I've lived long enough to know that people occasionally do weird things for attention: rich actresses shoplift, basketball players name themselves Metta World Peace, musicians appear on Glee. But when six horrifying cannibalistic attacks occur at once, it is time to blame our culture. And because it is so easy to blame the culture, I have volunteered to do it.
At the end of May, a gay Canadian porn star posted a video in which he allegedly killed and ate parts of his boyfriend; a naked Miami man, in a public area covered by security cameras, ate the face of a living homeless man until he was shot by cops; a Maryland college student reportedly confessed to killing his roommate and eating parts of his heart and brain; a Swedish guy allegedly took revenge on his cheating wife by cutting off and then eating her lips; a Japanese guy who decided he was asexual had his genitals surgically removed and then, supervised by a chef, cooked them for a dinner party for which he charged guests nearly $200; and Castle, on the ABC show Castle, solved a mystery in which a guy ate another guy, the details of which are unknown since it would require me to watch Castle.
It would be easy to blame our obsession with zombies. Or Castle. Some have blamed synthetic drugs for these men's actions. But I believe the cannibalism epidemic is the result of foodie culture. After getting crispy pig's ears atop nearly every dish at hip restaurants, maybe human flesh just doesn't seem so weird. I've eaten horse and have been curious about dog and, I admit, was kind of disappointed that none of the cannibalism news stories got specific about what human tastes like--other than the Japanese one, which only reinforced my assumptions about why women don't like to do certain things to their husbands.
I ran my theory by the only person I knew who would agree with me: Lisa Lange, senior vice president of communications for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA, she told me, had been tracking the porn star before his reported cannibalism because he had allegedly made videos in which he tortured and killed kittens. "That he moved on to human beings wasn't a big surprise to us," she said. "There's no difference between eating any kind of flesh." If you follow her logic, this means that Whole Foods could make just as much money by replacing Tofurky with Tohumany.
Armed with Lange's argument, I called Andrew Zimmern, the host of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods. Zimmern has a children's book coming out in October called Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild and Wonderful Foods, in which he advocates eating maggot cheese, ox heart and those weird orange candy circus peanuts. In the chapter "Brains," he writes, "When brains are cooked whole, I can crush the skull between my teeth like a bipedal seal humanoid, reveling in the sweet rush of juicy cranial gray matter as it courses its way down my throat. Yum!" Even zombies think Zimmern is a bit much.