After having worked in the horror genre as a producer for more than seven years, I began to feel increasingly de-sensitized in an entertainment environment, which was becoming inundated with violent films and oversaturated by the genre, often seen from the male gaze. It was the proliferation of zombie movies and shows, and reading about real life monster stories on social media and self-cannibalism, that I started to think something existential had changed in our culture. The inner anthropologist in me was both concerned and intrigued, and when I came across Amelia Gray’s story WASTE, it struck a chord in me that I could not ignore. WASTE is a love story, but also an absurdist tale about the dangers of consumption and curiosity.
Olive’s character drew me in as the unassuming girl next door, who is quirky and open-minded—but to a fault. I could relate to her fascination with “other” cultures, her desire to push past taboos, and the fine line she straddles between art and artifice, in her never-ending search for “authenticity” and meaning. Olive is a refreshing female character, both the love interest and the villain, and a strong female anti-hero. The power dynamic between her and Roger is an interesting reversal of roles that plays into our fantasies and fears revolving around sexuality and transgressive desires. She pushes Roger past his comfort zone and forces him to question his detached and alienated existence.
Having grown up in a meat eating culture in Poland, a carnivorous diet was standard in society, and implicitly reflected virility, strength and patriarchal attitudes. It wasn’t until I read Amelia’s story that a memory returned from the first time I went to a slaughterhouse at the young age of 12. The mechanized assembly chains, the electrocution devices that zapped animals to their instantaneous death, and the endless rows of suspended carcasses left a mark in my mind. There was something about the detachment and mechanized relation to the natural world, that I understood as a child was problematic, and that didn’t resurface until I moved to Los Angeles.
WASTE is layered with hidden meaning, and hints at the degeneration of western cultural values. Olive’s curiosity to me was like modern culture’s insatiable obsession with the new, centered around the act of consumption. It touches on the fad of extreme foodie-ism and the culinary quest for the forbidden that has spread across the world, particularly in California. When the indie becomes commodified and usurped by the mainstream, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate between the commercial and organic. Millenials and Gen Y eaters have fetishized the artisanal movement and gentrified old timey-ness and the homemade.
What tickled me most in WASTE above all though, was the absurdist humor and the tone in which it handled its subject matter. I am fascinated by the mythologies we are taught to live by, and believe in the power of absurdism to bring levity to metaphysical questions. When there is nothing left to consume, where else can one turn to, but oneself?