Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Weighing In on the Paula Deen Debacle

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that I havebeen over Paula Deen for a long time.  She went from a pleasant TV personality with some seriously tasty looking food to a caricature of herself whose recipes are barely above the level of the Pioneer Woman.  Like most Food Network cooks, I hold no personal grudge against her.  I never met her.  I simply don’t like the person or the recipes I see on TV.

My Paula post has been trolled by anonymous, pro-Paula comments in recent times.   I haven’t bothered to publish any of them.  I really don’t care if you still support Paula.  

From what I understand, Paula Deen has been a terrible employer who, regardless of what language she used, has been abusive to the people who make her empire possible.  It doesn’t jive well with the image we have of Deen as a loving, caring, favorite aunt who is always pleasant and laughing.  That she used racial epithets as part of her insults against her employees seems like the vomit icing on a turd cake.  What prompted her to use those words is something those outside will never know.  Some of the blame has been deflected and her brother was the worst offender, but if that is the case, why didn't she do more to stop it?

Is Paula Deen a racist?  Is she just a victim of her upbringing and the social culture in which she was raised?  I have seen outrage and accusations of racism from white people and complete support and understanding from black people since this whole kerfuffle started.  I know that Paula Deen was the one who introduced the Neelys on her show, and that support helped them become hosts on a network whose hosts were almost all white. She has featured Jimmy Carter on her show and talked of her neverending adoration for him.  She supported Obama in 2008, which makes me think she’s not the type that jumps to attention at Tea Party dog whistles. Then again, she makes regular appearances on Fox News and has been known to utter a few racially charged anti-Obama statements herself. 

Unfortunately, even for the most liberal and open-minded among us, there can be a lot of gray area between “completely color blind” and “outright racist.”  I don’t know where Paula Deen falls on that scale.  

So now we know that Deen’s contract with the Food Network will not be renewed.  Was it wrong to do this simply because she has caused so much recent controversy?  What about the whole diabetes debacle, which caused much of her audience to lose their trust in her?  Maybe the Food Network feels she has jumped the shark and they would rather move on to other talent.   I’m sure that if she never appears on the Food Network again, she will likely still sell cookbooks, sell kitchenware, and run her very successful restaurant.  She might end up picked up by some other TV station eventually.  Paula Deen will not suffer much, no matter how much you want her to (or don’t want her to).

I think The Bowlingotter Blog said it best when it came to her termination:

And the whole “she shouldn’t have been fired for it" argument… The Food Network is not a political entity. They’re a private, for-profit company that is driven almost entirely by its public personalities. You know how you lose your job in that setting? You lose your job when people don’t like you anymore. So when she said something that made people all over the country really, really dislike her, then yeah, this is the sort of thing that happens. So this one’s on Deen, not the Food Network. She wasn’t fired because she made a racist statement. She was fired because she pissed a lot of people off and cast the Food Network in a negative light that would hurt their profits.

To me this is just small potatoes.  Why do we focus all of our attention on the racism of an unimportant celebrity?  Why aren’t we talking about the real racism?  How about the way prominent public figures disrespect the President of the United States with language shrouded in racism and hate?  The last time I checked, it is your patriotic duty to respect the office even if you don’t like the man.  Race seems to have allowed this kind of behavior.  Let’s talk about how blacks can’t seem to escape the stereotype of the lazy welfare leech – a stereotype that is even perpetuated by other black people.  Why are we more concerned about Paula Deen than we are about the inequalities of our penal system?  Is anyone going to address the recent Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act and will disenfranchise so many black voters?

(Yes, I know this sort of thing really belongs on my other blog.)

I don’t care if you go away or not, Paula Deen.  I’m just not going to miss you when you’re gone.


Blond Duck said...

People are always going to focus on the small and petty because it hurts to much to think. :)

Sue said...

This has certainly been a very news-heavy week with a lot of seriously important things happening. And I totally agree that in the larger scheme of things, this whole Paula Deen situation is certainly not the most critical. But people ARE uncomfortable talking about race and this is an opportunity to bring it to the light.

Yes, the Food Network can do whatever it wants and Paula’s ratings were down and they seem to be focusing the majority of their airtime on competition shows anyway, so this may have been just the chance they were waiting for.

My objection to the whole thing is that I don’t think it’s true that Paula lives her life as a racist. I think she has a bit of a foul mouth and she likes (liked) to sound outrageous - in a RACY not RACIST way. By this point, if Paula had been hurling the N word around, we would have heard about it from legions of people.

I’m not sure where you’ve read that SHE is a terrible employer and abusive to people. After reading HER deposition and the complete complaint from the plaintiff, it’s clear that her brother is the perp here and, probably for a legion of reasons, she has refused to recognize that. Clearly she’s willing to lose her entire empire AND reputation in lieu of criticizing him. And I think THAT’S what she’s guilty of.

And it’s undeniable that her entire reaction to this crisis has been dreadful. First she apologized and then she basically said she had nothing to apologize for. She should have taken the bull by the horns (i.e. brother Bubba) and acknowledged HIS illegal behavior, sent him to a indoctrination camp and put into place 21st century human resource policies in ALL of her businesses.

Anonymous said...

Alec Baldwin says lots of things about the paparazzi and he gets away with it because he is not a racist, has temper control problems. Paula Deen her recipes looked like crap and tasted even worse, oh, my little God..Oprah liked her because she ate her stuff in tiny amounts which she doesn't anymore! The diabetes thing is dreadful, I got type 2 diabetes about the same time, I let everyone know and I eat and exercise well but still must monitor everything and watch what I do..I did not care for her I is what I is on the Today show..She acted like she was still in the 1950's deep south at 66 she is the same age of my husband of nearly 40years and he doesn't talk like that and we have listened to b.s. because he is jewish our entire marriage, racism in many forms permeates our country, I think it is worse than the 60's I really do..Shame on her, I would never buy her cookbooks and I think the way she dresses and her makeup is dreadful, welcome to the 21 century Miss Paula Deen, your karma is kicking your a-- around the block! Love your blog!