Case in point this week: Paula Deen.
The Savannah celebrity cook and personality is still trending on Twitter. “We Support Paula Deen” has more than 509,000 followers on Facebook – more than half of those joined the page after a tearful Deen appeared on the Today Show on Wednesday. Social media is overloaded with Deen jokes and memes.
In turn, Deen has lost millions of dollars in contract cancellations and endorsement deals including major ones with Target, Walmart and Caesar Entertainment. Deen fans, however, aren’t taking this news lying down at all.
On Friday, Deenites – as I like to call them – are sending clean butter wrappers with letters of disappointment to the Food Network in New York to protest the cancellation of her shows. “Like this empty butter wrapper, you are just an empty shell without Paula,” many are writing.
To show their gratitude to companies sticking with Deen, fans send letters of support and buy their products. On Thursday night, Deen fans participated in an online lovefest sharing photos and stories about meeting the Southern cook.
A website called “Stitches ‘n Dishes” has opened online where 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to The Bag Lady Foundation, Deen’s charity which was established “to provide hope, inspiration and support to women and families during their time of need.” Fans can buy Deen’s lines of cookware and dinnerware, cookbooks, DVDs and groceries such as hot sauce and marmalade.
And the Deen revolution continues next week. July 3 has been declared “Paula Deen Appreciation Day” and fans are asked to make a donation to the Bag Lady Foundation. More than 14,000 have RSVP’d on Facebook to participate. Not to mention, fans will undoubtedly rally to fund a museum slated for Deen’s childhood home in Albany, Ga., her birthplace.
So it seems that the 66-year-old Southern grandma who said the “N” word is everywhere.
But at its core, the Paula Deen controversy is simply a media-whipped frenzy over one of their own. Media, as with many of these faux controversies, always like to divide people into two distinct camps – those who love someone and those who think that someone should be executed. There are seldom any shades of gray.
For example, When interviewing Deen on The TODAY Show, Matt Lauer grilled the Savannah cook as if she was on the stand for murder or sexual molestation of small children instead of a mistake of political incorrectness decades ago. Why? Because Lauer needs ratings. He, too, needs to be in the headlines. He needs to keep his job. And he needs to do his duty to keep people clearly divided.
Meanwhile, Deen’s latest cookbook, Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up has hit the number one spot on Amazon.com. Who cares that it’s not scheduled to be released until October?
As singer Don Henley so adequately said in “Dirty Laundry,” his 1980’s hit about the media, “Dirty little secrets / Dirty little lies/ We got our dirty little fingers / In everybody’s pie.” That includes Paula Deen’s right now.
And, it’s completely bonkers.
We have bigger Twinkies to fry.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt” and “1000 Best Bartender’s Recipes.” She writes frequently for Reuters, TakePart, and numerous other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.