I love the mall, because frankly, I'm visually amused. It's like TV, really. (Except, well, I still don't want to see your boxer shorts, or your g-string, so please, pull up your pants.)
The internet... is a little more complex. It's like TV, in many ways, except that you actually get to SEE the end results of people being told how to think and feel (and often, with the added boost of anonymity). And believe me, there are plenty of influential forces on the internet, just like on TV, trying to tell us how to think and feel.
So... all of this being said, it came as no surprise to me when yesterday, everyone became the judge and jury of Paula Deen, when a rumor broke out that she would soon be announcing that she has Type 2 Diabetes, and would be signing a major endorsement deal with big pharma corporation, Novartis. Tweeterers, and folks commenting on articles, let their disgust be loudly, and well known. Even certain entities in the diabetes online community, which I will leave unnamed, immediately and openly expressed their disgust, with expressions like "Ugh!," and "Really? Ya think?," only to delete those tweets later. My fellow pals at The Blue Heel Society have been working OVERTIME just trying to put out some of the fires.
Why are people getting so worked up?
Well, sadly, some of the backlash from this will BE that people will use her as an example and an excuse to ridicule, bully, and belittle others, especially Type 2 Diabetics, and spread misinformation that diabetes is caused by too much consumption of sugar, butter, lard, or fried foods. There's just no getting around that.
I do think, however, that people just love to hate Paula Deen, for the sake of hating Paula Deen. Let's look at some facts.
1. Paula Deen is annoying as *&%#. I can't sit through much of her show without her little terms of endearment, expressions, and actual pitch and tone of her voice, getting on my very last nerve. Frankly, she's a little annoying to look at, too. I can't really put my finger on it... but there's just something about her hair, and what she wears, and how she carries herself... She doesn't have the most razzle/dazzle personality out there. This alone makes perfect fodder for being the SCAPEGOAT to anything we can possibly hate, and what is more vilified in our current decade than apparent unhealthful eating? Am I right?
I know, I know what you're saying...! I can read your mind. You are an HONEST, unbiased person... and you would NEVER hate someone for just what they look like, or their personality -- it's that horrible lifestyle she's promoting, and you are raising your voice loudly against it.
Let me ask you this, then... where is your anger for Adam Richman's "Man vs. Food Nation?" I mean, come on... that show makes me PUKE. If anyone glorifies gluttony, it's Adam Richman. But, really, to everyone... He's a star. Everyone loves Adam Richman, and he can do no harm. At least Paula Deen's show was never about "how much can I eat before I bust my guts, attempting it, while I'm on vacation." (Vacation is always the excuse, by the way. Only try killing yourself with food, while on vacation.)
Where is your anger for Sunny Anderson? Yeah, she has some healthy recipes... But so does Paula Deen! Sunny Anderson is basically, a younger, black Paula Deen, cooking Southern Soul Food. Why is she not the Queen of Evil? She obviously has a few pounds to lose, as well...
"Oh, but Paula Deen cooks with butter, and lots of sugar, and lard...!" -- Ummm... Remind you much of Julia Child? Where's your hate for her? She's considered the QUEEN of cooking! And she also BRAGGED about it... and a little more boisterously than Paula Deen.
Oh, wait, I know why... Because she's that annoying woman, with the southern drawl, that reminds you of your redneck aunt who always came and pinched your cheeks, and called you "dumplings." THAT'S WHY.
2. Paula Deen endorses bad eating. Paula Deen has a very overacted, dramatic show, showcasing the southern cuisine she grew up with, just like anyone else who has a show on holiday foods and eating, is showcasing that. If you think her food is bad, then guess what, YOU'RE the one endorsing it when you watch it. In fact, when you watch almost any of the shows on the Food Network, you're endorsing bad eating, AND telling the network you want to keep watching such shows about bad eating. (Let me tell you, for all his bitching, Anthony Bourdain had NO reservations about eating that really fatty, roasted hog on a rod, the last time he visited Puerto Rico...) You can't really pick and choose which particular brand of CRAP cooking you watch is actually crap. That being said... Not any single cuisine or style of eating is going to make you obese, or make you get any disease. Hey, people say it all the time... They say "back in the 50s, you never saw many obese people..." Well, back in the 50s, people ate butter, lard, sugar covered lard butter... whatever. Understand? Food doesn't make anyone, in itself, unhealthy... It is overeating that potentially does. Do I expect Paula Deen to be eating this type of food at home, every day, just because she has a show about it? Well, not anymore than anyone who has a show on holiday food. That would get old, and annoying fast, don't you think? And many of the recipes on her site are actually quite light, lean, and decidedly not southern.
Also... and this might be controversial... but Paula Deen's food, for all it's caloric, sugar, and lard content is probably a LOT healthier than what America currently eats, and buys, on a daily basis. It's at least HOME MADE, and won't sit on a shelf like that burger you ate at McDonald's last night, for 6 months or more, without decomposing!
3. Paula Deen wants to profit from her Diabetes. Well, so far, we really don't know if she has Diabetes. She's going to make an announcement on Tuesday, and it's very likely she might admit to it. (Though, for the future, I'd like to caution any one of you against using sources like The Daily Mail, and The National Enquirer as credible sources of news.) As of yesterday, afternoon, Novartis had told CBS that Paula Deen had not yet signed a deal with them.
All of this being said, if she did... who cares? Why does it anger anyone if she does? Just what exactly are the inferences here? Are you inferring she's going to just use pills as an excuse to keep eating like crap, and pushing bad food? Or are you inferring needing medication as a Type 2 Diabetic is a shameful thing? Or... perhaps you are inferring that people with Diabetes who take big pharma endorsements are amoral, or have sold out? Is this, somehow, any different than Omnipod, Roche, Sanofi Aventis, etc, sponsoring some of the biggest diabetes bloggers out there, right now, paying for all their supplies, and just flying them all over the place? "Yeah, but we spread awareness..." How do you know she's not going to spread awareness? How do you know all she's going to do is ask people to consider a new drug alternative that's actually working for her? Isn't that what you do, as well? Furthermore, how do you know this is actually not a good, extra tool, people with diabetes could benefit from hearing about? How do you even know she might not turn around, and make a show showcasing how you can still eat with flare, and with passion, WHILE managing diabetes?
4. Paula Deen knowingly hid her Diabetes, so she could keep hawking her show. How dare she! How can she sleep at night! Look, let's face it. A lot of people are a bunch of judgmental jerks. These days, everyone weighs any kind of life altering event very carefully before announcing it to the public. Even things like getting married, or getting pregnant, are career enders for many women in the spotlight. I know Paula Deen is no Beyoncé, but folks... If you loved something, with a passion, and suddenly someone gave you some drastic, dramatic, life altering news, you would need some time to think back, and re-evaluate your life. You want to regroup yourself, and your thoughts, before speaking to anyone. And have you stopped to think that she was also probably under contract with the Food Network? I'm sure she couldn't have stopped, mid season, and been like "F it! I got Diabetes now, so I can't go on..." Things like the menu, style, and theme of the show, are likely contractual stipulations. Besides... her health is really her own damn business. Not yours... and certainly not mine.
5. Paula Deen brought this on herself.
"There's no place for sympathy for type 2 diabetics, because factual scientific evidence has shown that it is brought on by themselves. " -- John Sampso, commenting on an MSNBC story.
And herein lies the rub of the matter.
We, as a society, have decided Type 2 Diabetics deserve no sympathy. We have decided that Type 2 Diabetics are subhuman. Undeserving of sympathy, of support, of compassion, and worthy of our judgment, scorn, and policing. We have decided that Type 2 Diabetics, are basically, everything we hate about ourselves, or about the world's injustice toward our loved ones. How dare we lack self control, how dare we can't stay on our diet, how dare we don't lose weight, how dare we eat junk food, how dare we cook unhealthy food. How dare we EXIST.
We can debate ourselves to the moon and back if someone's behavior contributed, or not, to their disease... (And when it comes to Paula, I honestly don't know. She is, after all, 65. Age is a huge contributing factor for Type 2 Diabetes. I don't know how long she's had it, but if she's kept it at bay until now, hell... GOOD FOR YOU, PAULA.)
But, let me ask you this... If someone really did give themselves any disease (which I think we all know life is a little bit more complicated than that)... Does it really matter?
Do they stop being worthy of our humanity? Or is it more... a projection of our OWN inhumanity?
Paula, honey... If you are a diabetic, WELCOME, and I am so sorry. With tears for the future journey ahead of you, I welcome you... Team Paula, all the way, baby.
For Further Reading:
"Lessons from the Butter Incident," Saturday, January 21st, 2012.
"Lessons from the Butter Incident," Saturday, January 21st, 2012.