So, it’s true. Paula Deen does have type 2 diabetes, and she is shilling for a pharmaceutical firm that makes a leading diabetes treatment drug.
Cue the fat-shaming.
Of course, people are saying. Look at how she cooks. Look at how she eats. The comments have been ruthless, and they definitely focus on her looks. She’s a pig, a sow, a fat slob, someone with a grating voice and terrifying face. And some of these comments, which you’d expect in a comment section from anonymous trolls, are showing up in the copy of articles in reputable papers. Just to make sure we’re getting the full story, I guess.
She’s also getting shamed for cashing in—first, she made money teaching people how to eat to become diabetic, now, she’s making money as a spokesperson for a diabetes drug.
I’m going to hold back on being too judgmental for the moment. I don’t think anyone deserves to get a disease, and I’m not happy when someone gets one.
Could she have eaten better personally, and presented healthier meals on her television show?
I’m sure personally she doesn’t eat nearly as excessively as we might imagine she does. I doubt that any chef with a cooking show actually whips up the same sorts of meals three times a day for “personal use” that he or she concocts for the at-home audience.
As for presenting healthier cooking on her show, well, can you name any other cooking shows, or really, any live-action shows, on the airwaves in these United States of Excess that extoll moderation? Isn’t there a show that features a guy who travels around the world eating monkey eyeballs and squid testicles? Would she really have been able to make a career out of being Paula Deen, the queen of moderately healthy southern cooking who substitutes unsweetened applesauce for butter?
Like it or not, our infotainment culture rewards excess and larger-than-life personalities. Paula Deen, bless her heart, overcame some pretty massive personal issues and figured out a way to exploit that culture to her great economic benefit. Now, faced with the revelation that she’s got a disease that suggests the meals she’s been cooking aren’t all that good for you, she’s found another way to keep the cash flow positive.
It’s not too often that, as a culture, we criticize people for finding a way to make money. But Paula Deen seems to be attracting the same level of vitriol as Martha Stewart, and something about that just doesn’t smell right to me.
I watched the clip of Al Roker, who famously lost so much weight and has maintained that loss, interviewing her on the Today Show. The most telling part of the interview came at the end, when she started to talk about her son’s show which will (or maybe already is) promoting healthier recipes. Too late to talk about healthy habits! The segment was coming to an end, and there was no real time to talk about healthy eating. Plenty of time for shaming, for scolding, and for her opportunity to offer a public mea culpa (which she really didn’t), but healthy eating tips aren’t good television.
Maybe I’m giving her too much benefit of the doubt here. Maybe, as a person who has always loved to bake decadent, fat-and-sugar-laden desserts for the people I love, I’m taking this too personally. I’d like to think that I might have used my position and fame a little differently than Paula were I in her shoes.
But I’m not, and I still reflexively go on the defensive when everyone else gangs up on the fat person who should’ve known better and now deserves gleeful, public excoriation.