Nothing shatters the illusion that TIFF is about art like seeing people with TIFF lanyards eating at Hooters.
If you spend enough time promenading around the TIFF corridor (John Street between Richmond and King, basically), dirty and dazed, drunk on movies and free Grolsch and movie stars talking about how “exciting” it was to work with a bad director, you’ll begin to notice something truly strange.
People eat at Hooters. Like, the breast-themed restaurant, Hooters. People take their meals there. They’ll eat chicken wings and saucy salads and drink light beer like it’s no big deal. Like they’re not even at Hooters at all.
Nothing can devastate the mostly well-maintained illusion that TIFF is about art like seeing people with TIFF lanyards eating at Hooters. In the playground of the mind, Hooters is a place of jubilant flirtation and good times, of coy come-ons and playful elbow-touching. But as I stand on the corner of John and Adelaide, looking in through the open window, face lined with sweat and three days of stubble, eyes drained of sleep, more a conspicuous weirdo than anyone actually seated inside, all I see is people carrying on normally. They eat “Buff Chick Sliders” and chat idly. There’s no raucous festivity, no explosive expression of anything. If it weren’t for the perky wait staff (the trademark “Hooters Girls”), it could be anywhere.
To the people eating at Hooters: why do you eat at Hooters? Are all the other restaurants full? Can’t you just miss a meal? Did you not know that it was a Hooters? Do you not know what Hooters is? Did you only pick up on one half of the company’s foundational double entendre? And was it the “hoot owl” part, and not the “female human breasts” part?
Maybe Hooters has an honest, even inspiring backstory. Like maybe the founder of Hooters fled some crummy Eastern European nation you’ve never heard of, ducking plague and poverty and incoming mortar fire just to stow away on a boat, fighting off flu and fever, until finally making it, topcoat crawling with lice, to America, land of opportunity. “My grandfather came to this country with nothing but a dream and a pair of tits in his pocket…” the second- and third-generation inheritors of this hard-won legacy begin, reminding everyone why they do all this, reminding them what Hooters is all about. Even if this were the case—and it’s not—I still don’t think it’d be adequate cover for eating at Hooters.
And this isn’t some prudish anti-sex thing. If you want to work at Hooters, hey, it’s your right. Sexuality’s fine. It’s great! But Hooters banks on such a moronically adolescent concept of female sexuality. It’s like what a 10-year-old thinks an adult restaurant is like. It is literally called “Hooters.” The Hooters Girls—oh my god even typing the words “Hooters Girls” makes me feel like I’m seven—wear pantyhose coloured to look like skin, over their actual skin. They’re practically gift-wrapping the idea that the place is a simulation of female sexuality removed from female sexuality itself. That clingy Lycra film might as well stick to every surface in the place.
Today, Wednesday, boneless wings and fries at Hooters are priced at $7.69. It’s a good deal, sure. But there’s a Jack Astor’s right across the street. It’s Michelin-starred by comparison. There has to be more to shuffling through life than cheap boneless wings and the promise of looking at some breasts. If there’s not, there’s always Hooters.