I’ve noticed something peculiar. People seem to have pretty extreme reactions to the Paula Deen scandal. On one end of the spectrum, I have friends who are boycotting all of Deen’s sponsors who dropped her. On the other end, I have friends who are boycotting Paula Deen and her shows and products. The one thing these two groups have in common is that they are all pretty vocal about their thoughts.
Personally, I can’t get very excited about Deen, neither her offenses nor the aftermath. It’s people’s strong reactions that got me interested in the affair. After some thought, I realized that Paula Deen’s schtick revolves around romanticizing antebellum southern culture. Her comments inflamed many people because, at some subcousious level most non-southerners believe that racism lays just out of sight in that romance.
The Slate Culture Gabfest does a good job of dissecting this phenomena. Jump to it here.
Gone with the Wind was awash in plantations. It was soaked in racism; the kind that would quite naturally and shamelessly compare a young slaves to animals like bucks and tigers. The comparison was thoughtless and completely unconscious. The slaves aren’t considered to have dreams or volition. Margaret Mitchell lays out how kind her characters were to the slaves. They would care for their health. There were so kind as to purchase their children or spouses. Ah, the kind, kind plantation owners getting rich off the free labor of slaves. They work so hard and spend some of their precious wealth on their slaves. Oh the generosity! Her attitude is patronizing and insulting.
Race issues aside, Scarlett O’Hara is a selfish ass. Gone with the Wind is a very long book to dislike the main character. I’m sure Scarlett’s racism prevented me from feeling any ounce of sympathy for her. In fact, I failed to find sympathy for any of the wealthy plantation owners who found themselves in poverty after The Civil War. Their wealth came off the backs of others. Regardless, the characters are so entitled.
I thought this book would help me find appreciation for southern culture. It did not. Enter Paula Deen’s big mouth. Given my recent reading, any sympathy I might have had for Deen is now gone with the wind. She said something offensive. She faced repercussions for saying it. She’s a wealthly woman who might be a little less wealthy.
Summary: If this book were considerably shorter, I would suggest it for a read. But given that’s very long, I don’t recommend it.
Quotes that I like: “There was no one to tell Scarlett that her own personality, frighteningly vital though it was, was more attractive than any masquerade she might adopt. Had she been told, she would have been pleased but unbelieving. And the civilization of which she was a part would have been unbelieving too, for at no time, before or since, had so low a premium been placed on feminine naturalness.”
“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it’s no worse than it is.”