By Michelle Fabio
We’ve all heard of or even seen people throwing rotten tomatoes when disappointed in a live performance; indeed this is where popular movie reviewing and previewing site Rotten Tomatoes gets its name from.
But did people really throw rotten tomatoes at actors?
Well, obviously not during Shakespeare’s time since, as according to the website of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, tomatoes weren’t even available in England at that time. The site notes, though, that at the end of performances, the actors announced the following day’s features–and if people didn’t like it, they just might have thrown things.
But not tomatoes.
There is at least one documented case of an aspiring actor in Hempstead, Long Island, New York being pelted with tomatoes throughout a performance at Washington Hall. The October 28, 1883 edition of the New York Times reports that John Ritchie was hit “square between the eyes” with a tomato while trying to perform a trapeze act. With his damages estimated at $50, Ritchie not surprisingly vowed never to perform in Hempstead again.
No matter how prevalent the act actually was (and is), throwing tomatoes has become associated with protests–remember the post about PETA’s use of tomatoes in its war against fur?
The idea has even reached political circles as the Dutch Socialist party has adopted the tomato as its symbol because of this connotation.
But I still have to ask–what did the tomatoes do to deserve this fate?