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Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution – I Want to Believe

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I want to believe.

Famously, Fox Mulder had a poster in his office which had that line written and depicted a UFO.  I don’t know how I feel about UFOs and whether or not I have any desire to believe in them; what I want to believe is perhaps slightly more unlikely. 

I want to believe that Jamie Oliver is in fact attempting to help the world for almost wholly altruistic reasons with his show Jamie Oliver’sPhoto Credit:  ABC/Greg Zabilski Food Revolution, that he’s not mainly doing it for personal fortune and glory. How slim are those odds?

Last night the second season of Food Revolution started up, and having completed his mission (apparently) last season of helping folks in a small town, this year Jamie has opted to help the people of Los Angeles transform they way think about food.

Well now, right there, you immediately have to ask yourself if the show moved to Los Angeles because the city is bigger and more people can get helped, or if it made the move to L.A. because the costs associated with shooting the series will be lower and the television market is a larger one so more people might choose to watch. 

The logic behind putting the show in L.A. could certainly be for both altruistic and non-altruistic reasons, but Oliver argues so strongly and so forcefully that his motives are solely altruistic that I question him that much more strongly myself.

Okay, I’m cynical, but just because I’m cynical doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Plus, let us not forget what I said at the start of this piece – I want to believe.  I so want Oliver to be doing this to help the world; I want him to be doing it because he believes he can make a difference in the way our society operates and thinks; I want him to be doing it because he truly cares about the future as a whole and not just his personal future.

I will, of course, never actually have that answer.  I can’t possibly go inside Oliver’s mind and sort out what’s actually going on within it.

Maybe part of the reason I have trouble believing him is that Oliver and the TV show seems all too knowledgeable about manipulation.  Last night he did a stunt where he showed how, more or less, meat processors extract the last Photo Credit:  ABC/Greg Zabilskilittle bit of meat from what would otherwise get turned into dog food.  Let me be up front – I am neither advocating the process nor arguing against it, I don’t know enough about it one way or the other.  What I do know is that Oliver’s version of the process was certainly orchestrated to highlight the yuck factor and to elevate general distaste for the procedure.  He may be right, it may be a horrible idea and truly dangerous, but the way in which he went about showing the process was carefully calculated to get people on his side, and with his being up front about his version not being terribly accurate we can’t know what may have been changed to highlight the disgustingness of it all.

On the plus side, I don’t think that Oliver would deny that he was manipulating his audience.  I think he would argue that he set up that demonstration and the one in which he loaded the sugar onto a school bus (in order to illustrate the added sugar in flavored milk) in order to shock and upset folks.  Well, I’m not being fair, I think he would admit he was being manipulative because he pretty much said that he was with the sugar demonstration.   He needs to get people angry at the establishment in order for things to change, so naturally he would try to push people’s buttons.

All that means though is that Oliver is a smart guy, one knowledge about what is effective on television and in person.  It doesn’t mean that his motives for getting folks riled up aren’t solely to benefit Oliver himself and that helping Los Angeles (and the world) isn’t simply a byproduct of that (kind of like the dog food is a byproduct of the butchering of the cow).

What I keep coming back to here is that Oliver could be using his skills and charisma (and he certainly has a lot of both) for good or for ill and that without being in his skin we’ll never truly know his motives. 

Mulder’s obsession with wanting to believe only took meeting an alien to prove that it was not in vain.  I think figuring out Jamie Oliver’s motives may be a tad more difficult.

But, in the end, I really like the show, I really like the idea behind it, and I want to believe.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
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