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1995 - 1999: Classic Simpsons "Lisa the Vegetarian" and More

The Simpsons

The Simpsons (1989-present) is a cartoon about Homer Simpson, who works at a nuclear power plant, and lives with his wife, Marge and his three kids, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.

In the episode "Lisa's Wedding" (March 26, 1995), a fortune-teller at a fair shows Lisa what her life will be like in 2010. She will be a graduate student, and she will meet a handsome student at her university who resembles Hugh Grant, named Hugh. After a date to a Jim Carrey festival, he tells her,

    Hugh: I can't believe how much we have in common. We're both studying the environment, we're both utterly humorless about our Vegetarianism, and we both love the Rolling Stones.

    Lisa: Yes, not for their music, but for their tireless effort to preserve historic buildings.

The above dialogue was the first mention that Lisa would someday be a Vegetarian.

How Lisa became a Vegetarian is portrayed in the episode, "Lisa the Vegetarian" (October 15, 1995), set in the present. In the morning Lisa visits a petting zoo and pets a lamb. That evening her mother Marge seves lamb for dinner, and Lisa makes the connection betwen the lamb at the petting zoo and the lamb on the table. Lisa refuses to eat lamb.

The next day, Lisa is upset by the barbecue which her father Homer throws in which everyone in town seems to be eating meat. At the end of the episode, Lisa feels overwhelmed that she seems to be the only Vegetarian. She decides it's too difficult to be a Vegetarian and bites into a hotdog - but it's not a hotdog after all. Apu, the store-manager, says something like: I see you are enjoying the tofu-dogs. Lisa stays a Vegetarian. The episode has a message that if you like animals, you shouldn't eat them, and also that being a Vegetarian is easier than ever, thanks to meat-alternatives.

In the "Lisa the Vegetarian" episode Apu says he doesn't eat cheese, and so he's probably a Vegan. The word "Vegan" doesn't appear in the 1995 episode, but does appear in a later episode, "Lisa the Tree Hugger" (November 19, 2000) in which Lisa meets an environmental activist played by Joshua Jackson. The dialogue:

    Lisa: I'm a Vegetarian, I've thought of going Vegan.

    Activist: I'm a 5th Level Vegan. I don't eat anything which casts a shadow.

The conversation with the environmental activist shows how Lisa being a Vegetarian is an ongoing part of the show. There is a rumor that Paul McCartney, who guest-stars in "Lisa the Vegetarian," told the producers he would only do the episode if Lisa stayed a Vegetarian, and so we may have him to thank for the excellent way that "The Simpsons" has handled this issue.

Lisa Simpson

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Star Trek: Voyager

Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001) is about the starship Voyager whch winds up far from Earth and must make its way back. Captain Katherine Janeway, the first female Captain to star in a Star Trek series, is in charge of Voyager.

The First Officer, Commander Chakotay, calls himself a "Vegetarian" in the episode "Unity" (February 12, 1997), when a woman on distant-planet apologizes for not having meat, and he says he's a Vegetarian, anyway. The security chief, Commander Tuvok is a Vulcan, a group of space-aliens with a Vegetarian culture. "Voyager" is therfore pioneering in having two regular Vegetarian characters. For more about this on this website, click: Star Trek 24th Century.

Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay

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The Jamie Foxx Show

The Jamie Foxx Show (1996-2001) is about Jamie King, a bellhop at a hotel in Los Angeles who also works as a waiter in the hotel's restaurant. In his spare time, Jamie pursues a career as an actor. His co-workers include a woman he likes, Francesca "Fancy" Monroe (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon).

In the episode "The Young and the Meatless" (February 19, 1997), Jamie and some of the other hotel employees eat Vegetarian. At the start of the episode, Jamie's co-worker "Fancy" is reading a book about Vegetarianism by (fictional) author Kwame Cooper. Fancy tells Jamie that she met Kwame Cooper at a book-signing and invited him to come to the hotel for a rally.

Jamie implies Vegetarianism is a "fruity and lettucey," Los-Angeles thing.

Kwame Cooper arrives at the hotel wearing a green-hat and a green-shirt-and-pants. He's greeted by Jamie, who makes fun of him for being a "natural brother" who doesn't wear deodorant. Fancy greets him more nicely, and so does another hotel-employee, Braxton, who says he's reading the book. Braxton cries while recalling the book's story about a slaughtered cow.

Fancy and Braxton are both thinking of becoming Vegetarians, but Fancy admits that she ate meat from Floodpucker's (a fast-food restaurant whose name is based on the real restaurant Fuddrucker's) the day before. He says, "don't apologize to me, apologize to your colon." Kwami then sits on a table in the hotel-lobby and starts meditating.

At his lecture later, Kwami tells the audience, if you're ready to give up meat, raise your hand. Everyone raises their hands except Jamie. Kwami tries to persuade Jamie by talking about how he used to eat anything with a face before he saw the light. Jamie says the only light he's interested in is the one under the Golden Arches at McDonald's. Jamie starts to walk out, and Kwami asks Jamie if he's man-enough for the challenge.

Jamie says he'll prove he's man-enough to meet a challenge by eating Vegetarian for a week.

In the hotel lobby, a tv-commercial director meets Jamie, and asks him to star in a hamburger-commercial for Floodpucker's being filmed at a nearby restaurant. Jamie accepts, even though the week isn't over and it will require biting into a hamburger. Kwamie, Fancy, Braxton, and others hold a protest outside Flooducker's. Jamie goes back-and-forth between being a protestor outside the restaurant and starring in the tv-commercial inside.

The protestors enter the restaurant, and the director changes his mind about having Jamie star in the commercial. Instead, he would like for Kwami to star in the hamburger-commercial, under a theme of "a burger so good even a Vegetarian can't resist it." Kwami accepts.

Fancy is disappointed that Kwami is a sellout. Security ushers the protestors, including Fancy and Jamie out of the restaurant.

The episode is entertaining. The downside is that no Vegetarian food is shown during the episode, and the author-character, Kwami, is an oddball and sellout. The upside is that the reference to "the story of the slaughtered cow," may remind viewers that meat comes from slaughterhouses and doesn't just appear at restaurants.

Jamie Foxx and Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon

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Unhappily Ever After

Unhappily Ever After (1996-1999) stars Nikki Cox as a college student named Tiffany Malloy who lives with her father, a car-salesman, and her two brothers.

In the episode "The Joy of Meat" (May 18, 1997), Tiffany's younger brother Ryan wants to win money from an award for young environmentalists. He insists that everyone in the family become Vegetarian so that he can say he got them to stop eating meat when applying. The father and older brother grudgingly agree to stop eating meat, but Tiffany refuses. Ultimately it's discovered that Ryan is still eating meat himself, and the rest of the family resumes eating meat as well.

The writers deserve credit for showing awareness of the connection between meat-eating and environmentalism. In 1813, British poet Percy Shelley, a Vegetarian, writes that it's wasteful to feed vegetables to an ox and eat the ox instead of eating the vegetables directly ("A Vindication of Natural Diet," reprinted in the book "Ethical Vegetarianism," editors Walter and Portmess). It's nice that almost 200 years later, awareness of this is catching on.

Nikki Cox

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Ready or Not

Ready or Not (1993-1997) is about two Canadian teenage girls who are friends. Amanda Zimm is more feminine while Busy (Elizabeth) Ramone is more of a tomboy. The show was filmed on location in Toronto and aired on the Disney cable channel in the U.S.

In the episode "All or Nothing" (1997), Amanda joins an animal rights group. The leader is a college girl named Crystal, who is a "Vegan," no meat, cheese or leather. Amanda decides to become a Vegetarian and to get rid of her leather clothing. Amanda's friends are less enthusiastic about animal rights. Busy Ramone says she can't become a Vegetarian, because her father is a butcher, and she has a part-time job selling hot-dogs. Amanda's boyfriend Milan is wary of animal rights because the medicine which helped his sick uncle was tested on animals.

Amanda attends a protest against a company which does animal-testing, but when the protestors start chaining themselves to the front door, she runs away. Amanda and Milan decide instead to get involved with a bird-sanctuary. And Busy agrees to sell veggie-dogs in addition to hot-dogs.

Amanda is still a Vegetarian at the end of the episode, and this is confirmed in the next episode. I prefer when characters who go Vegetarian stick with it. This is the first North American sitcom or drama to use the word "Vegan" (someone who avoids animal products to the extent practical, including beef, fish, and leather).

(Thanks to Ian K. of http://www.laurabertram.net/ for helping with this summary).

Left to right: Laura Bertram as Amanda Zimm and Lani Billard as 'Busy' Elizabeth Ramone

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Dharma and Greg

Dharma and Greg (1997-2002) is a sitcom about a couple who got married on the day they met, Dharma Finkelstein and Greg Montgomery. Dharma's parents are hippies, while Greg's parents are conservative and his father is a company president. Dharma's mother, Abby, is a Vegetarian.

Early in the first season, when Dharma's parents are first going to have Greg's parents over for dinner, Dharma's mother, Abby cooks beef for them. Larry asks, "What is that heavenly smell," and Dharma's mother says that since the Montgomerys eat meat she's making it for them, but that he won't be able to eat it. At their first dinner together at the Finkelstein house, the Montgomerys eat beef while the Finkelsteins eat a vegetarian dish. (I don't consider that being a good hostess. The Montgomerys don't eat meat at every meal, and it would have made more sense for everyone to eat spaghetti, for example).

At a party in an early episode, Dharma's mother, Abby, tells Larry not to eat the mini-hotdogs, but he does it anyway. In a Thanksgivng episode, Dharma and Greg say they don't want to visit this year, and Abby feels that she's being rejected for being a "strict Vegetarian," and so she gets a live turkey and gets the turkey drunk and slaughters the turkey herself so that Dharma and Greg can come over and eat turkey which was slaughtered with less suffering.

In the fourth season of "Dharma and Greg," Abby eats meat on the day she gives birth to Dharma's younger brother, in the episode "Midwife Crisis" (November 21, 2001). There was no explanation for why Dharma's mother ate meat then, and she was a Vegetarian again in later episodes.

 

Front: Dharma's parents, middle: Dharma and Greg, back: Greg's parents.

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King of the Hill

King of the Hill (1997-present) is about Hank Hill, a propane salesman in Texas with a wife named Peggy and a son named Bobby. There are two episodes involving Vegetarians.

In the first of these, "They Call It Bobby Love" (September 22, 1998), a girl played by Sarah Michelle Gellar is dating Bobby Hill, and convinces him to become a Vegetarian. They break up, and when they later happen to be at the same restaurant, Bobby decides to prove to her he's over her by eating a giant steak.

In the other episode, "It's Not Easy Being Green" (April 8, 2001), Bobby has a teacher named Mr. McKay who is an extreme environmentalist. McKay teaches Bobby to report his parents doing anything which isn't environmental. This unlikeable teacher also visits the Hills during a barbecue and criticzes them for both plastic plates and meat. Later at a protest to save "itchy algae," the environmentalists serve "peanut butter and lentil" sandwiches and "soy-eggs and soy-sage" sandwiches. While this episode portrays a Vegetarian as the villain, at least it admits that some people are concerned about the environmental costs of meat.

Hank Hill standing on left, Bobby Hill in truck front-left, Peggy Hill in truck back-left.

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Third Rock from the Sun

Third Rock from the Sun (1996-2001) is a sitcom about four aliens from outer-space, who take on human bodies and study the earth in Ohio while pretending to be a family. John Lithgow plays the Dick Solomon, the father/high commander.

In a Season 2 episode titled "I Brake for Dick" (March 16, 1997), Dick accidentally hits a chipmunk, and he's so upset that he orders the entire family to stop using animal products. They not only stop eating meat, but also mayonaise, and get rid of leather shoes and a fur coat. I enjoyed seeing an entire family of Vegans on tv (the word "Vegan" wasn't used). There is a great scene in which Dick goes to a restaurant with his girlfriend, Dr. Mary Albright (Jane Curtain), and she gets lobster, and he keeps looking back-and-forth between the lobster on her plate and the live lobsters in the tank.

In the end, Dick Solomon releases the chipmunk into the wild. The chipmunk is attacked by a bird, and Dick Solomon kills the bird to protect the chipmunk. He then decides that since he can't be a friend to every animal he might as well go back to eating them.

I didn't like Dick Solomon's conclusion that it's better to do nothing for the animals than something. Overall, though, I like this epiosde.

Left to right: Kristen Johnson as Sally Solomon, front Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tommy Solomon, back John Litchgow as Dick Solomon, Jane Curtain as Mary Albright, French Stewart as Harry Solomon.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-present) is a drama about a girl who has super-strength and karate-abilities, and uses her power to fight "the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness." "Buffy" is the first American sitcom-or-drama to use the word "Vegan." (The Canadian show "Ready or Not" used the word a year earlier). The definition of "Vegan" is someone who for reasons of compassion, uses animal products to the minimal extent practical, and doesn't eat beef, pork, fish, dairy, and eggs, and doesn't buy leather, fur, cosmetics-with-animal-ingredients and soap-with-animal-ingredients.

In the episode "I Only Have Eyes for You" (April 28, 1998), Buffy has saved a studend from being murdered, but the school-principal tries to blame the fracas on Buffy, and grills her in his office:

      Snyder: I'm sure you know why I asked you here.

      He passes Buffy as she takes a seat.

      Buffy: To thank me?

      Snyder: (walks around his desk) That's right, I wanna thank you. What would Sunnydale High do without you around to incite mayhem, chaos and disorder?

      Buffy: I don't incite! I stopped that boy from killing his girlfriend, ask him. Ask the janitor.

      Snyder: People can be coerced, Summers. I'm no stranger to conspiracy. I saw JFK. I'm a truth seeker. I've got a missing gun and two confused kids on my hands. Pieces of the puzzle. And I'm gonna look at all the pieces carefully and rationally, and I'm gonna keep looking until I know exactly how this is all your fault.

      Buffy is about to respond when his secretary buzzes him on his office intercom.

      Secretary: Mr. Snyder, Billy Crandal chained himself to the snack machine again.

      Snyder: (to the intercom) Pathetic little no-life Vegan.

      He walks around his desk to go take care of Billy. Buffy stands up to go also.

      Snyder: Not so fast, missy. I'm not done with you yet. You stink of lies.

       

While the Season 2 episode above doesn't deal with Vegetarian issues, a Season 6 episode "Doublemeat Palace" touches on them. In this episode which aired January 29, 2002, Buffy gets a job at a fast-food restaurant called Doublemeat Palace and the introductory video the restarant shows her includes slaughterhouse video, to illustrate where the hamburgers and chicken-patties come from. Buffy is a little-disgusted, but the audience doesn't get to see the video. While I was hoping Buffy would decide to become a Vegetarian at the end of the episode, she doesn't, and she continues working at Doublemeat Palace. In the "Doublemeat Palace" episode, there is no use of the words "Vegan" or "Vegetarian." I think this episode would have been a lot better if they had shown the audience a few seconds of the slaughterhouse video, instead of just showing Buffy watching it. The episode seemed to be trying to say something about fast-food, but the points it made didn't make much sense.

In Season 7, "Buffy" finally got an onscreen Vegetarian character, Principal Wood of Sunnydale High. In "Beneath You" (October 1, 2002), Buffy starts a new job as guidance-counselor, which the principal offered her out-of-the-blue. Buffy questions his motivations, given that she didn't graduate from college and her previous job was at a fast-food restaurant.

    Buffy (sarcastically): Were you impressed by my work at Doublemeat Palace?

    Principal Wood: No, I'm a Vegetarian.

I prefer when Vegetarian characters say why they're Vegetarians. The audience still doesn't know why Principal Wood is a Vegetarian, or why he gave Buffy the guidance-counselor job.

Later in Season 7, a British vegetarian teenager named Annabelle visits Buffy's house for one episode ("Bring On the Night," December 17, 2002). Annabelle is a slayer-in-training, meaning a girl who might gain the super-strength of a slayer someday. We learn she's a vegetarian when they order a pizza, and she says she wants a plain one, because she's a "veggie." Annabelle's vegetarianism seems to be part of a general non-violent philosophy, since she is loathe to be given a weapon in case the group is attacked by monsters. When Buffy insists on giving Annabelle a weapon, Anabelle responds by leaving Buffy's house unarmed. While non-violence is usually admirable, in Sunnydale it's best to stay near Buffy and carry a crossbow, and Annabelle doesn't fare well.

Anyway, it's nice that the writers realize that someone with a Gandhi-like opposition to violence may choose Vegetarianism to avoid violence against animals, and this is reflected in Annabelle.

 

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers

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V.I.P.

"V.I.P." (1998-2002) is a drama about a bodyguard company named Vallery Irons Protection whose leader is Vallery Irons, played by Pamela Anderson. Vallery says she's a Vegetarian in the first-season episode "Raging Val" (May 8, 1999).

The character and actress have something in common. In the December 2002 issue of Jane magazine, Pamela Anderson writes "At age 11, when I realized that hamburgers didn't really grow in hamburger patches, but came from cows who screamed as they were electrically prodded to slaughter, I became a Vegetarian."

Pamela Anderson

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The Powerpuff Girls

"The Powerpuff Girls" (1998-present) is about three girls who are superheroes, and use their flying ability and super-strength to protect the town of Townsville. The girls are Blossom, the smart leader, Buttercup, the tough fighter, and Bubbles, the sensitive one.

In the episode "Collect Her" (August 6, 1999), Bubbles mentions that she's a Vegetarian. The villain of the episode is "Lenny Baxter, the Comic Book Geek." He's a Powerpuff Girls fan who has collected every piece of PPG merchandise sold in stores, including all the dolls based on them. He decides that all that is left is for him is to steal the PPG's personal possessions. Bubbles is drawing a picture of a rabbit and a bird when she drops a crayon. She looks up and her picture is gone. Bubbles walks up to Buttercup, who is excercising by punching a slab of beef, and accuses Buttercup of stealing her picture, since it's "the most beautiful drawing in the whole world."

Buttercup says she didn't steal the drawing. While Buttercup is momentarily distracted, she punches a hole in the wall instead of hitting the slab of beef. The beef is gone. Buttercup accuses Blossom of stealing it:

    Buttercup: You stole my side of beef!

    Bubbles: I did not! Iím a Vegetarian! Besides, you took my drawing!

Eventually, Lenny Baxter, who stole the items, is caught and brought to justice.

Anyway, it's nice to have a Vegetarian superhero. I hope D.C. Comics has one of its superheroes go Vegetarian someday.

(Addendum: In the episode "Child Fearing" (August 18, 2000), Bubbles eats shrimp, and so while she's off to a good start for a kid with regard to Vegetarianism, she doesn't completely understand the defininition yet, which is no land-animals and no sea-animals).

Bubbles talks to Buttercup, who is exercising by punching a slab of beef.

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