Zoom and Pan: Trapped in the Closet

Welcome to Zoom and Pan, Eat Me Daily's food n' film column. Each week, Soleil Ho of Heavy Table will tear apart a food-centric movie scene and, with luck, decipher the meaning behind all the food porn. This week: Trapped in the Closet

If you haven't heard of R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet (buy it) series by now, please stop reading this article and remedy that fact right this instant. (North Koreans get a free pass, for now.) The hip-hopera series debuted in 2005 with five tracks at the end of TP.3 Reloaded (buy it), Kelly's seventh full-length album. Once Trapped in the Closet was paired with visuals, Kelly's oddball cultural phenomenon went critical.

There are currently 22 finished chapters of the "Trapped in the Closet" epic, with 15 more rumored to be on the way. Though numerous, they feature a singular beat and a repetitive melody, with the only variation being the lyrics. Kelly narrates a violent and sexy series of events centering on an ensemble cast of criminals, cheats, and liars. Straddling chapters 9 and 10 of "Trapped in the Closet," this week's scene of import involves a well-endowed little person, a homemade cherry pie, and the havoc they unleash in one couple's household. Hang in there, because this might get complicated.

Trapped in the Closet: Chapter 9

In Chapter 9, James has just arrived home to find his wife, Bridget, agitated and rather fixated on feeding him. She had flirtatiously offered him a cherry pie in an earlier conversation, but the goodwill offering is forgotten in the ensuing tumult. James suspects that something is up when he sees a piece missing from the pie on the kitchen table, and realization dawns on his face as Kelly, the narrator, belts out, "But Bridget's allergic to cherries!" James commences a thorough search of the kitchen, which ends with a little person, Big Man — yes, yes, I know! — busting out from under the sink with cherry pie all up in his maw (beginning of Chapter 10, below).

Trapped in the Closet: Chapter 10

So Damn Twisted

The cherry pie, done up in classic American style with a lattice crust, does double duty as both a symbol of middle class promise and a signifier of perverted lust. Bridget promises James the pie ("It's your favorite, cherry!") while he's on his way home; for all he knows, Bridget is fulfilling her role as a housewife perfectly, loyally providing him with a reward for bringing home the bacon.

The pie takes a repulsive turn when it appears again as crumbs on Big Man's lips. Big Man's emergence from beneath the sink can be read as an unleashing of a previously repressed psychosexual idea. We repress everything that we cannot bear to face in reality: things that are too frightening, too socially unacceptable, too dangerous. Big Man literally leaps out at James/the viewer from a dark, dank place, like the legendary Bogeyman. Even Kelly himself condemns Bridget's sexual liaison with Big Man as "so damn twisted."

As teen sex comedy enthusiasts already know, no dessert embodies the American spirit more than fruit pie. Its making is just labor-intensive enough to command respect and awe for the baker. A homemade pie conjures up sentimental, M.F.K. Fisher-tinged images of bakers folding lard into sugar and flour, with sleeves rolled up and sweat on their brows. The trusting spouse would take a pie as a saccharine symbol of their partner's love and commitment.

Big Man's consumption of the pie changes everything. The pie, previously a symbol of connubial bliss, is a sacrificial offering on the altar of unchained lust.

Soleil Ho

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