But there’s one bit in Ratatouille, right near the end, that I’ve come to realize that I’d been kinda ignoring to some degree, but even more so I have been willingly misinterpreting it. Because to take it straight pretty much undermines the main theme of the whole film.
It’s this bit from Ego, during his review:
“In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
It’s that last sentence. For one, it seems to be at odds with the simplest readings of the motto to instead say: “Anyone can cook / but not really. (Though hey, maybe that person can, and they don’t know it, so let them try).” For two, it could be trying to create some strange distinction between cooking and capital-A art: “Sure, anyone can cook, but there’s cooking and then there’s Art Cooking (and most certainly not everyone can do the latter).” Which leads to three, which is that this really seems to be trying hard to make a case that some people got it, and some (most) just don’t. A few are blessed, while the rest are ordained to be ordinary.
This whole thing reads as though Ego is fully endorsing the Tyranny of Talent.
Which is a big NOPE! for me. We are not squeezed out into this world being a genius or being a dunce; being a cook or being a GREAT CHEF ARTIST (or, equally, being totally food incompetent). I do not subscribe to this kind of genetic essentialism. We have so many influences, so many avenues, and, most of all, we can shape ourselves, grow, learn, and develop. With enough time and patience and practice and clarity, we can elevate our skills to ridiculous levels.
Which, it turns out, is how I have been (again, willfully and intentionally) misinterpreting that line from Ego for all of these years. I’d twisted it to be expressing this: “Not everyone _will_ become a great artist (because not everyone will have the time or choose the time or have the opportunities or the support systems or the luck or the desire or any of those), but we all have the capacity to do so, and thus anyone, from anywhere, could become a great artist, no matter where they came from or where they are right now.”
Which is much more in line with the theme and with Gusteau’s own motto. We can all develop our craft. We can all express ourselves and create something delicious. And even if we never reach the idealized world of Great Art, who cares – it can still be damn good. Let’s eat.