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Facing the Scarlett O'Hara Syndrome

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Considering I'm always on a diet, I could never eat all that butter Paula Deen serves, but at least I thought she was interesting and entertaining. Besides, I have southern roots, my mother being from Macon, Georgia, so I'm not unfamiliar with the southern cooking. Ms. Deen, however, seems to have brought not only southern cooking to the table, but also the southern past to her show on the Food Network, and to her workplace empire.

From what we read in the deposition of former employees, the Deen family operated a work place in which African Americans were made to feel slavery never ended, and women were made to feel the Nineteenth Amendment never been passed. Deen admits she missed the Civil Rights movement. Evidently she missed the entire Women's Movement as well.

One wonders how long this had been going on and why it took so long for anyone to notice. Ms. Deen doesn't seem to have been shy about speaking up on the issue of race. According to recently surfaced articles and videos she has spoken about her Southern heritage on several accounts. Now she's evidently shocked to have been called out for her antediluvian thinking. She's surprised at being fired from the Food Network. She can't really be this clueless? No I don't think so. I think Deen believed everyone else thought like she did. Racist? What are you people talking about? I'll bet if you asked Scarlett O'Hara, she would have told you she wasn't racist either.

Paula Deen's romanticizing of the Civil War, what I call the "Scarlett O'Hara" syndrome, is particularly interesting to me. Deen seems to dream of the era of beautiful white women prancing around in lace and ignorance, elegant Rhett Butlers at their feet. Ms. Prissy, clad in shift dress and head rag, is constantly at their beck and call, ready to serve their every need. That's Deen's world. In one video Ms. Deen bemoans one of her relatives who killed himself after the Civil War because he lost his son and his "workers," and couldn't go on. Workers being the euphemism for slave. Ms. Dean nostalgically remembers his plight with almost tears in her eyes. (You remember, the plantation burning while Scarlett escapes). Deen makes no mention of the lives of the so called "workers," and what they'd lost. No mention of the fact that her relative had likely split the "workers'" families apart when he purchased members for unpaid forced labor. For people like Ms. Deen, her family's part in this era is a matter of romance and the Civil War was that nasty ol' northern aggression, (can't you hear Scarlett saying it)?

Ms. Deen goes on in the same video at some kind of talk in New York, to pull out her "black friend," ace in the hole card, yet she can't even be respectful in this effort. She describes her "friend" as "black as the board," and instructs him to come from behind the board so people could see him. Sounds just like something Scarlett O'Hara would say if Scarlett had a black friend.

Then there's the wedding. The romantic wedding with the black servants dressed like slaves. Deen's fantasy beautiful wedding. Definitely a wedding Scarlett would have.

Women don't fare much better in Deen's antebellum world. Her work place is alleged to have been a bastion of hostility for women in which pornography was passed around at meetings. Scarlett smacked by Rhett, more of the romance Deen seems to relish.

The sad thing is Paula Deen does not seem to understand the problem. For her, this romantic world of white superiority, lots of butter, and black people and women workers knowing their place, is the way it's supposed to be. We know all of the people in the south aren't like Ms. Deen, but too many are. For them the Civil War and the world of Scarlett O'Hara rages onward.