Frozen Pies and The Uncanny Valley of Pizza

A couple months ago I tried to make a case for Totino's/Jeno's as THE BEST FROZEN PIZZA. I blabbed and blabbed and blabbed. And then, in the comments, I managed to distill my take on frozen pizza to to a couple sentences:

I'd just give up frozen pizza before [buying] the imported ones. To me, they are the UNCANNY VALLEY of pizza. Close enough to the real thing but not quite there. Either give me the real thing or give me the obviously cartoonish version of "pizza."

The uncanny valley, if you're not familiar, is a concept that grew out of robotics. The graph of the original concept looks like this:


Basically, we prefer robots with familiar human shapes and attributes—but only up to a point. Once they start looking too much like us, but not exactly, we freak out. (Beats me why Wikipedia put zombies on this chart. They're not even robots, and who wouldn't freak out at the sight of a zombie?) The CGI animation in The Polar Express is a classic example:


Or, perhaps even better is this Japanese doppelgänger robot:


Is it me or does that guy kind of look like Michael Jackson?

Anyway, apply this concept to pizza, with a well-made real pizza as the ideal—the "healthy person," if you will—and I think things like the Amy's pizza that Will Gordon wrote about last Thursday (the inspiration for this post) or Freschetta or DiGiorno or even Dr. Oetker (which I have enjoyed in the past) fall into the Uncanny Valley of Pizza.


Update: The "ideal pizza" pictured IS A REAL-DEAL PIZZA made at a mom-and-pop pizza shop. Thought I should point that out based on a comment below, which seems to interpret it as a frozen pizza.

It's not that these pizzas wig me out, it's just that they're not the real deal. They're so close to being good but not quite there. Give me the over-the-top obvious artificiality of the cheap-ass frozen pizzas any day.

And often these fancy-pants frozen pies are getting almost as expensive as a real deal pizza. (Will himself and several people in the comments of his post balked at the $11 price tag of the Annie's pizza.) At a certain point, I'm either going to shell out for the deluxe gondola lift over the Uncanny Valley of Pizza or I'm going to sit safely at its edge with my Pizza Rolls, my Jeno's, or my Home Run Inn.

Somewhat Related Video

Switching gears, when I tweeted about the concept of the Uncanny Valley of Pizza the other night, @buzz reminded me of this SNL skit:

So, yeah. I somehow still managed to write more than I meant to by way of bringing you that silly infographic above. Hasta la pizza, folks.