Gast-Zoetrope: Stand By Me
Does all the hype around Julie & Julia make you want to barf? Me, too. So it was with comic timing that I happened to catch the barf-o-rama scene from Stand By Me last night on cable. I had forgotten all about it, but the scene has so much subtext, which makes it irresistible to dissect.
First of all, Stephen King's story is told from the perspective of a boy, Gordie, who like all males under the age of, say, 65 really loves a good barf story. And this one is a great barf story. But it's also a tale of backhanded redemption. The scene reminds us how casually cruel society can be toward the obese, and the revenge fantasies that these people may harbor.
Director Rob Reiner's scene (which you don't see in its entirety here) also skewers the pretensions of "normal" society— the self-absorbed disc jockey, the farcical clubby-ness of the Benevolent Order of Antelopes, the hypocrisy of overweight audience members calling anyone a "lard ass," the narrow-minded clique-ishness of small town culture, and the utter grossness of food-eating contests.
But best of all, the scene treats barfing as if the act were used to put out forest fires, not to empty the contents of your stomach. The exaggerated velocity of the puke makes the scene comical enough that you don't dry heave over it but "real" enough that it still honors the essential grossness of barfing.
It's a great moment in foodie cinema history.