By now you've seen the Saturday Night Live sketch: Justin Timberlake costumed as a pound of tofu, bopping to parody songs while touting the virtues of the vegan diet to a sausage salesman desperate for business.
It's hilarious: the dance breaks, the covers ("Rice, rice, baby"), those over sized Mickey Mouse shoes and four fingered gloves. Timberlake is a natural and carries a tune as easily as he hams up the skit. At first take, though, he's an unlikely spokesperson for the vegan lifestyle.
But what if JT actually was vegetarian? It hasn't been widely reported, but a handful of sites (here and here) claim the entertainer is one. That would jive with his public persona too, especially on the restaurant scene since he formally distanced himself from a barbeque restaurant investment in 2009.
This adds some speculation to the material, but what makes the skit so interesting is that, as the website Veggie Scene notes in their next-day review, the butt of the joke isn't the vegetarian, but the tired, out-of-touch sausage salesman (who, at the end of the sketch, bemoans he's been eating "Babe's grandbabies!"). Vegetarians and vegans have long been easy targets for their soft hearts and legume-loving ways, but why, again, are those qualities so laughable?
Times are changing--the stubborn "I need meat" attitude, as we see with the sausage salesman, is primitive and dated. As a society we've learned much from our triumphs in the public health arena, from discouraging bullying, curbing smoking, legalizing gay marriage and pot (yes, both issues vital to public health), properly labeling trans fats and sulfites, and launching legislation to do the same for GMOs and guns, both hotly debated health hazards. As we take a closer look at meat consumption, linked more and more to early death and cancer, not to mention a host ofenvironmentaloffenses and unconscionable animal rights abuses, more "Veganvilles" are surely in the wings.
The vegetarian lifestyle is gaining footing for all these reasons. It may sometimes appear in pop culture as a block of tap dancing tofu, but that's just another reason why it's so awesome.
Oh, and if you're interested in visiting a local restaurant akin to Veganville, with its kale and "meatless burgers with tofu mayonnaise," Chaco Canyon or Veggie Grill nicely fit the bill.