, he had always fantasized about “killing and devouring someone,” with no exceptions. The meeting with Brandes had resulted in the victim (Brandes) swallowing dozens of sleeping tablets as well as half a bottle of Schnapps, a liqueur, and cutting off Brandes’ genitals before frying it for both of their consumption. The case escalated the next morning, with Meiwes initiating the final blow by stabbing Brandes after kissing him. All with prior consent from the victim. 

“He tasted of pork.” – Armin Meiwes, 2003 Trial on Brandes’ alleged murder. 

To Eat or To Be Eaten?

This leads to the concept of Vorarephilia. As stated earlier, it is the erotic desire to consume or to be consumed in a literal sense. Technically, this concept is a fetish, which would become a shock to some readers when they find out that it exists pervasively in Children’s tales: Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood, etc. The idea of wanting to eat another being, whether creature or person, falls under ‘Vore,’ although it is stretched to being behind sexual intent. This is not limited to human interactions but also has fantastical elements, so long as it involves the consumption of another or being consumed by another. From snakes to larger monsters.

The Meiwes-Brandes 2001 case highlighted this sexual fantasy, where consuming Brandes was a form of arousal for Meiwes, which is why the perpetrator ended up with 15-year sentencing after the first court trial, but because the defendant claimed that it was a consensual death (receiving prior consent from the victim), it cannot be charged as manslaughter nor murder, but because of the sexual intent behind Brandes’ death, Meiwes still faced charges.

It was one of the first few cases in Germany that quelled the political waters due to the loophole that Meiwes and his party found in order to avoid further charges, where it started from psychosis claims to further allegations as to why Meiwes had behaved in such a way.

Hannibal Lecter: Sex Symbol Status

Since when did gore become sexy? The desensitization of blood and guts in modern media can be partly to blame, enabling the normalization of those types of content for viewers at such a young age. Though the article does not discriminate against viewers who enjoy such content, it is important to acknowledge that cannibalism has become something that is widely accepted as a romantic gesture from sexual to platonic, where it has now become a form of expression of love and affection. 

In a literary sense, cannibalism is as beautiful as it is terrifying, where intent is beyond feelings, where it can be turned into action. Whether it is a kink or a fetish, vorarephilia is challengingly quirky to comprehend. There have been major forms of media that have covered cannibalism in one way or another, such as the 2009 Jennifer’s Body by Director Karyn Kusama, starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. 

Thus, here are a few media recommendations that include cannibalism apart from the already mentioned movies, TV shows, and books: 

  1. Fresh (2022) by Mimi Cave
  2. Hannibal (2001) by Adam Kane
  3. Raw (2016) by Julia Ducournau
  4. Wrong Turn (2021) by Mike P. Nelson
  5. Tokyo Ghoul (2017) by Kentaro Hagiwara
  6. Yellowjackets (2021) by Karyn Kusama
  7. Santa Clarita Diet (2017) by Victor Fresco
  8. A Certain Hunger (2019) by Chelsea G. Summers
  9. Juniper & Thorn (2022) by Ava Reid
  10. Earthlings (2018) by Sayaka Murata

Consumer discretion is advised when watching or reading the following recommendations. This article highly discourages its readers to force themselves to watch or read these pieces of media despite knowing its sensitive nature. Though, audience enjoyment is subjective.

To consume another person because our emotional intent cannot capture the unbearable longing of our hearts.  

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