Using the charm of graphic memoir, this Trojan “tofu horse” of romp and reality elevates how we talk about love, war, and eating meat.
Michael is a young war vet who had a rough time re-entering civilian life. After finding his purpose through a weirdly insightful dating class, he meets Coconut, the love of his life. The only problem? She doesn’t eat meat. Well, it wasn’t much of a problem at first…until she starts converting Michael to the vegetarian way of life. Coconut plunges Michael into the deep end: she takes him to animal rights lectures, gives him book recommendations on the ethics of not eating meat, and makes him watch documentaries and videos about the cruelty of animal slaughterhouses and abuse in the name of capitalism. Soon, all Michael can ever think about is meat—that is, how much he misses eating meat but doesn’t want it to destroy their relationship.
What can one do in this situation? One possibility: “if you can’t beat them, join them.” The other? Meet “Operation Tofu Horse,” Michael’s plan to save their relationship by becoming a vegetarian to attack The Cause “from the inside.” Though it’s not as simple as it seems…
Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag is chock full of lightheartedness and grim reality, from the day-to-day joys of a loving relationship to the horrors of war and neglect that embed themselves within us and change our behavior. While Meat-Eating Dirtbag starts as a story about two lovers feuding over vegetarianism, the author, Michael Anthony, delivers a deeper subplot that undergirds the greens at the surface—the roots for the trees, if I may. Seeing Anthony’s narration depicted through illustration (by talented debut graphic novelist Chai Simone) opens a whole new way of witnessing how we tend to overlook care for veterans as much as we are willfully ignorant to learn how the source of our meat entrée really makes its way to our plate. Anthony explores a reckoning not just of how he can work things out with his vegetarian activist life partner, but how other kinds of systemic abuse in our world have gone unchallenged for far too long.
The visual voice of Meat-Eating Dirtbag is an advocate for those at the fork of competing intimate values that shape who we are and how we respond. For fans of the graphic memoir’s ability to transcend how we tell stories with layers of visual humor and complexity, Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag tackles the tough bits of relationships, PTSD, and social justice with a steady hand.
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