A Star is Born: Donuts in Entertainment

A Star is Born: Donuts in Entertainment

Donuts have been a favorite treat since the mid-19th century, but became widely popularized throughout America in the 20th century.

Donuts built a name for themselves and a place in the heart of many Americans during World War I. They were brought to soldiers on the field as a token of gratitude and a remembrance of home. They were soon marked a breakfast staple, and landed themselves a spot on the breakfast table, paired with coffee, in the homes of many Americans.

Whether it be a breakfast meal, a midday snack, or an afternoon reward, donuts were a centralized part of American culture in the 20th century, and as a result, began to show up in many avenues of entertainment.

Iconic Donuts in TV

Donuts, having such a weight in American culture, found their way into television shows to make the shows more relatable. I mean, who doesn’t love a donut?

The Simpsons might be one of the first shows that pops into your head when you think about donuts in television. Whether it be the main character, Homer Simpson’s, nearly worrisome obsession and dependency on donuts, or the stereotypical Police Chief, Chief Wiggum’s, heightened focus on donuts rather than crime, we can see that donuts are a highly valued commodity in Springfield. There must be something extra special about those donuts if Homer Simpson is willing to sell his soul for them; we’d be lucky to get our hands on one.

Steven Universe is a popular cartoon show where one of the main characters works at a donut shop called The Big Donut; it is very reminiscent of modern day donut chain restaurants. This universe is really in touch with reality because they understand the influence of a donut; as they sang in the show, “Donuts! At The Big Donut! They make the world go ‘round.” We couldn’t agree with them more.

A variety of other TV shows have been known to incorporate donuts into their production including American Dad, Spongebob Squarepants, Dexter, iCarly, Superior Donuts, and Arrested Development.

Donuts on the Big Screen

Donuts have played a big role in movie theaters since the 1920s when they were a popular movie theater snack. They were convenient to eat because they were easy to hold, quiet to eat, and a sweet delicious treat.

Donuts have fallen out of favor as a snack to enjoy at the theater, but have made their way onto the big screen; some might consider this a step in the right direction for donuts.

You can find donuts featured in many Hollywood movies including Iron Man 2, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown. The same donut shop, Teriyaki Donut, was featured in both Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown; Quentin Tarantino must have an affinity for donuts like the rest of us.  

This is not a fading fad. There are dozens of movies that utilize donut shops, showcase the beauty of donuts, or even just refer to them.

Older movies, like Wayne’s World (1992), showcase donuts in a fun and creative way. One of the main characters, Garth, is sitting in a donut shop animating donuts into a man-like creation he calls Donut Head Man. This scene was so iconic that the fictional donut shop, Stan Mikita’s Donuts, was temporarily made real for the 2017 NHL All-Star Game.  

Newer movies, like Wreck It Ralph (2012) and Zootopia (2016) use donuts to poke fun at the stereotype surrounding the relationship that police officers have with donuts. Wreck It Ralph features two personified donut characters, Wynchel and Duncan, as police officers.

In Zootopia one of the main characters is a rabbit, who is also a police officer. During a high intensity police chase, the criminal weasel character kicks the large donut logo off of the Rodentia local donut shop, The Big Donut, at the police officer in an attempt to escape; using the punchline “have a donut, copper!”

The Relationship of Entertainment and Society

Entertainment often exaggerates and plays off of what is popular and relevant in today’s society. So as long as donuts keep winning over our taste buds, you can keep expecting to see them in TV shows and movies.  

What it all boils down to is that people love donuts. People have always loved donuts, and people will always love donuts. Donuts represent happiness and are rewards often associated with a sense of accomplishment.

Many of these donut references in pop culture are tied to using donuts as positive and optimistic symbolism, and reinforce the notion that donut shops are a calm, comfortable, and accommodating place to recuperate and focus on tasks.