Paula Deen is an inherently likable Southern woman who has a talent for putting her foot straight in her mouth. In telling People that she felt like “that black, gay football player”, it looked to many as though she simply does not know any better, but the fact of the matter is, she is doing what so many celebrities have done before her. In putting her own bacon in the fire again, she is keeping her name alive in the press.
There is no excuse for using racial epithets, though; this is, after all, 21st century society and as such, it operates on the ideal that everyone is more or less equal. The argument could be raised that there is two different levels in the court system – one for the rich and one for the poor – but that is another argument for another time. This is about Paula Deen.
To be sure, the former Food Network star did not choose her words wisely. Twitter immediately lit up as soon as her interview with People hit newsstands. However, in making such a reference, she ensured that everyone would be reading that interview when it came out. Any publicity that was done prior to the magazine hitting retail outlets everywhere would definitely ramp up sales, if for no other reason than the buyer had to see this sweet Southern lady actually say what she did in print.
However, as she continues the fight to get her good name back, what has been completely glossed over is anything else that may have been said or done in the interview. People are dynamic and always changing; that is part of their nature, and that seems to be forgotten every time someone says something incredibly stupid. People also continue to make mistakes. However, it is important to realize that while Paula Deen referred to football player Michael Sam as “that black, gay football player”, she was making a connection to always having something following her, like that unwanted shadow or the murky past that some people hope always remains behind them. Deen may have put her bacon in the fire again, but that does not allow people to continue to judge her based on poor word choices.
She says in her People interview that she used to have dreams that she had lost every success she ever had and that last summer, when things seemed at her lowest, she would struggle to even get out of bed. Those who have struggled with depression can connect very deeply to that sort of sentiment. No doubt the former Southern cooking doyenne could relate; a poor choice of words from several years ago bit her right in the butt, and she has no one else to blame but herself for that one. She was the creator of her own demise last summer, but the People interview was about reconnecting with a public that used to love her.
In choosing the words she did, readers will have completely forgotten what else was said in the article. However, it is important to examine what was said and realize that people make mistakes daily. One of Deen’s former Food Network colleagues, Robert Irvine, who survived a 2008 scandal where he padded his resume, advised Deen that she had already taken her lumps and it was time to stop eating crow.
Perhaps it is time for society to quit vilifying her as well. She is a friendly, outstanding chef who clearly loves what she does. To crucify her for a bad choice of words – once again – is to boil her down to a one-note person, and no person is one-note. People in general are full of different aspects that make them unique, and even though Paula Deen has once again put her bacon in the fire, it is important to realize that she is more than the couple of mistakes that she has made.
By Christina St-Jean