Pizza and Single Mothers/ Female Caregivers: Exploring the Symbolism in Horror

Horror films often utilize various symbols and motifs to evoke fear, suspense, and unease in audiences. Among these, pizza and the depiction of single mothers have emerged as recurring themes that carry profound meanings within the genre. Let’s take a look at the symbolism embedded in these elements and elucidate their significance in shaping narratives, character arcs, and thematic undertones in horror movies.

Pizza as a Symbol

Pizza, a ubiquitous food item in modern society, may seem innocuous at first glance. However, within the context of horror films, it often takes on darker connotations. The consumption of pizza or its presence in a scene can signal impending danger, disruption of normalcy, or the intrusion of the supernatural. Furthermore, pizza serves as a cultural signifier, reflecting societal norms, values, and anxieties.

In many horror movies, pizza delivery serves as a catalyst for unsettling events to unfold. The arrival of a pizza delivery person at a protagonist’s doorstep may initiate a chain of events leading to terror and chaos. This trope underscores the vulnerability of individuals in seemingly mundane situations and highlights the fragility of safety and security in the modern world.

Moreover, the composition of pizza itself can carry symbolic weight. The choice of toppings, the appearance of the pizza, and even its taste may foreshadow events or mirror the psychological state of characters. For example, a pizza topped with ominous ingredients like black olives or anchovies may hint at impending doom or supernatural influence.

Chiodo, S (1988). Killer Klowns from Outer Space. MGM Home Entertainment.

Single Mothers in Horror Films

The portrayal of single mothers/ female carers in horror movies offers a rich terrain for exploration, touching upon themes of maternal instinct, vulnerability, and resilience. Single mothers often occupy marginalized positions within society, facing economic hardship, social stigma, and the daunting task of raising children alone. In horror cinema, these struggles are amplified and intertwined with elements of fear and horror. What food reflects this fight against evil? Pizza, of course! 

The single mother is often portrayed as a protective figure fighting against external threats to safeguard her family: she confronts supernatural forces, psychopathic killers, or demonic entities in order to protect her children. The maternal instinct becomes a driving force for survival, imbuing these characters with strength and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. This normally comes after scenes which show how ‘poorly’ she is able to provide for her family’s needs as she gives in to ordering food rather than making it.  

Conversely, horror movies may also depict single mothers as vulnerable targets of malevolent forces. The absence of a partner leaves them isolated and exposed to danger, both from external threats and internal struggles. Themes of isolation, desperation, and sacrifice often permeate narratives featuring single mothers, adding layers of complexity to their characterization.

Pizza emerges as a versatile symbol in popular culture, notably in horror films, where its presence often signifies a deeper narrative theme of culinary negligence or disregard. Within the realm of horror, pizza transcends its gastronomic essence to encapsulate the palpable strain experienced within households helmed by single female adults. These individuals, entrusted with the dual roles of parent and caregiver, find themselves grappling with overwhelming fatigue, stress, and a sense of being overburdened, rendering the act of preparing a wholesome meal from scratch an insurmountable challenge. This potent symbolism emanates from the intrinsic characteristics of pizza and its multifaceted portrayal across various media platforms.

In horror, pizza is depicted as a quick and convenient meal choice, often ordered from fast-food chains or delivered from pizzerias. This emphasis on convenience suggests a prioritization of immediate gratification over the quality or nutritional value of the food. It implies that the characters are not investing time or effort into preparing a wholesome meal, reflecting a lack of care or attention to their dietary habits.

Traditional pizza toppings often include processed ingredients such as cured meats, processed cheeses, and refined carbohydrates in the form of white flour crusts. These ingredients are associated with unhealthy eating habits and are sometimes linked to negative health outcomes such as obesity, heart disease, and other dietary-related illnesses. Thus, the consumption of pizza in horror movies can symbolize a disregard for health and well-being.

Pizza consumption in horror movies is sometimes used to reinforce stereotypes about laziness, apathy, or irresponsibility, particularly when the characters portrayed are single mothers. This stereotype suggests that single mothers, already burdened with the challenges of raising children alone, may resort to convenient but nutritionally deficient meal options like pizza due to time constraints or financial limitations.

In certain horror movie scenes, pizza consumption may be accompanied by negative or unsettling events and even supernatural ones further reinforcing its symbolic association with carelessness or neglect. For example, characters may order pizza during tense or chaotic situations, using it as a distraction or coping mechanism rather than addressing the underlying issues at hand.

Overall, pizza in horror movies can serve as a visual shorthand for depicting characters who prioritize convenience and immediate gratification over healthier, more wholesome dietary choices. It symbolizes a lack of care or consideration for cooking and nutrition, particularly when consumed in contexts that emphasize negative stereotypes or accompany unsettling events within the narrative. 

Sandberg, D. (2016). Lights Out. Warner Bros Pictures.

In conclusion, pizza and single mothers serve as potent symbols in horror films, offering insights into societal fears, cultural anxieties, and human psychology. The portrayal of pizza delivery as a harbinger of terror and the depiction of single mothers as resilient yet vulnerable figures contribute to the thematic richness of the horror genre. By examining these motifs, audiences can gain a deeper understanding of the underlying messages and complexities inherent in horror cinema. As filmmakers continue to explore new avenues of storytelling, pizza and single mothers are likely to remain compelling elements that resonate with audiences on both visceral and intellectual levels.

This article is part of a larger research project: The Cruelty of Consumption and was first published on 1/09/2020.