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Invisible Stomach, Visible Food

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"There are details
That I haven't worked out
Like when I eat my lunch
Does it disappear
Or do you see it going all the way down?"
They Might Be Giants, "I Am Invisible"

What happens when an invisible character eats lunch?

One possibility is that the food disappears as soon as it enters their mouths. The other possibility is this trope: the food remains visible, even as the character chews and swallows it. This can also apply to translucent or partially-invisible characters.

The food usually doesn't stay visible past the stomach stage. This is partly justified; logic suggests that the food must become invisible as the character absorbs it fully into their body, or else the character wouldn't stay invisible for very long. Then again, the same logic also suggests that the portion of the food that isn't absorbed should remain visible all the way down, but this would be too disgusting for most audiences.

Even with the stomach restriction, the trope is often played for Squick in live-action works. In drawn or animated works it may be Played for Laughs instead. Squick can also be reduced by downplaying the trope, so that the food disappears on the way down the esophagus.

One effect of this trope is to illustrate the mechanics of a character's invisibility. Visible food suggests that their body is made of a completely transparent material, as opposed to ordinary material that is "hidden" by an Invisibility Cloak (or something similar).

Can be used as a form of Visible Invisibility. Compare Invisible Streaker, where invisible people have to worry about the visible objects on their body.

This trope presumes the character's stomach can hold physical objects. If a ghost eats something, and it immediately falls through their body and hits the floor, it's not related to this trope.


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    Film - Live Action 
  • The Invisible Man (1933) doesn't actually show the trope, but Griffin mentions that any food he eats will be visible inside him until digested, as in the original novel.
  • In the Chevy Chase movie Memoirs of an Invisible Man, there are several scenes in which he chews gum, drinks liquid, or otherwise ingests food and we see it hovering in air. In fact, the first time he notices is when he "sees" himself in the mirror, only to find digesting food. We hear the sound of vomiting and the food arches into the air and off-screen. He then spends a sizable part of the movie on a clear food diet. Later, as Chase's character attempts to hide from the Big Bad, he refuses to eat so that he remains invisible.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, invisible thief Skinner at one point helps himself to a glass of Scotch which is visible inside him as he's drinking it.

  • The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells is the Trope Codifier.
    • Food eaten by someone invisible is visible until it is digested. A bit eerie. And useful for seeing said people.
    • The invisible man smokes a cigar at one point, and another character can see the smoke swirling around inside his mouth and nasal passages.
  • In Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, Ghouls are humanoid beings whose flesh and organs are transparent and colourless, making them appear to be walking skeletons. Until they eat, when this happens.
  • Lily from Soon I Will Be Invincible isn't invisible but made from transparent crystal. The food she eats "goes transparent almost as soon as she bites down on it" (emphasis on almost, for the purposes of this trope). She also exhibits the trope with cigarette smoke, which "curl[s] in her lungs like a genie in a smoked-glass bottle".
  • "Cousin Lesley" from Brian Patten's children's poetry collection Gargling with Jelly sees the title character take a pill that turns her invisible... almost. The contents of her stomach remain visible, and the poem lists various examples of partially-digested food the sight of which puts the rest of her family off their own food.


    Newspaper Comics 
  • In one Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin imagines being turned into "a living x-ray" which makes his mealtimes "a disgusting ordeal" for everyone, given that they can see the chewed food. The comic ends in the real world with Calvin's dad yelling at him to close his mouth when he chews. "You think we want to see that?"

    Western Animation 
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: Comes up in the episode "Invisible Muriel," after Muriel turns invisible because of a stone Courage dug up for her that she wears as a necklace. Eustace doesn't seem to notice Muriel is invisible, but can clearly see her swallowing a mouthful of pancakes, prompting him to tell her to close her mouth when she chews.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The 1939 short "Porky's Movie Mystery" features The Invisible Man eating an apple. Thanks to Cartoon Physics, the chewed-up apple reassembles itself in his stomach, where it remains for the rest of the scene.
    • In the 1952 Bugs Bunny short "Water, Water Every Hare", Bugs turns himself invisible with a bottle of "Vanishing Fluid". While invisible, he chews and swallows a carrot, and the audience can see it being ground to orange meal with his teeth and falling down his throat after gulping and into his digestive system.