I just saw once again Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and noticed something I hadn't given so much attention in my previous viewings. Namely, the fact that all main characters are shown, at some point, eating and this is a human activity which is shown several times throughout the movie.

The apelike men eat plants first then raw meat, meals are served aboard Floyd's flight to the moon and he has lunch also on the space station (we don't see it, but this is implied by what he says to his Russian friends when he meets them). Then Floyd has also a snack while travelling from Clavius to the TMA site and we see also Bowman and Poole eating a meal aboard the Discovery. Finally, in one of the final scenes in the white hotel room at the end of the movie, an aging Bowman eats a comfortable meal before seeing himself dying in the bed. I may have forgotten other instances.

While the first occurrence of eating, In the Dawn of Man segment--is certainly functional to the story, as it shows how man moved from a vegetarian diet to one rich of meat, the other instances seem more perfunctory and accidental, even the last one. My idea is that eating induces an idea of normality and Kubrick maybe used it as a means to enforce a certain lack of exceptionality of the situation, even when men are travelling on the moon, towards Jupiter, or bound in a mysterious, likely alien, artifact. Would you think that this interpretation is correct or is there something more that could be said?

  • 2
    Well, eating is one of the "Four Fs".
    – Compro01
    Dec 5, 2013 at 14:28

1 Answer 1


I believe that you are on the right track when it comes to showing normality through eating.

One of the main themes of the movie is the (forced) evolution of humanity. In the Dawn of Man segment we see humanity's ancestors living a subsistence life style. They huddle in fear and scrounge for scraps of food. Enter the Monolith, who teaches Moon Watcher how to use tools to hunt. The tool using proto humans have now moved up a rung in the food pyramid. They are beginning their journey to become masters of the Earth.

Cut to 2001. Humans have now conquered the Earth and are now invading space. Yet, fundamentally they are still apes that use tools to get food. The tools are much more advanced (a space faring nuclear weapons platform instead of a bone club) but they are still locked into the same primitive life cycle. Find food and resources, gather the food (by force if necessary), consume food, move on. They are still bio mechanical machines that depend on a highly inefficient fueling process (eating).

Cut to the Jupiter Monolith as it abducts Bowman. In the original book, one of the first things the operators of the Monolith do is provide Bowman with food. After all, he is still a bio mass consuming ape. Then the next step in human evolution occurs. Bowman is transformed into the Star Baby. A being of energy that has shed its human needs, including eating.

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