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Literature / Who Cut the Cheese?

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Who Cut the Cheese? is the title of two novellas published in 2000 that parody the best-selling self-help business fable Who Moved My Cheese?: one by "Stilton Jarlsberg" (pen name of Stephen White) and one by National Lampoon editor Mason Brown.

Tropes in Jarlsberg's take:

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Unhealthy reliance on CheesyWorld as a single point of failure.
  • The Beastmaster: The cat belongs to Hi.
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  • Bestiality Is Depraved: The teeny people occasionally attempt to "get lucky" with rats.
  • Brevity Is Wit: Ho considers making a poster after one incident but drops it after realizing the message would be too long to fit his template.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: The first pages of the story lampshade the practice of writing "Cheese" with initial caps for extra symbolism.
  • Cats Are Mean: A cat tears up all the rats in CheesyUniverse.
  • Crisis of Faith: Hi urges patience until the cheese returns on grounds that the teeny people's predicament might be the Cheesegiver's test of loyalty.
  • Deus ex Machina: A cat slaughters the rats in CheesyUniverse and saves Ho from starvation.
  • Double Entendre:
    • Ho's graffiti refers to "cutting the cheese", meaning a supply interruption. Ho shows no awareness of the bowel-related subtext.
      When Someone Cuts the Cheese, Take a Deep Breath
      If You Cut the Cheese, Everyone Will Notice
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    • Ho writes the graffiti using "soft charcoal" found near where the rats used to sit. He later realizes it's dried rat poop.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Rats tell Ho that they found CheesyUniverse by giving degrading favors to the Cheesegiver.
  • Follow Your Nose: One of the rats in CheesyUniverse told Ho that the rat found CheesyUniverse by following not the smell of cheese but another rat's scent: literal brown-nosing.
  • Framing Device: Biff tells the story of "Who Cut the Cheese?" at a funeral.
  • Heroic BSoD: Hi's outbursts when he realizes the cheese is gone. It ends once he imagines that interruption in supply (that is, "cutting the cheese") might be temporary.
  • It's Personal: Envy inspires Ho to continue the search for the next depot in hopes of murdering the rat in the sports car.
  • Lilliputians: The teeny people Hi and Ho, as well as Jarlsberg himself according to "About the Author".
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  • Nightmare Fuel: Invoked. Once CheesyUniverse is overrun by a Swarm of Rats, it is compared to "the sort of nightmarish scene Hieronymus Bosch might have painted".
  • Rags to Riches: The discovery of CheesyWorld.
  • Recursive Canon: Biff in the frame story is selling copies of Who Cut the Cheese? out of his car.
  • Stealth Pun: After Ho almost gets run over by a rat in a sports car, Ho writes a warning on the wall of the maze: "Honk If You Love Cheeses". This alludes to Christian bumper stickers.
  • Stock Animal Diet: Cheese and rats. Unlike mice, Real Life rats eat cheese.
  • Take That!:
    • In a moment of hindsight, Ho realizes he should have seen the supply dwindling, but he may have confused spoiled cheese for French cheese.
    • One motivational poster set in a different font mentions hope and change. Jarlsberg's later publications show his dislike for a U.S. President who was elected in 2008 on a platform of "hope and change". Given the font difference (other motivational posters use Bookman), this joke appears to have been edited into the second edition published in 2010.
  • Talking Animal: A rat driving a tiny sports car shouts words at Ho. Later, once Ho arrives at the CheesyUniverse depot, other rats brag about the various third options they used to get there. All rats, including the rats Snitch and Scamper from the opening, are later discovered to be talking.
  • Think Happy Thoughts: Ho comforts himself during his starvation by thinking about his weight loss and the clearing up of his skin and breath conditions.
  • Toilet Humor: Predictable from the title, delivered in the early pages, tapers off.
  • Trampled Underfoot: When Ho finally arrives at CheesyUniverse, a stampede of rats is there to "greet" him.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Hi starts hyperventilating after discovering that CheesyWorld has run out of cheese, and Ho suggests that Hi calm down and assume the position.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Inverted. One of the frame story characters guesses that the Lilliputians and talking rats must have come from a "genetic experiment gone wrong".

Tropes in Brown's take:

  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: In the end, Cover is removed from the maze. The frame story characters speculate on what happens next to Cover.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Duck punches through a cubicle wall when the cheese runs out.
  • Big "NO!": Duck when the cheese runs out.
  • Booby Trap: Levers and treadles rigged to deliver an electric shock.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Duck starts acting schizotypal, dressing in a grass skirt, and worshipping models of delivery cars.
  • Dope Slap: How the punypeople get the rats to behave.
  • Fight Scene: By the end, Cover's low-carb diet of government surplus cheese cubes has given him a bodybuilder's physique, which comes in handy when he slices Whiff nearly to death.
  • Final Speech: Just before Duck starves to death, he delivers a speech on the wrongness of the experiment that he's trapped in.
  • Gasshole: Duck and Cover after a steady diet of Stilton cheese in Cheese Depot D.
  • Improvised Weapon: Duck and Cover carry sharpened metal bolts in case of rat attack.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Cover searches for how to slay rats and ends up on pornography.
  • Language Equals Thought: It is commented that Germans have as many words for unhappiness as Eskimos have for snow, like Schadenfreude.
  • Lilliputians: The punypeople Duck and Cover.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: After no cheese for days, neither of the puny people can get it up.
  • Never My Fault: Cover successfully blames Duck for ruining a cheese depot.
  • Press-Ganged: Cover's characterization of the maze as a "hellish netherworld with no fixed address" implies a contrast to a less hellish outside.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Duck when the cheese runs out.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Stop Copying Me: Duck and Cover play the echo game.
  • Take That!: At Who Moved My Cheese?. Cover realizes that his graffiti could fill a book and writes another one:
  • Toilet Humor: More conspicuous than in Jarlsberg's take.
  • Trap Door: Part of how Duck and Cover barricade themselves in Cheeseless Depot D.
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: Some of the levers and treadles dispense not cheesy treats but electric shocks.