About Popeye, poster boy for Spinach and more

Entertainment, especially movies and even cartoons including Japanese animations, sometimes make so deep an impression that it creates new habits and routines. So what do I mean by that?

When I was a kid, I loved watching the cartoon Popeye the sailor man. In the series Popeye is bullied by the beefy villain Bluto, especially when he is courting his lady love Olive. At these times, he swallows a tin of spinach, becomes stronger and saves the day. All this cartoon aimed to do was make kids laugh at the expense of Bluto and Popeye antics. But there was another hidden agenda – to encourage kids to eat spinach, which most of them hate. I personally know quite few who started eating greens after watching the cartoon. It was a some extent a good influence on kids.

Popeye with his famous Spinach. Source: SEO Tools

So what it did was create a new eating habit, one that included green vegetables. I hope you now understand what I’m trying to arrive at.

Ramen from Shokugeki no Soma

Popeye is not the only cartoon that was an influence. The most popular anime Naruto Shippuden, which follows the story of teenage ninja, popularised Japanese street food Ramen. They are soupy noodles with thick broth with meat and vegetable toppings. I knew about it because I was one of those people who started eating Ramen after catching it in one anime or the other. The idea that Ramen could in fact be becoming a popular food was cemented when I spoke to two Ramen shop owners in Chennai. Ramen is not an authentic Japanese dish. You have sushi for that. There are not many people who would be aware of such a dish. Even so the footfalls in these shops are increasing. Both of them agreed that Japanese culture is spreading, thanks to manga and anime, that has resulted in more locals than Japanese nationals frequenting the shops. Now I habitually frequent these places and having a bowl of ramen now and then has become routine for me. Sometimes you invest so much time and energy in a series that it actually becomes a routine for you, just like having a bowl of ramen once a month.

If you need one another example, it would be Ratatouille and french cuisine. How many of you drooled when Remy the rat cooks those mouthwatering dishes. I’m not ashamed to say I did. It made me want to try all those fancy dishes, in France. As you can see, there is new set of habit that is being formed right here. You could also add number of people who want to visit some countries just because they have seen it in their favourite movie. It could be Kyoto for me and Osaka for someone else (both are Japanese cities).

The dish Ratatouille. Source: Persimmon and Peach

But I’m not done yet. When Irudhi suttru, which follows the story of a boxing coach and his disciple, was released it was so successful that some boxing academies reported increase in number of people who wanted to learn boxing. The story was reported in The New Indian Express. Until then boxing was funding-starved and not really a well-known sport in Tamil Nadu. Of course Mary Kom to some extent played her part in making this sport famous. But the movie gave a necessary visibility to the sport that actually boosted the morale of boxing coaches.

That is a reason why many movie directors focus on making movies about dying art. There are many South Indian hotels going back to roots to bring in millet-based dosa varieties.  If you are still wondering what I’m trying to arrive at, what I’m proposing is that movies and cartoons are an attempt to bring attention to forgotten arts and sports and give the necessary boost to the ones who are still holding on to it. 


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