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Monday, June 24, 2013

The Cultural Assassination of Paula Deen: Cooking Celeb

Prior to a week ago, we had no idea who Paula Deen was.

Sincerely..

Cooking is not our forte..  If we can put two frozen waffles into a toaster without burning them and setting off smoke alarms, we consider that a success..

That's how much we care about cooking and celebrity chefs much less bother to watch a network like the Food Network (owned 70% by Scripps Broadcasting, 30% by Tribune Co.)
But now everyone knows her-- She was fired from the Food Network we're told because she used the dreaded 'N' word to a former employee...

Shame Shame!  No one likes being called a Nerd!

Oh.. it wasn't That 'N' word...

Nonetheless, the more we were forced to read of this distraction from the real news of a dreadfully stalled economy, NSA wiretapping, IRS shenanigans, and a President providing arms to Syrian rebels who are openly Al Qaeda yet having the audacity to say we weren't taking sides...

The more we were forced to care on this, the more we wanted to delve beyond the headlines and understand what the big to-do was involving a woman we honestly had no idea who she was last week at this time...
So the big scandal.. the reasoning for her firing was she used the 'N' word.  Of course, her contract was up at the end of June i.e. six more days so one can't really be 'fired' can they?

It simply wasn't renewed..  or was it?

We'll get back to that in a moment...

For now let's address the racism aspect.  What makes a true racist-- is it what they say or what they do?

If someone says the 'N' word but employees many blacks and gives them a livelihood and means to pay their bills, is that a racist?
What about a TV network that employs a total of three or four token blacks for all of their 7 day programming week?

What's wrong Food Network, can't a black chef be turned into a brand name to be exploited and profited off of too?!

And let's say you had a housekeeper who was black and it was found out that person stole from you to the tune of over $100,000 before being apprehended and arrested, would not a certain epithet not pop into your subconscious?
From AP Dec 23, 2010:

"Personal housekeeper Mary White, former employee of Food Network celebrity chef Paula Deen, has just been sentenced to 18 months in prison, a $6,000 fine, and 6 months of probation due to the theft of Deen's personal household valuables earlier this year.

White served as Deen's housekeeper from August of 2009 to May of 2010 at her home in Wilmington Island, GA, which is also used as a Food Network TV set. During that time, White procured over $100,000 in jewelry and personal valuables, selling them at pawn shops across Savannah and Garden City according to local police reports."

Funny how a word can be completely hijacked and controlled by a group of people who utter it incessantly both among each other and via their entertainment, especially their music.
Ironically 100 years ago (1912) the first professional baseball strike occurred over that word.  Except it wasn't directly at a black person.. It was a white heckler calling a white baseball player that.

And not just any common player but the great Ty Cobb who responded to the insult by charging into the stands 12 rows up and properly pommeling the jerk with fists and feet until being pulled off..

The American League President Ban Johnson suspended Cobb indefinitely.  His teammates who really weren't fond of Cobb, nonetheless took his side and argued there is no greater offense to one's dignity than to be called a 'half-N' and to protest the suspension, the Detroit Tigers unanimously agreed to strike.
~ Hall of Fame plaque

After a team of scab players were quickly assembled and destroyed by the Philadelphia A's by a score of 26-2, Johnson threatened long-term suspensions and banishment if they didn't return to playing.  Cobb encouraged them to go back to the team and they did..  Cobb was fined $50 and resumed playing along side his teammates.

100 years later, a woman can lose her livelihood and what she spent an entire lifetime to build in a split second over a word millions upon millions of blacks say to one another.

Did you know, according to the Guardian UK, the N word was used a whopping 213 times in Quentin Tarentino's film "Django Unchained"??   That's 7x more than in one of his previous films 'Jackie Brown' where the word was uttered 38 times..
Tarentino not only directed the films but wrote both screenplays...

And he is still earning a living, isn't he?

Now let's get back to the whole brouhaha between Deen and the Food Network....

The firing, dismissal or whatever one calls it was based a legal complaint filed that among other things she said the N word to a former employee..

When was this complaint filed?
Last week?  Last month?

No... 16 months ago...

From AP, March 6, 2012:

"Lisa Jackson, the former general manager of Deen's Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, alleges in her lawsuit that she was subjected to intense sexual harassment during her five years of employment..."

Maybe its true... maybe its a shakedown.. who knows or cares..

But the Food Network knew of these allegations for over a full year and yet did or said Nothing!
Why didn't they fire her on the spot back in March, '12??

Could it be she was too much of a cash-cow for the network?

And yet she is to be gone presently... what changed?'

Did the Food Network develop suddenly a moral compass?

One of their chefs, Cat Cora was arrested last year for DUI-- an offense that could have killed herself or others..  But she's still on the network, making a very good living doing what she loves with no economic or cultural repercussions...
Funny isn't it...

Now some will say it was that she admitted she said it under oath during deposition, thus Food Network was warranted to dismiss her...

Could the reason have more to do with this: According to the New York Post, May 3, 2013, "The Food Network shed 17% of its audience during the 12 months through April 30... The average prime time show on the cable channel slipped to 1.06 million."
Thus there was a feeling that Deen was now expendable, especially since she doesn't fit the young and  physically fit image being pushed on the channel and its sister network Home & Garden TV (HGTV) which saw its ratings rise due to adding more beefcake.

As the Post states, "America seems to like HGTV’s handy hunks"

Or maybe its more of spiteful revenge on the part of the Food Network.

They've been re-negotiating a new contract with Deen for months and couldn't find an agreement.  Maybe Deen wanted too much money or power or influence.
Seems this woman who was at first a Food Network creation has developed into a brand name on her own like Martha Stewart and perhaps she let Food Network know in clear terms she didn't need them..

Plenty of other entrepreneurial 'fish' in the sea-- the Oxygen network, Women's Entertainment (WE Network), perhaps a syndicated deal to appear on her own morning show on one of the big-3 networks...

Sky was the limit...  She has books and videos.. Regular appearances on QVC...  who needs this little TV network who at best draws in 1 million viewers for a TV show (For comparison purposes, the O'Reilly Factor's ratings are regularly 2.9 which is about 3x the viewers who watch the most watched Food Network show)
So the Food Network basically F'd Paula Deen over..  The classic ''If you don't re-sign with us on our terms, we'll destroy you' move.

Businesses do this all the time.  Especially to women.

Say for example you fudge your resume-- you lie on your education or work background, etc. then your employer finds out...  Well the good news is in all likelihood you're not going to be immediately terminated.

The bad news is your boss has something over your head.  Sue them for sexual harassment or something else legitimate and they can say in court you're a liar because you lied on your resume and thus what else would you lie about..
Or you demand a raise or promotion and they tell you 'Sorry.. we noticed you lied on your resume but tell you what.. we will keep you but at current salary (or reduction of X percent)'

Scorched earth professional warfare but hey, its just business.. nothing personal...

We don't know what will come about from all this.. Hopefully the channel's ratings will continue to plummet until out of existence and Deen will be able to resume a successful career doing what she loves.

Most importantly, we hope and wish for a time when language and word choice is not controlled by any specific group of people for their own agendas and ulterior motives.

It just sets a dangerous precedent with very bad consequences for all.
~ 1970s comedy album title