Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cultural References in "The True Origins of Pizza"

Messieurs Pizza

A recent ´╗┐advertising campaign for the Korean pizza chain Mr. Pizza created a satirical video, "The True Origins of Pizza," making the tongue-in-cheek claim that pizza originated in Korea and was 'stolen' by Marco Polo at the same time that he 'stole' pasta from the Chinese. The video is funny, especially the more one knows about Korean nationalism and its sometimes far-reaching claims, e.g., Confucius was Korean. The most surprising aspect of this ironic advertising campaign is that it seems to have originated in Korea! Actually, that shouldn't be surprising since irony was invented by the Koreans, but this invention seems to have been forgotten in the land of morning calm, where irony, especially self-irony, is nearly always misunderstood.

Some readers might be less aware of these issues concerning Korean nationalism, humor, and related stuff, but if anyone is interested, Stephen Epstein and Rumi Sakamoto have published an entertaining piece, "The True Origins of Pizza: Irony, the Internet and East Asian Nationalisms," in The Asia-Pacific Journal (Vol 9, Issue 44 No 5, October 31, 2011), which analyzes these things. Among the things analyzed are the images above:
[I]n one of the clip's most inspired strokes of marketing acumen, the voiceover asks "Then is there anyone still in the region making pizza the original way?" and introduces us to Woo-Hyun Jung, the "owner and CEO" of Mr. Pizza. Jung, indeed the genuine head of the corporation, has recently been designated one of the top businessmen in Korea for 2011, and his refusal to take himself too seriously is not only amply demonstrated in what follows, but on the Mr. Pizza website, where one of his titles is given as CLO: Chief Love Officer. The camera first shows him standing with a warm smile on his face, hand on chin. He then beckons his interviewers to a table, leaving visible behind him a portrait of himself in exactly the same pose -- in sunglasses. Jung tells us that his father, grandfather and all of his ancestors made pizza and we see a succession of portraits of such ancestors posed in similar fashion, hand on chin, and all, apparently, photoshopping Jung's features onto images that draw on Korean portraiture styles in accurate reverse chronological order.

Epstein and Sakamoto "thank Frank Hoffmann for the image and references to some of the other pieces of artwork that seem to be drawn upon humorously" in the video. Undoubtedly, Hoffmann is right to note the Korean portraiture styles (or is this the authors' contribution), but I have another suggestion that might also be a reference, that scene near the beginning of the animation Kung Fu Panda in which Po's 'father' tells him:
You are almost ready to be entrusted with the secret ingredient of my Secret Ingredient Soup. Then you will fulfill your destiny and take over the restaurant! As I took it over from my father, who took it over from his father . . . who won it from a friend in mahjong.

As these words are spoken, a series of images are shown. We see Po's father speaking, then a portrait of Po's father's father, then a portrait of Po's father's father's father -- followed by a gag portrait of Po's father's father's father's friend looking decidedly unhappy. I strongly suspect that the Mr. Pizza video is making an allusion to this scene. Both scenes -- in the video and the film -- are ironic, humorous presentations of culinary traditions that aren't much of a tradition. Po's 'family' has been in the noodle soup business for only three generations prior to Po, and Jung's family hasn't been making pizza for generations, either. So . . . there may be a connection. Unfortunately, an internet search this morning failed to turn up the images from Kung Fu Panda accompanying the dialogue above, the sight of which would better make the connection that I'm suggesting, but if any readers can locate a website showing those images, I'd be grateful.

Otherwise, we just have to rely on our memory of that scene in the film . . .

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At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa! Whoa, whoa whoa whoa!!!

"Po's 'family' has been in the noodle soup business for only three generations prior to Po, and Jung's family hasn't been making pizza for generations, either. So . . . there may be a connection."

Yes there's "Po's Noodles" but (and I'm pretty sure) Jung's family canned dog-spit.

And yes, the Koreans spread anything and everything culinary throughout the world - no "Google results?" - type in Peanut Butter and Apricot Preserves sandwiches.

Rachel Ray told how some patriarch from Korea name of Po-Jung Appleseed travelled the Ice Age Earth giving cookbooks away and gave recipes for cabbage by rote memory exercises.

That "History of Science" Phd? Return it.


At 3:25 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good to see you're holding your horses, JK.

Neither Po nor Jung can claim a long line of ancestors working in noodles or pizza, my only internet difficulty was in trying to find the images for Po's line of descent, and I'm yet hoping that an internet expert such as yourself will supply the missing portraits.

As for my history of science doctorate, I'd better just confer it on you, given your extensive knowledge of history.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:47 PM, Blogger dhr said...

But... who invented Korea?

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Marco Polo.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:12 PM, Blogger dhr said...

he was supposed to Mark the Pole, instead. he must have turned the wrong direction somewhere off Venice...

At 3:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Oh, for the competence of the ancient Romans. That reminds me of an old country song from the seventies:

"They Ain't Making Wops Like Caesar Anymore!"

Folks weren't so politically correct back then . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:45 AM, Blogger dhr said...

just discovered to be a 'wop.'


At 7:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Or the shorter "wop" -- "Whites Oddly Protesting" . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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