Like most people I have watched a lot of old films, TV programmes, and theatre productions which have contained or portrayed various characters which were considered “out of the norm”.
In this respect (since vegans in the past and today are considered “strange” or out of the norm), I was curious to find out when the first vegan character was pronounced and accurately portrayed in cinematic or theatrical history.
As a proviso I must say that vegetarians do not really count since before 1944, the year Donald Watson coined the term “Vegan”, Bollywood and Asian cinema (in general) probably contained many vegetarian actors portraying character r which might be considered the norm and; of course, a lot of Asian vegetarian film creatives were at the time making and producing excellent films on all sorts of subjects ,with the main plot being whatever story or, subject was being promoted at the time.
At any rate when it comes to Western culture it is probably best to look to Hollywood and see what was happening there after 1944.
Conducting my research, I must say that when, unsurprisingly it came to Hollywood, I drew a complete blank: since I did not find a single example of any vegan character at all from 1944, (please enlighten me if you beg to differ).
On the other hand, European films, that I have watched which are numerous, were disappointingly sad and lacking any trivial or serious vegan point of view.
The French Nouvelle Vague (in particular) or the soi disant “Italian masterpieces of new cinema” were completely disappointing in this respect.
Therefore, it does appear that something (untoward or backward) was going on in the state of European cinema in its response to the portrayal of the ever-growing vegan movement.
At any rate abandoning my brief excursion through this absolutely fruitless tour of European cinema, I unexpectantly; and I must say much to my astonishment, landed my research on something closer to home viz, UK cinema.
Well, here it is; we all know that the birthplace of Veganism (the UK) should also be, according to my research, the birthplace of a genuine cinematic vegan character should it not?
At any rate I found what I was spending a lot of time looking for all over the place; and it was ultimately discovered right here in the UK viz.
“Saturday Night Out”.
This film was made in the UK in 1964
For the full plot etc. and a full cast please visit Wikipedia here:
At any rate our main vegan interest in this rather obscure British film is a character called “Penny” played by the marvellous actress: Heather Steers,
A brief synopsis of the critical scene in which she appears is as follows;
Penny is contemplating suicide by jumping from one of London’s bridges and is talked out of her attempt by a kindly sailor (in passing) who is on shore leave.
That’s it for the scene. I’m afraid.
At any rate the pair become friends and, voluntarily, Penny states that she is a “Vegetarian, but is now a Vegan”
My word what an unprecedented delightful bombshell to land.
In all intents and purpose what we have here is not only a wonderful well-rounded character, but also an early Vegan film pioneer to boot, Terrific stuff!
A character announcing (out loud) her Veganism in 1964 must have created some sort of precedent in films since I cannot find anyone else, (of course it doesn’t mean they did not exist mind).
I am fascinated by this character, simply because I cannot really imagine the majority of meat-eating people in the audience would have the slightest idea what a vegan was or is?
Note bene: I do not mean this is a patronising sort of way.
All in all, London in the swinging 1960s was certainly a ground-breaking and original place to live, what with the culture, music and fashion and now accompanied with the origins of veganism: its hats off to England.
Hip Hip Hooray.