Vegetarianism and Cannibalism: The Two Extremes

A female coming-of-age film, Julia Ducournau’s 2016 film, Raw, tries to unravel the awakening of Justine, a young woman who experiences increasing awareness regarding her own sexuality and appetite.

The movie begins with Justine and her parents eating at a cafeteria, and in which Justine’s mother angrily storms towards the cafeteria staff when she saw a piece of meat on Justine’s palate. As I was watching the film for the first time, I found it odd that Justine was a vegetarian even though she has not even tried meat her whole life, as was implied when her mother exclaimed the possibility of her being allergic to meat. However, especially in Asian culture, it was normal for us to not be introduced or to not be able to experience certain activities just because our parents tell us so, which is why I think I brushed it off after a while.However, especially when Justine was forced to eat the rabbit kidney and puked, I knew then that at some time, there would be a life-changing event that would, maybe, cause a shift in Justine’s character.

In terms of her and her older sister, Alex, however, a contrast in personality can be seen between them. Initially, Justine was the typical innocent goody two shoes who was sheltered by her parents, especially her mother. Especially at the start of the film, it looked like Justine was being forced to do things just because her parents want her to do it. For instance, she went to the vet school even though she did not show any sign of wanting to go there and, as stated before, was a vegetarian even though she hasn’t even experienced eating meat beforehand. However, once she was at the vet school, and especially with the encouragement of her sister in eating meat, the film exhibited how Justine became a curious, daring (both in the physical and the mental sense), and confident young woman, which can be attributed to solely her introduction to eating meat. In that sense, the start of the film made it apparent that Justine, as stated, was innocent and sheltered while her sister was confident, self-aware, rebellious and a go-getter. Furthermore, as even stated by their father, throughout her cannibalistic episodes, Justine can be seen to be stopping her inclination to eat meat whereas Alex finds no fault in it and even intentionally causes car accidents in hopes of eating whoever she knows would eventually die from said accidents.

Conclusively, the film mainly focuses on two things: Justine’s cannibalistic side and her relationship with the people around her. Her cannibalism, although taboo and maybe immoral, starts an exploration within herself in discovering who she really is – without the control of her parents. In it, she discovers that, although she initially thought she was a vegetarian, what she was taught and what/who she really is may be two completely important things. Her vegetarianism and cannibalism can be seen as two different extremes wherein she has to find a balance between not eating people off and eating meat, which I think she would be able to do someday, as her dad had said that the dilemma was not really on stopping herself from eating meat but on really handling their cannibalistic side.. Lastly, the film shows the great bond that the siblings have. Even though Justine ate Alex’ finger and Alex (tragically) ate Adrien, the two still chose to forgive and support each other. This can also be shown when they helped each other in warding off other people after their fight scene. In a sense, the film includes, but is not exclusive to, some of the goriest science fiction scenes that I have ever watched and yet tries to establish bonds between its characters within their world of differences, secrets, and genetic inclinations.

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