Friday, November 04, 2005

your body's a wonderland... of pieces of sushi!?

For some reason, I don't think using a woman's body as a sushi plate is a great idea.

Kizoku Sushi, a Japanese/French/Italian restaurant in Chicago's River North area, offers an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet that is served on what the Chicago Tribune review calls a "nubile body of a scantily clad young lady." A $500 value for a group of four. The Tribune reports that the human serving dish "lies in the center of your table wearing strategically placed clamshells," where a sushi chef places various sashimi and nigiri for your enjoyment. The Tribune goes out of its way to assure you that "it's not that gross; the fish is placed on bamboo leaves, not directly on her skin."

In the photograph, the woman looks like a mannequin, inanimate and silent object of beauty. And yet, she is alive. Her muscles are tense to keep her body (and the food on it) in the perfect arrangement. She hears your conversation over dinner. Would there be an interaction between her the plate and you the diner? Or would you ignore the fact that she's a human being? What would you talk about, if you did engage in human interaction? Would you be comfortable with picking up a piece of sushi from the body of a living person, warm and breathing? Should you be?

I don't think I would. I just can't imagine being the female diner in the photo. It's less about the fact that the woman on the table is naked than about the fact that she is used as a beautiful, exotic serving plate: an object. I don't think I should be comfortable with the idea that I can objectify someone's body and ignore her (or his) mind just because I can pile up cash upon the table. Declaring this, I'm aware that there might not be much of a qualitative difference between using a "semi-clad woman" as my serving plate and wearing a Banana Republic tee shirt that was probably manufactured in a sweatshop in Southeast Asia, where the water polluted by the bleach used in the factory is slowly destroying the workers from within. Therefore, it is not to say that being able to ignore the carefully concealed objectification of other human beings is alright and being able to have fun with objectifying a person in front of you is not, but I'm tempted to refuse to believe that there are people who can enjoy sushi served on a woman's exposed body. I mean, how would you deal with the physical presence of a whole person who is confined to being a plate? I don't understand.

I'm equally disturbed by the tone of the Tribune review, if not more. Whoever wrote this article, s/he didn't seem to have the whole idea problematic. The only concern that the article seems to have is whether or not this way of serving food is hygienic or not (recall the "it's not that gross" part). Reading the article, I rolled my eyes and said to myself, is THAT the first thing that comes to your mind? (And maybe the last?) The amused tone of the article, with its total lack of awareness that this might be found problematic (not in terms of hygiene but in terms of dignity of human body, etc., of course) is just striking. Then I wonder to myself: am I disturbed because the restaurant and its treatment in the review blur the boundary of "inherently harmless" everyday dining and the whole industry of "vile adult entertainment"? Am I buying into the centuries-old dichotomy of chaste wife and promiscuous whore? ...It raises so many questions.

It does raise so many questions, but there's one thing that is clear. It is not a great idea to serve sushi on a human body. Human bodies are warm. Sushi shouldn't be. Plain and simple.

All the photographs were taken from the Chicago Tribune website.

*UPDATE ON Nov. 10, 2005*
Yesterday's Red Eye, a free tabloid-sized paper produced by the Chicago Tribune with a younger audience in mind, featured the restaurant on the front cover. Again, without even a hint of questioning. According to the article, the serving-plate woman (who goes by only her first name) earns as much as $500, including tips, for a 1.5-hour shift, two of which she has for a night. As for conversation with her, it "is kept down to a bare minimum" in order not to make the sushi and maki rolling all over her body. In a questionnaire they had run on the Metromix website, on whether the practice is "gross" or not, 8% is reported to have said "I'd go for fresh cream," but none critical. It seems that, if I were to be sympathetic and understanding to the reporters and have some faith in them, since getting worked up on these things (like I do) is deemed so totally "uncool" that the reporters self-censor themselves, silencing any critical (uncool) thoughts and questions raised by the practice, out of sheer fear of losing their audience (and of course, eventually their jobs.)


At 3:14 PM, Blogger Mona said...

that is utterly and completely bizarre. how could anyone find that appetizing !?!?!

At 2:22 AM, Blogger xiexieniii said...

if the woman-plate finds it enjoyable and she's not being emotionally or physically harmed by it, then why should anyone have a problem? you can argue that runway models are being objectified as be nothing more than plastic mannequins, too. come on now.


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