It’s 2014, but it’s still not very common to see a vegan or vegetarian character on screen. When they do appear, their plant-based lifestyle is used to make a very distinct statement about their character. Maybe they’re painted as zealots or hippies or wishy-washy people, but does that mean that audiences really agree? Let’s take a look at some examples of veg-heads in TV and film and see how they fare. Since veganism is far less common to see on screen I also included vegetarians below–we love them, too!
Lisa’s vegetarianism has confounded the Simpson family for a long while. Marge even sneaks meat juice into her food at times! In the episode titled Lisa the Tree Hugger, Lisa falls for a radical environmentalist who tells her, “I’m a Level 5 Vegan. I won’t eat anything that casts a shadow.” Of course, Lisa is awestruck by his devotion. In sum, she’s smart, compassionate, and honestly the best Simpsons character hands down. Bonus: Apu helps Lisa when she begins the transition to vegetarianism because he is vegan for religious reasons. Verdict: Thumbs up
Todd from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Todd Ingram, one of the nemeses of the film, has super powers as a result of his veganism–he can shoot lasers from his eyes, among other things! That is, until the vegan police find out he’s eaten animal products. “Gelato isn’t vegan?!” he asks. “It’s milk and eggs, bitch.” He starts out pretty awesome (even though he’s a villain) since his lifestyle lends him powers, but overall he’s pretty dumb and also a jerk. Verdict: Thumbs down
Darlene from Roseanne
Darlene is an angsty teenager who eventually decides to go vegetarian, much to her blue-collar, meat-and-potatoes family’s chagrin. In one episode of Roseanne, Darlene is forced to serve barbecue at a festival called Lanford Days. That’d make me angsty, too. Darlene is brainy, honest, and super cool in her dysfunctional kind of way. Verdict: Thumbs up
Misty Day from American Horror Story: Coven
We don’t really know if Misty Day, the swamp witch in the latest season of American Horror Story, is vegan. Sorry! But she possesses the power of resurgence which allows her to bring the dead back to life, including animals, and she is full of compassion for animal kind. When she finds poachers who kill an alligator, she asks them furiously, “Why would you kill God’s innocent creatures?” Since she can bring the dead back to life you can imagine what happens next–let’s just say those poachers don’t fare well. Verdict: Thumbs up
Spock from Star Trek: The Original Series
Spock, like most Vulcans, is vegetarian (and, depending on your level of nerd-dom, maybe think that everybody on a Starfleet ship is technically vegetarian since the food is all replicated!). Vulcans believe that eating meat, which causes the suffering of another living thing for one’s own gratification, is illogical (and it totally is!). Rock on, Spock. Verdict: Thumbs up!
Overall, portrayals of vegans and vegetarians on screen vary widely–probably because there are so many different approaches to these philosophies. Living free from animal products is surely something the highly educated and compassionate do, but if taken to a negative place, one can seriously smug-mug about it and come off like a jerk. Being compassionate to animals doesn’t mean you need to hate on human-kind! It’s important to take all of these portrayals with a grain of salt and to be able to laugh at ourselves or we risk being poor examples of compassion to folks who haven’t gone vegan yet!