Chef Boyardee and the Justice League: No meatballs for girls

What do my kids eat these days? Buttered noodlesEggo waffles. The occasional Wonder Woman sandwich. Mac & cheese. Quesadillas. McGriddles (yeah, we got back together with McDonald’s).

It’s a limited menu, and I’m always looking for ways to mix it up. Lucky for us, the Justice League of America has joined forces with Chef Boyardee to bring us Super Hero Shapes pasta!

And it’s not just Batman, Superman and the Flash. Joining the fight against boring pasta shapes are Supergirl, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (cue that awesome theme music from Batman v Superman). Good luck finding a female superhero on a Marvel food product.

We snapped up several cans when we first saw these at the grocery store, mostly the ones featuring Batman but also Supergirl and Wonder Woman. That’s when I noticed the weird difference between the “boy” and “girl” cans.

It’s meatballs, those delicious mounds of chicken, pork and beef that I assume are high in protein and that I hope might compel my kids to try hamburger one day. The “boy” pasta — the one with Batman, Superman and Flash shapes — has meatballs. The “girl” version, which swaps the Flash shape for a Wonder Woman logo, has no meatballs.

I don’t think Chef Boyardee means to, but the lack of meatballs sends a weird message. Are the female superheroes lesser than their male counterparts? Should little girls be avoiding meat? Is a boy who prefers the meatless version less of a man?

From Batgirl #27, Jan. 2014.

Maybe this isn’t about gender at all. We know Batgirl loves bacon, and Supergirl’s Kryptonian body absorbs all the energy she needs from Earth’s yellow sun. But Wonder Woman can communicate with animals. Writer Greg Rucka made her a vegetarian in the early 2000s.

So maybe Chef Boyardee put Wonder Woman on the meatless spaghetti can as a sly nod to that bit of comic-book trivia. It’s a satisfying enough answer for my inner nerd.

And that’s good, because my kids are devouring this stuff. I’ll microwave it, put it in a Batman Thermos Funtainer and stick it in a school lunch. I even tasted a bit of it, and I’m pleased to report that it tastes exactly like the dinosaur pasta I loved so much in the late ’80s. I can still remember the song from the TV commercial.

Next on my kids’ list of Batman-themed foods to try: Lobster thermidor. I’m not kidding. My son got Lobster Lovin’ Batman from The LEGO Batman Movie blind bags, and he wants to eat Batman’s exact lobster, down to the lettuce garnish on his LEGO plate.

This makes me appreciate a cheap lunch of canned pasta. If you’ve got simpler tastes, please check out the official Attack of the Dad Buttered Noodles t-shirt. It features an 8-bit Champ and a secret recipe to make buttered noodles every bit as good as the stuff they charge $6.50 for at the local brewery. Proceeds go directly to my lobster budget.

5 thoughts on “Chef Boyardee and the Justice League: No meatballs for girls”

  1. Forget the vegetarianism–this is clearly a sly “adults only” joke. Both cans have pasta, but the “boy” can has balls, and the “girls” can doesn’t! It’s the easiest way to tell them apart. It’s like when people call Hershey bars “male” and “female”–the male bar is the one with the nuts.

    My serious concern about the cans is this. While I applaud Chef Boyardee for featuring a can with superheroines, take note of the expressions. Superman, Batman, and the Flash are all grim determination. Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl are all smiles. This is sexist again. Why aren’t the women just as determined as the men? Or why can’t the men be smiling since we’re all just having lunch?

  2. They did that joke years ago when they first introduced “space” pasta. The “tiny stars and planets” one just had plain tomato sauce. The “tiny spaceships” one had tomato-and-meat sauce. The “tiny spacemen” version had, and I quote, “tiny meatballs” listed on the ingredients. I think I stood there and laughed for ten minutes. That set of labels went off the market and the product was reformulated (I think it was changed to “tiny aliens”) and the labels rewritten.

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