Friday, June 28, 2013


I used to occasionally watch Paula Deen on the Food Network. She was nuts, her show was one cliche after another, but it was more fun than watching the news when I had just come home from work and needed to let my brain decompress.

Then I heard about the "incident." At first, I heard it played up like it happened yesterday - like she went around regularly using a discredited and ugly term for a black person.

Um, no. Turns out it was one instance, about 30 years ago.

And I admit, I felt bad about her (I think, though, there's a segment of the population who like to look at the things non-elites enjoy, and spit on them, and try to ruin their enjoyment of them) and decided not to watch anymore. Because it does feel a little skeevy to me to think about someone saying that, because usually, the stuff coming out of your mouth reflects what's in your heart.

But now, I don't know. Apparently it was one incident. And she made the comment about "Have any of you never said anything you'd like to take back?" Oh, hell, I KNOW I have. I regularly say stuff - no, not the word in question, not terms like that - but I say stuff that I realized hurt someone without my meaning it to, or I make a joke that's stupid and taken the wrong way, and yeah, I'd like to take it back. And I'm sure I said some really stupid stuff 30 years ago, which is about the time frame when she is alleged to have said what she said.

And the whole thing is just such a giant cluster, and such a weird thing: why does one famous person get to say nasty, hateful things (Alec Baldwin, I'm looking at you) and seemingly gets a pass, and another one said one bad thing decades ago, and it's time to get out the tar and feathers? (It's not politics: Deen, as far as I know, is an Obama supporter; I think she was also a Hilary Clinton supporter). Maybe it's the "you're a racist" thing; it seems now that even implying someone is a racist is about the worst brush you can paint them with these days. (Even worse than their being a misogynist. Or being someone who has been multiply unfaithful to their spouse. Or even someone who does questionable things with their sex organs - Anthony Weiner may wind up as the next president of NYC, despite his Tweetmeltdown)

I suspect some of it is that there's a segment of the population who sees folks like Deen as being uppity, and deserving of being taken down a notch: Why, she's a stupid Southerner! She promotes unhealthy food! She's icky! And there does seem to be a certain level of glee at her downfall. And I find that really unseemly. It's like there are some people that it's approved by some elite to "like" and to forgive if they mis-step, but if they're not on the list - well, then they can go to hell, and we'll laugh all the way as they go.

And you know? When someone who is famous, who is perhaps even looked up to by some, mis-steps and falls, it makes me sad. Even celebrities I generally dislike. (I'm watching with dismay now a couple of cases of NFL players - one who used to be a Patriot, one who is still a Cowboy despite being jailed - who have committed (or allegedly committed) crimes that led to someone's death. Actually, it seems that there have been quite a lot of arrests of NFL folks recently, and that's unfortunate, because they're sometimes held up as an example of men for boys to look up to....)

I don't like the glee at someone's downfall, even when it is someone who otherwise was a total jerk and maybe, just maybe, deserved it. (I once talked with someone who had met Deen. His impression of her was that she was a genuinely nice person, which is why it makes me all the sadder to hear of this incident.) I don't know what kind of a life a person has to take such pleasure in watching someone else's pain, watching someone else's career unravel thanks to a very ill-advised thing they did years and years ago....

And, I don't know, maybe instead of rubbing our hands together and cackling over stuff, we need to stop and realize: that could be me. I could say or do something wrong at some point and face those consequences. Would I want other people to treat me the way I am treating this person, my weaker brother or sister?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These days, most folks fail to realize that there are two aspects to the sin of envy (which most these days misdefine as a kind of covetousness). One is the resentment of good things that happen to others. The other is schadenfreude, the joy in the suffering of others that you have identified here. Interestingly, these days we have reached the point at which we not only experience that latter form of envy, but we exult in it.