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2000 to Present: Vegetarians on TV in the 21st Century

Popular

Popular (1999-2001) is a drama about high school students, including a group of popular-girls and a group of unpopular-girls. The most popular girl in the school is head-cheerleader Brooke McQueen, and her step-sister is unpopular Samantha McPherson.

One of Samantha's friends, Lily Esposito, is a Vegetarian/animal rights activist. In the episode "Joe Loves Mary Cherry" (October 20, 2000) Brooke McQueen breaks up with her boyfriend Josh Ford, the most handsome guy in the school. Around this time, Lily Esposito notices Josh Ford is wearing leather pants, and says "moooo...moooo."

Josh Ford asks Lily why she is moo-ing, and she says that is the sound of cows about to be slaughtered and made into his pants. She says that the cows know they are about to be slaughtered and fill with fear, and meat and leather are filled with that fear. He says this is new to him.

Later Lily Esposito and Josh Ford are assigned to a school-project together in which they need to poll each other on their interests. He says "Vegetarianism," and at first she thinks he's pulling her leg, but he's serious. They talk about how "Planet of the Apes" is the first animal-rights movie (it's not, but anyway) and later they arrange for a chimpanzee in the zoo to return home to Uganda.

Can a tv episode be too pro-Vegetarian? In a single episode, the handsomest guy in the school is dumped by the head-cheerleader and starts dating another girl because he finds her concerns about animals interesting.

Anyway, Lily Esposito's Vegetarianism is also referred to in other episodes, including one in which she needs to work in a fast-food chicken-restaurant because she needs the money.

The actress who plays Lily Esposito, Tamara Mello, is a Vegetarian in real-life. According to The Gist TV Celebrity Website, the actress said, "I read a lot of books [while researching for Lily], and I think once you learn all this stuff, it's hard to go back. I will never eat a barbecued rib again,"- J-14 magazine, February 2000.

Tamara Mello, who plays Lily Esposito


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Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-present) is a sitcom about a girl who discovers on her sixteenth birthday that she is half-witch. Her mother is human and her father is a witch. Sabrina's parents are divorced and she has been living with her mother, because her father lives in another dimension. Sabrina moves in with her two aunts who are witches when the series begins, to help her understand her magical powers. Sabrina later moves out when she starts college. The character of Sabrina the Teenage Witch originally appeared in Archie Comics in 1962.

In the tv series episode "Welcome Traveler" (November 3, 2000), Sabrina's college classmate Miles Goodman becomes a Vegetarian for a few days. As Sabrina and Miles are leaving Philosophy class, two students ask Miles to go to a meeting. Sabrina says Miles should attend to be more social, and she goes with him.

The people at the meeting talk about alternate-realities. They say we are all star-children, because human-cells and stars are made of the same-material. They sit on pillows on the floor, believing they can learn more if they are closer to the earth. They also talk about how great the leader Jim-Thom is. Sabrina leaves the meeting after a little while but Miles stays.

Sabrina becomes concerned when Miles has been there for three days in a row. Her friend Roxie says it's a cult. Sabrina replies, "Itís not a cult, itís just a... group of lost souls who worship one guy and donít question anything he says. (On Roxieís look) Maybe I should go check on Miles."

On her second visit, Sabrina finds that Jim-Thom claims to have psychic powers and teleportation, and that he claims to be a witch. The cult members eat mung-beans and rice because Jim-Thom says "pure living starts with a strict Vegetarian diet."

Sabrina investigates and finds that Jim-Thom is only interested in money. He tells people to give up their possessions and that he will give their property and money to an orphanage, but he keeps the money and property for himself. Jim-Thom isn't a witch, doesn't have any powers, and he eats Mongolian beef.

Sabrina reveals to Miles Goodman and the others that Jim-Thom is a fake. They leave the cult and eat "chicken and waffles."

This Sabrina episode is similar to the "Monkees" episode described earlier in which a man pretends to be a spiritual leader because he's after money, and advocates Vegetarianism while eating beef. Hopefully, the producers are saying that cult-leaders are fakes who don't deserve your money, and aren't putting down Vegetarians.

In another episode, "Total Sabrina Live" (September 20, 2002) it's implied that Sabrina's friend Roxy (Soleil Moon Frye) eats Vegetarian most of the time, but she's fickle.

Roxy and Sabrina go on MTV's "Total Request Live." Roxy's plan is, "I'll fit in with all the teeny-boppers, cozy up to (host) Carson Daly, and as soon as I'm on camera, tell people to stop eating meat."

Roxy implores Sabrina, "I need your help and so do a million cows." To send a "Meat Kills" message, Roxy wears a t-shirt which says "Meat" and Sabrina wears a t-shirt which says "Kills."

Once they get on camera however, Roxy is so awe-struck by Carson Daly, that she can't convey the anti-meat message. The next day, Roxy is watching Carson Daly on television, and this time she becomes so amazed by his handsome face that she's distracted from her Vegetarian-values completely, and eats a turkey sandwich.

I was disappointed that an episode about a Vegetarian-activist had the character turn out to be fickle and eat meat. For many Vegetarians it's a profound matter.

Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina and Salem the Cat.


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The Drew Carey Show

The Drew Carey Show (1995-present) is about Drew Carey, who works in a cubicle in the management of a department store, and his friends and co-workers. The villain on the show is Mimi Bobeck, a secretary who wears a lot of makeup, and has been insulting Drew since the first episode, in which he declined to offer her a job selling makeup.

In a 2-part episode, Drew dates an environmentalist/animal rights activist who initially gathers information on polluting by the company where Drew's friend, Lewis works. In "Drew and the Activist II," (May 16, 2001) Drew eats Vegetarian food. However, his partners in a side-business, Buzz Beer, which includes Mimi Bobeck, want to have a barbecue with meat, and when the activist says they should serve veggie-burgers instead, Mimi decides to trick the activist by telling her that the hamburgers are veggie-burgers. When the activist finds out she ate meat, she is depressed and doesn't care about anything anymore, and figures she might as well continue eating meat. The activist feels that her life now has no purpose.

Drew helps the activist to get her life back on track after Mimi's cruelty. He asks her if she wants to eat meat, and she's like yeah, whatever, and then he brings her to his backyard. Drew's backyard has a big cow standing in it.

      Activist: Why is there a cow in the backyard?

      Drew: It's what's for dinner.

      Drew: (Pointing to the rear end) So, uh, what do you want tonight? You want the rump roast?

      Drew: (Pointing to the mid section) Prime rib?

      Drew: (Pointing to the general front region) Or if you don't want anything fancy we can just have good old meat loaf.

      Activist: (Walking over to cow, carressing its head) Awwwwww, look at those big beautiful brown eyes.

      Drew: Sure, how do you want 'em? Scrambled? Sunny-side up?

      Activist: Oh stop it! What are you talking about?

      Drew: Look, I'm just trying to show you why you became a Vegetarian in the first place. You don't really want to eat that beautiful animal, do you?

      Activist: (Stroking Drew's arm) No, I don't.

      Activist: (Runs over to cow and takes its head in her hand) I'm sorry cow! How can I make it up to you?

      Drew's friend: (Hands Activist the cow's leash) You can ride her back to Crazy Land.

      Activist: (To cow) Did you hear that cow? We're not gonna eat you, you're gonna be safe.

      Drew: Well, you know it's safe from you, but it's not gonna be safe from me.

      Activist: What are you talking about?

      Drew: Look, I'm a meat-eater, this isn't gonna work. You're meant to save the world, I'm meant to use up its resources callously. What we're trying here is just impossible.

      Activist: You're right. I gotta admit... down deep, you disgust me.

      Drew: And I've had to restrain myself from slapping you.

      Activist: And I felt that. (Kissing Drew.) Well, thanks for the cow. (She begins to walk away with the cow following behind her.)

      Drew: Well, uh, y'know, I didn't buy the cow, I just rented her from Mimi's friend's ranch.

      Activist: What are you saying, you're gonna take her back to be slaughtered?

      Drew: Well you don't have to put it that way. I think of it as taking her home so I can get my $1000 deposit back.

      Activist: Yeah well sorry, I'm gonna take her to a no-kill shelter where she's gonna live a long and happy life. So long. (Walks away with cow.)

      Drew: If I knew it was gonna cost me 1000 bucks I would've gotten a chicken.

I admire how the above scene makes the connection between cows and beef. In English, the word "chicken" is used for both the animal-on-a-farm and the animal-on-a-plate. Ideally, English would use the word "cow" for both the animal-on-a-farm and the animal-on-a-plate, instead of having the word "beef," which softens the connection.

Drew Carey as Drew Carey.


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Braceface

Braceface (2001-present) is a cartoon on the ABC Family Channel about Sharon Spitz (Alicia Silverstone), a girl with magical braces which can pick up sounds from other rooms. Sharon decides to become a Vegetarian in the episode "The Meat of the Matter" (June 23, 2001.) Here is a description of the episode from http://www.tvtome.com/tvtome/servlet/EpisodeGuideSummary/showid-3415/

 

"Alden, who's working in a meat packing plant to raise money for his band, encourages Sharon to apply for a job in the office. She reluctantly accepts the job, but winds up becoming a Vegetarian and quitting when her braces begin picking up sounds from the slaughter house next door. She tries to encourage Alden to quit also, and becomes somewhat disillusioned with him when he won't. But her resentment doesn't last long when it's announced that there's a fundraiser barbeque for Alden's band. Sharon wants to go, but is reminded by her nemesis, Nina, that it would be against her principles, since they're serving meat. Sharon decides to go to the barbeque to offer a meat-free alternative, but winds up in an altercation with Nina which results in Alden's guitar getting smashed. Sharon feels awful, but all is well when she discovers Alden carries no resentment over the loss of his guitar. It turns out that he's gotten a raise, so he can afford to buy a new guitar."

At one point in this episode, Sharon says about eating Vegetarian "it's the least I can do." In subsequent episodes, Sharon refuses to dissect a frog, runs for class-president on a platform which includes more Vegetarian food in the school cafeteria, and asks a friend not to model fur-trimmed coats, respectively.

Sharon Spitz and friends


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Lizzie McGuire

Lizzie McGuire (2001-2003) is a show about a student which mixes live action and animation. 95% of the show is live-action, with animated snippets to show what Lizzie is thinking.

Lizzie becomes an activist for a variety of causes, including helping the homeless. saving the dolphins, and saving the earth, in the episode "Obsession" (June 29, 2001). She and her best friend Miranda are sorting trash for recycling when they decide to take a lunch break, and Miranda gets them hamburgers. Before Lizzie can touch her hamburger, another girl, Parker, comes over and tells her that it's great that she's trying to save the earth, but eating "a poor, dead animal" isn't consistent with that goal. Lizzie says that she never thought of it like that, and then tells Miranda, "I think I just became a Vegetarian."

Later, Miranda visits Lizzie's house wearing a new leather jacket she just bought at the mall. Lizzie is aghast, saying that leather=cow=meat and she's a Vegetarian. Miranda say, "then don't eat my coat!" and storms off.

The next day in school their roles are reversed. Miranda is bothered by the appearance of Lizzie's new jacket, which Lizzie describes as fully-recyclable burlap.

The teacher hands out a pop-quiz, and Lizzie stands up and objects that the teacher should have used both sides of the page for the quiz to avoid wasting paper. When Lizzie refuses to sit down, the teacher sends her home.

Lizzie's parents tell her to just pick one cause instead of trying to do everything, and that she should also try harder to keep her friends, since she can't save the world by herself.

Lizzie proceeds to tell her friends that she's decided on one cause, which is helping dogs in animal shelters. And she won't be wearing burlap, anymore.

Does that mean she isn't a Vegetarian anymore? Yes. While this ending of this episode is ambiguous, in a later episode, "Just Friends," (June 14, 2002) she eats meat.

The episode associates Vegetarianism with concern for animals and the environment. The weakness is that Lizzie decides she can't both be a Vegetarian and involved in other causes, and so drops Vegetarianism. In reality, Vegetarians frequently act for other causes.

Lizzie McGuire's thoughts on trying to juggle a lot of activism at once.


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Enterprise

Enterprise (2001-present) is the fifth Star Trek tv show, and takes place 100 years before the original, in 2166. A Vulcan woman in the crew regularly eats dinner with the captain, and she's a Vegetarian, like most Vulcans. In the show's first episode, "Broken Bow," (September 26, 2001) the captain says to the Vulcan woman something like: I made you a nice juicy steak...just kidding, I know you're a Vegetarian. Then he hands her a Vegetarian meal.

In the episode "Fusion" (February 27, 2002), the crew meets Vulcans who have rejected the values of Vulcan society. They are emotional and eat meat, unlike most Vulcans who control their emotions and are Vegetarian. The premise that a Vulcan without the usual self-discipline would eat meat can be seen as complimenting Vegetarians on their self-discipline. However, being a Vegetarian doesn't require much self-discipline. After being a Vegetarian for a while for the sake of the animals, a person usually has no desire to eat a hunk of dead-animal.

Jolene Blalock as Subcommander T'Pol and Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer.


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South Park

South Park (1997-present) is a cartoon about four boys who often curse and live in the town of South Park. It is shown on cable televison's The Comedy Channel.

The boys go on a class-trip to a slaughterhouse in the episode "Fun with Veal" (March 27, 2002). They see cows being slaughtered and it doesn't bother them in the least. However, when they see calves who are chained and are going to be slaughtered the following day, it bothers most of them. The exception is Cartman, who says that the chained calves "look delicious."

The boys decide to help the calves, and what follows is described at TV Tome. The boys get into a struggle with the govenment, and demand that veal be labelled "little tortured baby cow." Stan becomes a Vegetarian, but this gives him a fictional-illness described in the TV Tome link. They all go out for hamburgers at the end of the episode.

I like how the characters try to get the FDA to label veal, "little tortured baby cow." However, any episode in which a character tries being a Vegetarian and gives up by the end of the episode doesn't have my full-support. It's too easy for a viewer to shrug-off an episode which ends that way.

By the way, compared with 1910, Americans are eating more beef-per-person, but less veal, according to the Iowa Farm Outlook website. If you want to read about why some people don't eat veal, you can visit noveal.org.

Stan and the calves.


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C.S.I.

"C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation" (2000-present) is about a forensics team in Las Vegas. One of the foresnsics experts is Sara Sidle, played by Jorja Fox. Jorja Fox previously played a Vegetarian on
ER, and she's a Vegetarian in real life.

In the episode "Burden of Proof" (February 7, 2002) , Sara's colleague Gil Grissom asks her to clean up raw beef he had been experimenting with. She replies, "I'm a Vegetarian. Everyone here knows I'm a Vegetarian. I haven't eaten meat since we stayed up that night with that dead pig. It pains me to see ground beef, forget about cleaning it up."

I've never seen C.S.I., but apparently Sara Sidle was grossed out by an experiment in an earlier episode which involved a dead pig, and decided to become a Vegetarian.

Television Without Pity recaps show that Sara Sidle eats fish in the episode "Table Stakes" (February 22, 2001), which is after the dead-pig experiment she later claims caused her to become a Vegetarian, "Sex, Lies and Larvae," (December 22, 2000). She also accepts someone's offer to buy hear a steak in "Table Stakes," but they never get to go to the restaurant. Therefore, either Sara Sidle's dedication to Vegetarianism took more time than she recalls, or she doesn't understand the definition.

A Vegetarian doesn't eat sea-animals or land-animals. Fish-eating by pregnant women can cause birth defects, and it's a bad idea for multiple reasons.

Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle.


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Dinotopia

"Dinotopia" (2002) is a tv series abou a man who gets stranded on a strange, uncharted island called Dinotopia with his two teenage sons. The cities on the island are inhabited both by people and by talking-dinosaurs, and the groups live in harmony. There are also Tyranasaurus Rex dinosaurs in the woods, but a gem in each city gives off a signal which keeps the Tyranasaurus Rexes away. Some of the people on Dinotopia were born there, and some are castaways like the main characters, Frank Scott and his sons, Karl and David. One of the talking dinosaurs is Zipeau, who "speaks 17 human languages (including English), can imitate 4,000 natural sounds, and works in the library in Waterfall City" (http://abc.abcnews.go.com/primetime/dinotopia/bios/zipeau.html).

Everyone in the cities of Dinotopia eats Vegetarian food. In the first episode, "Marooned/Making Good" (November 28, 2002), Frank Scott and his sons say they wish they could buy a hamburger. They're Vegetarians, but don't want to be.

The Dinotopia tv series was based on a 3 night tv mini-series, which in turn was based on a series of novels. The first of the novels, "Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time" (1992) was written and illustrated by James Gurney, and he has written sequels, and other authors have written sequels as well. The tv show was done without the input from the author, and involved different characters than the books (www.dinopia.com/dinotopia.html). The author didn't care for it. The tv series competed with the NBC show "Friends" in the Thursday night at 8/7 Central time-slot, and it was cancelled after six broadcasts.

It's nice that the ideal world of the show includes Vegetarian ideals, but I'm one of the people who watched "Friends."

Zipeau the dinosaur librarian, and Michael Brandon as Frank Scott.

 

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What I Like About You

"What I Like About You" (2002-present) is about two sisters who share an apartment in Manhattan. Holly (Amanda Bynes) is a high school student and Valerie (Jennie Garth) is a public-relations executive who becomes responsible for Holly in the first episode when their father moves to Japan.

In the episode "The Breakup" (February 28, 2002), Valerie returns from a trip to Vermont she took with Jeff, her boyfriend of one-year. Valerie tells Holly she broke up with Jeff because he said he never wants to get married. Valerie hands Holly a box-of-bacon from Vermont as a present. The next day, though, Valerie tries to get over her ex-boyfriend by going on a health-kick. This includes jogging every morning, and eating Vegetarian food (the word "Vegetarian" isn't used).

The episode makes Vegetarian food sound gross. Valerie buys "Meatella," a fictional-food she says is from a fungus. She also intentionally grows mold on pudding, which apparently is what the recipe calls for.

Holly says she dislikes having "a pantry full of twigs and gravel," but brings her older sister a box of "organic, sugar-free, dairy-free, flour-free cookies" to cheer Valerie up.

Later, Valerie switches from a health-kick to drinking as a means of getting over Jeff. Holly is disturbed to see her sister drunk and calls Jeff. Jeff and Valerie talk things over, and afterwards Valerie seems ready to go on with her life without needing a health-kick or drinking.

In the next episode, it's implied Valerie is eating bacon, again.

In real life, Jennie Garth is a Vegetarian.

Amanda Bynes as Holly and Jennie Garth as Valerie.


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Quick Facts about American Televisison

First Vegetarian Regular Character: Mr. Spock on "Star Trek."

First character to permanently become a Vegetarian during the run of a show: Brenda Walsh on "Beverly Hills 90210."

First sitcom-or-drama to use the word "Vegan" (a person who doesn't eat meat, dairy, and eggs and doesn't buy leather and fur): "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."