Humans eat for many reasons, perhaps the most important of which being that we'll die if we don't. But if a woman is eating in a TV sitcom, it means something. Usually something very bad, or at least very weird. This little bit of TV writer shorthand has been sending a message to young girls for half a century: What you eat defines your place in the world, and you should worry about it constantly.
If a sitcom woman is eating food, it usually means ...
She's Overwhelmed With The Stresses Of Modern Womanhood
Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, Leslie Knope on Parks And Recreation, and Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project -- a group of successful, smart women who date men who look like Jon Hamm and Timothy Olyphant. Yet we need to know their lives aren't perfect. I mean, no one wants to watch a show in which gorgeous women just live perfect lives ... Oh crap, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, right. OK, mostly no one wants to watch that. The rest of us need to see hilarious flaws to make us feel like these characters are just like us. Usually this involves seeing them struggle mightily to balance their careers and their personal lives.
And how do we know when they're stumbling? Do we see Leslie Knope smoke crystal meth? No, we just see them eating perfectly normal food. Liz unwinds by scarfing down a plate of "night cheese." Mindy has a two-bear-claw-a-day habit. Leslie lists the important things in life as friends, waffles, and work ... or waffles, friends, and work. The key is that they be super weird about it. Like, waffles are a routine part of the modern diet, but Parks And Rec implies that if a supervillain were dangling a waffle and Leslie's mother off of a building, Leslie would have to seriously consider who to save. She's one waffle away from becoming Eleven from Stranger Things.