|Just type in "Paula Deen Riding a Cat" into Google and let the amusement begin. Trust me.|
And that happened back in 2013, when Paula Deen's profitable culinary kingdom of butter came melting down in a heap of PR missteps. If you're not familiar with her fall from grace, you can get a quick recap via CNN or just look up any phrase along the lines of "Paula Deen's a good ol' racist, y'all." But this post isn't about Paula Deen herself, or what she's said or done. This is about her persona, and how it's transformed from a laughable jester, ripe for meme-worthy Photoshopping, to the poster child for Big Bad Racist and a convenient shield to protect institutionalized passive racism that places profit over moral governance.
More people mistake the monster as being Frankenstein, and not the doctor who created it. We're quick to demonize Paula Deen, but what about her equally complicit son Bobby Deen, a grown-ass adult who should know better and quite keen to grow his own media empire (article fr Heavy.com); the Food Network and sibling network Cooking Channel who collectively carry no less than three series featuring Bobby Deen; and most assuredly, Paula Deen's longtime producer and well-tenured Food Network showrunner Gordon Elliott, also seen in the infamous photo? Do they get a pass because we'd much rather recycle admittedly hilarious memes like this?
|Just Google "Paula Deen Loves Butter" - c'mon, you know you want to.|
The realist in me says the buck stops here, that chastising Paula Deen is enough -- mission accomplished, PC Warriors! Complicit people/institutions don't look as funny riding a stick of butter, or maybe they're just not famous enough for us to hold them accountable for perpetuating socially acceptable bigotry. We've relished in the schadenfreude of Paula Deen's burning at the stake in the name of racial equality and, much like a heaping dollop of butter and sour cream, we can't get enough of it. I ask people to decide for themselves when they look at this photo again -- who is the monster, and who are the monster's creators and enablers?
(If you do choose to speak out over shared accountability on social media, make sure to hashtag or tag the Twitter accounts of the @FoodNetwork, @CookingChannel and @BobbyDeen. Social outrage is only as valuable as its quantifiable metrics. Ah... 21st Century, you are a strange place.)
Also, for anyone who thinks this photo was harmless or innocent, why couldn't Ricky have been characterized w/ a vintage suit and bow tie, with a 50s hairdo wig? The same attributes that Paula Deen uses for her costume, which are perfectly effective. Bobby Deen's costume's pointed attention to racial attributes (and what looks like prison garb) is what reduces it to ethnic stereotyping.