A Gastrointestinal Plea to Movie Makers

This is a humorous article I wrote on my now closed personal blog on pop culture, and it’s about a specific trend spotted during SXSW 2009.

A Gastrointestinal Plea to Movie Makers

At this year’s SXSW, I managed to see 13 movies on a $70 film pass purchased at the Alamo Drafthouse. Only two of those thirteen were documentaries. However, 11 of those 13 movies contained scenes where at least one person vomited. Can you guess which two movies didn’t have vomiting scenes? Yes, the documentaries. Although, even if they did, I’m sure seeing bees upchuck in The Last Beekeeper, the surprisingly enthralling story of three commercial beekeepers dealing with Colony Collapse Disorder, or seeing imaginary puke in the Trust Us, This is All Made Up, a concert film about improv greats TJ Jagodowski & David Pasquesi, wouldn’t have elicited nearly the gag response the other movies did. For the record, the full list of movies consists of:

Even though I don’t remember a specific vomiting scene in 500 Days, with the track record so far, it’s possible I blacked it out because I had witnessed so many regurgitation scenes up to that point. Some movies rightfully called for puking scenes. One such movie is The Snake, the story of a pathetic schemer who thinks about little more than getting laid, or proving he can, so he enrolls in a body-image group to pursue a bulimic girl. The Snake is dark, offensive, funny, and even makes you feel a tinge of sympathy for the lead character more than once. If only the puking wave contained itself to movies like that during the festival. Instead, vomiting scenes appeared in movies that ranged from over-the-top restaurant farce to tense horror movie to introspective character study to low-budget science fiction to “bromantic” (their word, not mine) comedy movie. No genre seemed safe from the torrent of vomit.

Puking didn’t always have the stage-front appearance it has now. It used to be that someone would lean off-camera and the audience would hear the cringe-inducing and all-too-familiar splattering sound of liquids and solids. At least the Irish-made, bad-luck “murder” cover-up movie A Film with Me In It had the decency and understanding to do just that. However, it was the only one out of eleven movies that took that classic tactic to showing someone barf (the most juvenile of words used to describe vomiting). Now, we’re regularly treated to seeing what characters ate in reverse. Where did all this vomit come from?

One source could be reality television. Shows like the always classy Rock of Love and even stalwart of reality programming Survivor have shown someone puking so often that it’s become an expected feature. With less and less left to exhibit, a new taboo had to be showcased. The bar had to be raised, or lowered, and it was done by using that bar to induce vomiting. Unlike nipples, genitals, and unlicensed products (that are still all clearly identifiable), vomit is shown in all its multi-colored and many-textured glory. Unfortunately, more scripted television and movies have picked up on this trend.

When I told others in line for movies at the SXSW Film Festival about this cinema trend that disgusted and annoyed me, they responded in disbelief. They thought I must have had a bad run of luck or was noticing something that wasn’t there. That couldn’t have been there. Then, after remembering non-documentary movies they had seen during the festival, they too recalled flinching from the screen multiple times. Bewildered conversations broke out where people discussed how prevalent scenes are now. Each person made a similar scrunched-face of disgust as he or she remembered or described a particular scene.

The sounds and imagined visuals of vomiting evoke an instantaneous and guttural reaction in most people. Having someone puke on camera does nothing to add to the impact of the overall movie. Frankly, I’m frightened of what could happen next if movies and TV feel the need to up the ante even more. The words scatological disaster comes to mind. As a plea to movie makers, and television show creators while I’m at it, remove the special effects finger from your actors’ throats.