By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi
The last several weeks of Paul Deen’s very public celebrity demise has been painful to watch. Once the doyenne of Southern Cooking, she is now perceived in some quarters as a racist pariah. What appears endemic in our culture is an insatiable thirst for news of celebrity chefs’ private lives, thinking they are infinitely more glamorous than our own little drab existences. While I cannot say for certain, this obsession may have begun with the 1961 publication of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her PBS television show. The frenzy has escalated over the years with the Food Network’s hawking of countless chefs and bizarre food challenge programs. It is enough to turn one off of anything beyond a comforting dish of homemade chicken soup [neither Giada’s, nor Nigella’s versions, thank you very much].
One thing I do know has been lacking in the muck racking of Paula Deen the past weeks: Forgiveness. She has asked, begged, pleaded, and groveled for it, yet Faceless Corporate America appears unwilling to forgive her when the Reverend Jesse Jackson has. Her latest book, which was scheduled for release by Ballantine Books in October 2013, was abruptly pulled, in spite of its already having sold out in advance on Amazon.
If we step back and look at Paula Deen, we have to admit that she neither killed nor maimed anyone; she neither embezzled nor swindled money from employees or investors, nor did she use politically incorrect language in media venues. The other fact is that Southern sensibilities have been much ignored of late in Faceless Corporate America’s decisions regarding Paula Deen. Take a look at the fictional television character of Don Draper and his world. Ethnic groups are maligned on that show and women are relegated primarily to the roles of cloying or clawing sexual kittens. I have yet to hear anyone rail against the derogatory jokes about Jews on “Mad Men”. A large number of viewers rhapsodized for years about the greatness of television’s “The Sopranos”; however, this is one Italian American that took a dim view of yet another program devoted to Italian American thugs.
Paula Deen has admitted the error of what she said. Who are we not to forgive her when we ourselves are guilty of different versions of the same regarding ethnic biases we harbor, if we are truly honest with ourselves? We many not verbally articulate these prejudices, yet Faceless Corporate America seems to think its ca-ca doesn’t smell. Well, guess what? It reeks.
Ciao for now.