The Paula Deen Thing

19 Jan

In case you’ve been under a rock this week, Paula Deen the butter queen announced she has diabetes. And everybody seems to have an opinion on it.

Was it her diet? No way to say. If you believe her TV show, she lives on a steady diet of cream cheese, butter, heavy cream, and more butter. If you believe TV is TV and that “reality” shows aren’t really what they claim (staged? what? you serious, Clark?), you can’t make a judgement. Food Network aside, Paula Deen can have whatever diet she wants and not have to justify it to the rest of us. If you enjoy the cupcake diet, rock on. Answer to yourself and never mind other people’s opinions, because the consequences are yours.

Personally, I think a lot of us have a dangerous obsession with weight. We’re bombarded by size 0’s who, along with a generous dose of Photoshop, are held up as ideals. A new diet is released almost every day, each sounding more miraculous and wonderful than the last, with a trail of celebrities hanging on to proclaim their success on whatever the newest trend is. On the other extreme, we’re tempted, constantly tempted, by cheap junk food that–let’s face it–tastes good, fits our budget, and looks darned fun in all of the ads. Sadly, many people think that’s the only way they can afford to eat.

No doubt about it, our attitude and knowledge about food and our bodies is messed up. Many people understand the concept of moderation, eat less/move more, and having a healthy body image (that at least has a real digit as a size). But many of us don’t, and the misconceptions are perpetuated by what we see on television and in magazines.

So. Paula Deen. Paula Deen has the right to cook the way she wants and develop recipes the way she wants and feed her own body the way she wants. I don’t think she has any kind of obligation to change any of that because of her diagnosis. Our habits are not her responsibility, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in butter and cream and cheese every so often. Remember the saying about the women skipping dessert on the Titanic? Word, yo. Have a cookie and birthday cake and ice cream and bacon. Just don’t do it all the time. Moderation!

My issue with Miss Paula is the timing of her announcement, which oh-so-coincidentally came at the same time she allied herself with a pharma company that happens to produce diabetes drugs. If news reports are to be believed, she’s know about her diagnosis for several years now. One would think if she was trying to do good, as she claims, she’d have shared her Big News well before signing a contract to hawk medication.

Your disease, your diet, your business. Your right to do whatever you want with your television show. Our obligation to educate ourselves and be reasonable and make our own choices as adults, and not blame a TV chef for our own issues and our own choices.

Paula Deen is a hypocrite and an opportunist who claims to want to do good, but really is angling for a profit. And that is my only beef with her, celebrity or not.

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4 Responses to “The Paula Deen Thing”

  1. Ali January 19, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    I’ll be honest that I wasn’t sure where you were going with your post. =)

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on your perspective. She can live and do whatever she’d like but I do take issue with her business contract with a pharmaceutical company. It’s almost promoting a green light to eat however you want and take a pill to solve any problems. I’m not sure how she’ll be able to separate the two.

  2. Heather January 19, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    For the most part, I agree with what you have to say and you know I respect you but I have to disagree with your last proclamation. I don’t really think it matters how long Paula has known about her diagnosis – medical conditions, especially ones that could take down one’s career as “The Queen of Butter”, are a private matter. She is an entertainer and her persona is based on her cooking style – it’s what she does for all of those who turn in to be entertained by her and her southern drawl. It makes sense to me that she may not want to shout from the rooftops that she has Type II Diabetes while continuing on with her career.

    Just for the sake of argument, let’s consider another scenario. other than being an opportunistic hypocrite. Perhaps she never had any intention of letting the world in on her private medical condition. I mean really, why would she want to open herself up to the attacks she has been undergoing since the news broke, many of which have nothing to do with the drug company alignment? Let’s face it, she would have been attacked no matter what because of what people see on TV and in the media. What if, though, she was approached by this medical company to be the face of their drug while also being a spokesperson for positive lifestyle changes. Isn’t it at all possible that she saw an opportunity to do something good with the condition that has forever altered her life? Does anyone really think she is truly doing this for the money? My guess is that her butter empire is well funded already. Maybe, just maybe, after dealing with this condition for the past few years she decided to really try to educate others – there is more to the endorsement than the drug itself and with any luck, all of this hype will bring light to the many other things that people with Type II Diabetes can do to improve their lives.

    Just like it is unfair to pretend to “know” what she is doing in her personal life, it is also unfair to pretend to “know” what motivated her timing and her decision to partner with the drug company. Maybe she did sell out and it’s all about the money, or maybe she truly is a good person who wants to help others navigate what she has been navigating. Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not in her head and neither is anyone else so maybe people should stop casting judgement until the day that she says, without any doubt “I’m in it for the money”. Until then, nobody really knows.

  3. Laura January 19, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    Why is it always about the drug companies. $$$$ No doubt!

  4. carrie January 19, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    I agree that Americans can’t blame her for their own bad eating habits, just the same as you can’t blame bad rap music or violent movies for inciting people to do terrible things. The influence, of course, isn’t so great, but individual responsibility (and parental, too), comes into play. What disappoints me the most is that she wasted an opportunity to be really forthright and responsible about this to her fans. She could have said, “y’all we need more moderation in our diets, so let’s look at my recipes and see how we can lighten them up a bit here or there.” She would not have to sacrifice her entire empire; she could have really chosen to use it as a teaching moment. I think people would applaud that kind of courage. It’s a bit more difficult to do that, though, than taking a big check from a drug company. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are ways of making lifestyle changes and being a positive role model that don’t involve becoming a corporate shill for the pharma industry. If you are in the public eye people look up to you and you have power. It would be nice if she’d decided to use this power in a more responsible, less greedy way (unless she’s donating her proceeds to diabetes research?). She already has a platform–her celebrity–so why does she need a drug company to back her message?

    That being said, I’m not a huge fan of her cooking anyway (all that butter and sugar and fat and oh, lord) because it doesn’t really fit in with how I and my family live, but nonetheless, it brings to light lots of issues that are important.

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