Friday, October 14, 2005

JUNK Review - Toxic Universe

Ask Not for Whom the Cookie Crumbles
A Review by Kim Lumpkin 10/12/2005

It's all too easy to dismiss those whose sociopolitical views fall outside of the mainstream of American society as “radical;” one mark of effective satire is when it can convince the audience that what they consider normal today could easily become the new taboo in society tomorrow.

In JUNK, Christopher Largen takes on the entire war on drugs simply by turning it into a war on junk food, a prospect that does not seem quite as far-fetched as one might think considering recent lawsuits against fast food companies, national concern over the obesity epidemic, and the general trend toward legislating personal responsibility rather than teaching it. JUNK takes fighting fat to the logical extreme, and the result is both funny and a little unsettling.

The most remarkable thing about JUNK is the amount of research and detail Largen uses to tell his tale. Besides straight narration, he uses news articles, personal letters, and other documents all based on real ones. Virtually no aspect of the war on drugs/junk food is left unnoticed, from PSAs to head shops to the different ways nations handle the “war.” This allows Largen to examine the war on drugs itself from every angle, with good guys and bad guys on both sides, and the match is so perfect it's almost scary.

As in most satires, the characters are more representative types than fully realized individuals, but some, like Reverend Moe Goodman, a priest who is also a “junk food counselor” for inner city youth, still manage to leave a lasting impression.

As you can imagine, there is plenty of humor in this ludicrous premise, as in one scene where Reverend Goodman, is challenged by one of the kids:

“But I know you ain't even gonna try and tell me you never licked rock, back in the day. Huh, Rev?”

Moe raised his eyebrows as if he was surprised to be asked. “Rock?” He considered his response because he wanted to be a good role model. “You mean candy…or salt?”

Some of the transpositions strain even a generous suspension of disbelief, such as using insulin as a stand in for medicinal marijuana, but the point – that it is downright unethical for the government to tell doctors what they can and cannot prescribe to their patients – still stands.

Perhaps the hardest point to swallow is how the major food corporations so willingly give in and stop producing their highly profitable wares. It's probably the only serious obstacle to such a scenario occurring in real life…who'd have thought corporate greed might be a good thing?

JUNK may be funny, but it shows how dangerous it is to take the small as well as the large liberties for granted. In a time when personal freedoms are at risk like never before “for the public good, Largen is a welcome voice of both playful and serious resistance.

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