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Veganism on TV

When I decided to go vegan, I became very aware of vegans’ portrayal on television. Especially in the beginning, every time I heard the word ‘vegan’ in a film or a tv series, my eyes would open wide and I would pay close attention to what was said with excitement. I was often disappointed.
I knew veganism was not exactly well perceived by many, and by watching tv I understood why. It’s often the subject of a mockery, and it’s not taken seriously. Even with vegetarianism; we get to see several vegetarian characters on tv, but they are often questioned on their reasons behind it and it ends up being mocked or misunderstood. Characters use the word ‘vegan’ to describe a type of person that they don’t want their friends to become, therefore having a negative connotation attached to it. We can find examples in ‘How I met your Mother’ or ‘Gossip Girl’, where Robin and Serena (respectively) are accused of changing for the worst.
One example that stuck with me, though, and that slightly
annoyed me was in ‘Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23’, where one of the characters admits she tried veganism for a week and had to stop because she had absolutely no energy. This promotes the fact that veganism is not a real diet/lifestyle that people can thrive from. I’m not saying that this one example can necessarily make up someone’s opinion or change their mind, but it reinforces that negative way of thinking. Even in ‘Friends’, Phoebe goes back to eating animals during her pregnancy, as if it’s absolutely necessary for the babies. Well, no, we don’t have to eat animals to be healthy. Quite the opposite in fact.
Of course, I’m well aware that most of these are jokes or scenarios to make the audience laugh, and that they aren’t necessarily meant as an attack on vegans/vegetarians, but they continue to be ignorant and judgemental. I want my lifestyle to have a proper representation and to not only be associated with negative thoughts. Maybe there are some proud and well-portrayed vegan characters out there, but at least I haven’t seen them. 
The media is also usually quite unfriendly when it comes to vegans; I’ve seen on the news that they tend to portray only certain types of vegans, usually the most violent ones or the very hippie looking ones who like eat grass or something. As a majority of people cannot identify with them and especially don’t want to be like them, they push veganism aside and put everyone in the same boat. As for every other topic, the media mainly portrays the most extreme and don’t really look any further.
So I guess I’m just asking you to not always believe what is said on tv, or what is made out as a joke in a film or tv series. It goes for veganism but also for everything else; be sure to make up your own opinion based on research you’ve made, or several people you’ve talked to. We may all be part of the same movement, but it doesn’t mean we are all the same and that we have the same approach towards non-vegans. Tv is often very one-sided, so it’s up to you to discover side number two. 
As always, thank you for reading!


  1. I totally agree with you, most veggies and vegans have been portrayed with bad messages on tv. I think vegan characters appeared really late, whilst soe vegetarian ones had been sometimes present decades ago - tho my tired brain can find few examples. For instance Kwai Chang Caine, in the 1972-75 show Kung Fu. His stories take place in the 19th century, and he is a Shaolin priest, and a vegetarian. In the show, he’s pursued and attacked for other reasons, but the show never makes fun of him. His peacefulness, however, is always disrupted, and he must use his Kung Fu to progress in his quest. (I never got to finish the last season, which is far less interesting, so I cannot say if quality improves).
    A few years before, the most famous tv-vegetarian was Mr Spock, in Star Trek. Indeed, the creator Gene Roddenberry imagined that humankind would evolve in the future, and in his wish, presented this half-human half-Vulcan, as a mouth-piece to this ideal, that was certainly a difficult task to portray in american 1966 TV. This topic would be repeated in specific Star Trek episodes, including in newer star trek shows.

    Outside of science-fiction, it’s rare to see anything where the veg character isn’t mocked, especially in sitcoms – like you say, Pheobe was written to be that quirky person that is mocked, and even worse, lied to by monica and … laugh track compounds it! I really hate those moments, just like when the writers decided make her revert from her vegetarianism when she was pregnant, AND on top of that, to get Joey to still eat corpses, even though he made a deal with her. What a lame treatment!
    They also had really bad jokes and laugh-tracks to say someone's pet had died... to add salt to all wounds!

    I cannot think of a single veggie in sitcom with positive representation ; in the drama Seven Pounds – Rosario Dawson’s character Emily Posa is veggie, and if I recall, there is no joke about it (the actress isn’t, though, as far as I know).

    In all types of movies and shows, there are plenty omnis and even carnivorous humans – sometimes worse. Many shows like to make the vegetarian suffer – for example in Sliders, they went out of their way to be really graphic showing dinosaurs as food in an episode where the character Wade Wells says she’s veggie…

    I think TV really needs to step up and stop all those portrayals of the hippie, or the veggie that stops, or those “let’s be extra mean”… There’s a lot to be done for that…

  2. That's good that there have been quite a few! Some people are more open and accepting than others.
    Yeah I agree with Friends, I absolutely love the show but sometimes there are scenes and jokes I don't really agree with - for instance all the jokes and the portrayal of Chandler's transgender dad (not really a good representation, her being unpleasant and no one around her accepting her, constantly making jokes and comments about her transition).
    I do hope tv will portray all important subjects with justice and stop using them as subjects for jokes!

  3. Yes, hopefully acceptance will grow, including as you point out, LGBTQ+. We could expand that to all gender issues in Friends, they do go on & on to tell us Chandler may be sensitive, or the few episodes with Joey and Ross, and then, they take it all away, like society wasn't ready at all in the 90's to face those aspects, and indeed... 2017 now, and society still struggles.

  4. Have you watched the BBC film Carnage? It is a great antidote to the misrepresentation of veganism in the mass media.

    1. No, but i've been meaning to!! I heard it's great. I'll be sure to watch it real soon, thanks!


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