Listen Up, Critics: Paula Deen Could Be a Big Force for Change

January 18, 2012 | By | Comments (21)

The online disdain churned up by Paula Deen’s announcement of her recent history of diabetes and her endorsement of a diabetes treatment program seems to come from a pit of acid located not far from the great sea of political vitriol. Bubbling around in this case are issues of class, weight, puritanical judgment, and maybe a dose of condescension toward a self-made woman of the South.

Deen certainly made herself a target for the I-told-you-so crowd: Her gleeful history of laying on fat and sugar and oversized portions have been something to behold (though far less obnoxious than, say, a show like Man Versus Food). Of course, this sort of gleeful excess is not that much different from that shown by legions of comfort-food, pork-fat-mad restaurants in cities like New York in the past few years. But those restaurants are cool. Paula Deen isn’t cool.

What she is is popular. Her pharma partner is presumably counting on that popularity: Many in the target audience are likely to relate to her since, after all, she looks just like many in the target audience.

It’s fair game to wonder why she took three years to announce her condition and to look askance at the timing of her endorsement deal. But the lasting issue will be the quality of her conversion: Will she take a heartfelt, consistent, concrete approach to healthy eating and share the details of what must surely be a difficult struggle with her millions of fans? If so, she could be more of a force for change than the snipers who seem morally outraged that a successful, rather jolly woman is sick.


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    July 17, 2012 at 4:41 am
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    June 7, 2012 at 9:17 pm
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    May 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm
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    March 19, 2012 at 3:34 am
  5. freshersnation

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    March 15, 2012 at 3:10 am
  6. leemcb

    I don’t think it’s fair game to wonder why it took Paula three years to announce her health issues at all. Ever occur, sir, that it would take at least that long to rethink a whole lifestyle and change it? WHY NOT? Seems pretty obvious.
    Also, I’m sick to death of the whiny hate-everything and everybody types, who spend their lives putting the worst possible connotations on everything anybody else does. It does NOT equate to sophistication, it simply makes them sound bitter and petty beyond belief. Folks who have time to be that petty obviously have time to find a life of their own.
    I have never made even one of Paula’s recipes–but I still watch her show every chance I get. She’s an inspiration and she actually seems to enjoy life–which is more than can be said for her sour and dour critics. Listening to them is about as much fun as root canal with no anesthetic. I wish they’d just shut it and quit boring others.
    God forbid they should even do something that might actually ADD to another person’s life, or to society in general.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm
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    February 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm
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    February 23, 2012 at 8:16 am
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    February 10, 2012 at 8:10 am
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    Indeed, this could have considerable impact. I see it as a game changer.

    February 7, 2012 at 9:10 pm
  11. Bette

    I like Victoria’s and Sally’s comments. I’m so sick of we the people not being responsible for our own actions. You had a choice to cook the way Paula does or choose to lighten up her recipes. You also have a choice to watch her program or not. This politically correct stuff has to come to an end. Leave Paula alone to do what she does best…cook! From where she once was, she’s made a ton of money and worked for every penny. She isn’t asking YOU to fork over money to pay for her diabetes so just do your own thing and leave her alone! It’s about choices, people. YOURS!!!!

    February 5, 2012 at 5:18 pm
  12. Meggie

    For those ignorantly falling in line to rush to her defense, you might want to read this article first.
    If she was comfortable putting people’s health at risk for years before getting diabetes, of course she’s going to be comfortable putting them at risk with the treatment she promotes.
    For the record, there are no low blows aimed at Paula in that piece. Just plain old good logic and common sense, y’all!

    January 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm
  13. quadidda musaf

    be an apologist all you want for the woman. as you well know her cooking is often utter crap. she’s primarily motivated in all she espouses as the stooge for her agribusiness & big pharma sponsors commensurate w/ the endorsement deals she covets. her pockets are lined & happily fat. she’s a deeply cynical & avaricious mercenary of a person who you seem to find sincere.

    January 19, 2012 at 9:57 am
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    January 19, 2012 at 3:08 am
  15. Sally

    Wow, I’m shocked by the comments that are so negative. Paula Deen has a right to make a living and everyone has a right not to support that business. I watch Paula, not because of what she cooks, but of the memories it brings me of growing up in the south where I learned to cook at my Grandmother’s knee. Anyone who owns a TV, is bombarded by all types of info, bad and good. Just watch for 5 minutes and count all the commercials for Fast food that are on.. As a suffer of heart disease, I look to myself and my physician for answers not TV shows. And who is Anthony Bourdain to say anything, when all he seems to do on his show is smoke and drink!!!!!!

    January 18, 2012 at 4:24 pm
  16. Victoria

    I agree with Ms. McGrath. Ms. Deen has every right to privacy in her medical condition. The fact that she waited to go public until she had something she deemed worth bringing to the public and helpful to her fans should not be criticized. I have been shocked by the vitriol this has brought out on the Web. People seem glad she is ill. Shame on anyone who has found joy in another’s misfortune. Ms. Deen has never claimed to be a health food cook and surely no one with a brain could have viewed her recipes as anything other than an occasional indulgence.

    January 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm
  17. Djinn

    As I understand it the pharmaceutical company was not aware of her condition when they asked her to represent them. They just asked her to slim down some of her recipes and help them with their project to promote a healthy lifestyle change (and sell their meds, of course). If Paula wants to use her fame to help others adopt a healthier lifestyle how is this hypocrisy? She has a cooking show about Southern food, not about low-cal food, it’s not like she has a personal mission statement to make people fat.

    January 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm
  18. Pamela

    My sentiments exactly!

    January 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm
  19. Leah McGrath, RD LDN

    Glad you wrote this and I agree. Her medical condition is between her and her physician. Though she is a public figure and a brand she is still a human and is under no obligation to share her medical history with the public. There is great opportunity in this announcement, only time will tell. Ms. Deen has an enormous following who will be watching.

    January 18, 2012 at 1:58 pm
  20. Mutt

    Just ‘liking’ or ‘+1’ing’ the comment above. Meggie gets it exactly right. Deen is disgusting for sitting on the news for three years while pushing foods that, when taken together, put people on the road to diabetes. Her defense that she’s ‘not your doctor’ is just sad, she takes no personal responsibility for what she pushes.

    January 18, 2012 at 11:35 am
  21. Meggie

    I find this article to be a little ignorant of the reasons people are upset, and extremely presumptive. “…maybe a dose of condescension toward a self-made woman of the South.”? I haven’t seen a single bit of that anywhere. I can’t even imagine what that kind of criticism verbalized would look like. Yeah, and she started her own company in a Southern state while owning a vagina, boo!
    This is about hypocrisy. This is about how she’s monetizing her disease, how she planned to do that for years instead of trying to help others with a health epidemic that’s sweeping the nation – one that she has snubbed her nose at rather loudly for years.
    People would be this outraged if a ‘Northern’ man had continued to successfully endorse cigarettes to the public three years after learning he has lung cancer, and then had come out in partnership with a company selling some sort of cancer treatment.
    No one is upset that a jolly woman is sick. Many people are upset that a hypocritical person has decided to cash in instead of attempting to help save the lives and the health of the people who made her who she is. The lasting issue here is not going to be what she does with the opportunity, because it might not be that big of an opportunity now that she’s tarnished her reputation and broken people’s trust.
    I’m also a little disappointed that Cooking Light would allow something like this to be published under their name. It comes across as ignorant of the frustration surrounding this, and extremely condescending towards those who disagree with the way the author seems to think people “should” be reacting. Cooking Light is better than this.

    January 18, 2012 at 11:16 am

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