The Pioneer Woman Shoots the Birdsall

When will the madness end?  The following litany from Chow.com is a textbook example of how the Pioneer Woman’s media team uses an image-building, scorched earth strategy to steamroll her into modern culture. Publicists, much like lobbyists, are essentially highly compensated cheerleaders who rally the troups, in this case a free-lance journalist, to raise awareness for their clients.

In spinning his favorable review, one heavy in hyperbole and wild, unresearched claims, author John Birdsall intends that readers will embrace his foolish adulation of the Pioneer Woman.  According to his Twitter profile, Birdsall’s a “drinker of whiskey.”  Presumably, he was shit-faced when he wrote this.*  Our commentary is in bold.

“Ree Drummond has a face that looks as pale and soft as biscuit dough, dimpled and a little jowly. It’s a face that never once loses its grin (thanks to Botox and PhotoShop) through entire episodes of The Pioneer Woman, Drummond’s cooking show on the Food Network. Brashly copper-haired, with eyebrows sketched into quizzical arches, the Pioneer Woman wears her smile like a shrug, one that seems to say, “To hell with being perfect.” At the same time, she’s showing you how to make perfect crème brûlée.  Julia Child she’s not. Her version of crème brûlée can be found in most church and community cookbooks published in Oklahoma.  

That’s the manufactured tension at the heart of Drummond’s show—how to make perfect food in the midst of an imperfect life. “If something doesn’t turn out just right,” the Pioneer Woman says in a promo, “I say, ‘Look, it’s rustic,’ and then I feel better.” The thing is, on her TV show, the food always manages to turn out just right.  Of course it does, thanks to editing. 

Female viewers will identify with Drummond’s mix of dorkishness and girlish grace (“I channel Eve Harrington, Lucille Ball, Vivien Leigh, and Ethel Merman,” her Twitter profile says).   Could we have a show of hands from all females who identify with a talentless hack making an ass of herself.  A stampede of kids and animals and dust are always threatening to invade the soaring, light-filled Oklahoma lodge house built on the backs of the US taxpayer using the Drummond’s BLM income  (it looks a lot like a sprawling home in a high-end suburb) she shares with the silent, hunky rancher husband she calls Marlboro Man. And yet Drummond executes meals that almost anyone could make—even with the demands of laundry and homeschooling and the occasional bout of paralyzing despair—and make beautifully.   How many more hired guns are going to invoke the laundry and homeschooling lunacy?  And exactly what’s beautiful about unhealthy recipes made with copious amounts of butter, salt, whipping cream, sugar and  bricks of cream cheese? The Pioneer Woman is about weaving an escapist fantasy out of the mundane strands of a woman’s life.  Lovely play on words, but speak for yourself Birdsall.  My “mundane strands” are tended to quite nicely and they don’t involve the Pioneer Woman’s mind-numbing bullshit.

A lot has been written about the Pioneer Woman and her blog, which existed long before the TV show. Yeah, but it doesn’t appear you read any of it i.e. Pie Near Woman and The Pioneer Woman Sux before you pimped yourself out.  Drummond’s first cookbook debuted at the top of the New York Times best-seller list (her latest, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier, has been on the list for a couple of weeks now). Also debuting there: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story, Drummond’s 2010 memoir (in the loosest sense of the word) about being romanced by her chaps-wearing husband, Ladd, and moving from L.A. to Oklahoma. The New Yorker has profiled her  but author Amanda Fortini later admitted her initial impressions were flawed.  She has 300,000 Twitter followers and more than 400,000 likes on Facebook. Her website gets 20 million hits a month. Drummond is a megabrand.  Sources?  Do you have links for any of this or did you insert the press suppository straight up your roped and branded ass?

But if some Saturday morning you just clicked onto The Pioneer Woman on TV, not knowing Drummond’s net worth, you might not guess she draws Martha-size audience share. Too bad those “Martha-size” audiences didn’t bother to tune in, much less call-in during the Pioneer Woman’s recent interview on SiriusXM’s Martha Stewart Living Radio. The episodes on season two of the show—through pacing, visual styling, and the narratives that play out over the course of 30 minutes—reinforce Drummond’s branding, which is to say they seem totally authentic. “I live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere,” Drummond says in voiceover as the show starts, “and I’ve got a lot of mouths to feed.” It’s a tagline soaked in relationship marketing, for women who feel overwhelmed with everything that’s on their plate. This is masterful food TV.  That’s a joke, right?  Or did you snort a line of coke before you wrote it?

A recent episode, “Triple Act,” found Drummond getting ready for the arrival of her mom, Gee, and sister Betsy for a girls’ weekend. The Pioneer Woman asks a lot of open-ended questions because she thinks it’s humorous, but comedy isn’t this gal’s strong suit. “What is it about scallops? They’re so wonderful.” Or, “What is it about moms and daughters getting together that never gets old?” The questions reinforce Drummond’s bond with viewers, even as they carry the force of philosophical musings. Are you delusional? He wasn’t lying about loving whiskey.

A softly grinning Drummond preps crème brûlée in anticipation of the family reunion. “This is the happiest day of my life,” she says, and you believe her, just like you believe in the food she’s making. Do you believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus too?  “I don’t know what I’m more excited about,” she pivots to confess, ladling custard into ramekins. “My mom and Betsy visiting or crème brûlée. Maybe both.” Bam! In one stroke, Drummond has closed the sale, injecting her recipe with a meaning deeper than mere taste.  Her prattle sure “closed the sale” for you, didn’t it?

And when it comes time to eat that crème brûlée (after a lunch of pasta and seafood baked in foil) instead of letting Mom and Betsy and Drummond’s two teen daughters have their own ramekins, the Pioneer Woman does something subtle but brilliant. She sets all the ramekins on a tray in the middle of the enormous farmhouse table, and lets everybody dig in communally with spoons: female bonding over dessert, played out visually.  Subtle but brilliant? Good Lord mister, what are you smoking?

Next day, by the end of a Sunday lunch consisting of the kind warm spinach salad  (a personified salad, nice touch)that’s on the menu at a Nordstrom department store cafe, and Gee and Betsy are packing up to go home, Drummond turns her soft-mouthed little smile to the camera. “This is a triumph,” she says. You have to think she means it.  Make my check payable to John Birdsall and ship the Kitchen Aid Mixer, Wusthof knives and iPad to…

The Pioneer Woman airs Saturdays on the Food Network, 10 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, 9 a.m. Central.  For non-cooks and fairy tale lovers only. Serious cooks check your local listings for PBS’s real cooking shows.

Image source: FoodNetwork.com “

*Season 2 of the Pioneer Woman:  Roped and Branded

 

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33 Responses to The Pioneer Woman Shoots the Birdsall

  1. Mary Beth says:

    Pat Brown had an interesting post on getting publicity for a book you have written. I found it very insightful and it gave a peek inside the publishing industry.

    http://patbrownprofiling.blogspot.com/

    MW I owe you an apology. In an earlier post I called you MM instead of MW. It is called dyslexia when you write things backwards. I don’t know what the condition is called when you turn them upside down. I apologize.

  2. RSR says:

    Hi. Someone benevolently posted a link to your site in the Wichita Eagle, under an article about Ree’s upcoming booksigning here. I followed your links to the other bloggers who like you are keeping her really real. I think you all are performing a good service. I stumbled on Ree’s blog waaaay back, and started checking in every few days. Her first contest that I recall was for a $50 gift card to BN or somewhere. According to her the card had been a freebie that she’d received and stuck in her desk drawer; something like that. I’d been a long-time reader by the time the seatbelt mafia attacked. Anyway, right away I pegged her as a narcissist who whored her children, husband, parents, sister, and worse, her brother who doesn’t have the capacity to consent to his persona being appropriated and used publicly for another’s profit. I kept checking her website regularly, but for me it was the same pull that makes people watch a train wreck. I thought it was all relatively harmless except that she didn’t seem to care who might be out there reading about her loved ones and then trying to track them down. I thought the names “Pioneer Woman” and “Marlboro Man” were hopelessly awkward, incongruous, delusional, and well, narcissistic. Anyway, I lost interest in her site for two reasons: 1) she put out that request for people to send her recipes without saying how they would be used, which made me uncomfortable, and then voila she announced a new kitchen blog and cookbook on the way; horribly unethical in my opinion; and 2) her site became completely fragmented and uninteresting to me.

    Now she has shown up here in my local newspaper with an upcoming booksigning; I follow a few links and find she is now on TV and “authoring” books, etc. I read the account you have linked to, about her videotaping her unwarned house guests about their political views. I am aghast at such a calculated and insidious stunt. And not feeding her guests enough for breakfast? I’m completely creeped out. I predict a hard fall for her eventually. It all sounds like she is another Sarah Palin in training. I hope none of her family who have no choice but to be part of her juggernaut, are too badly hurt. I love the independent bookstore here that is hosting her booksigning, so for them I want the event to be a success. But my mixed feelings are apparent.

    (My first post here, so I assume moderation will delay it showing up. Great work here. I’ll look forward to checking your blog and the others occasionally to get updates on the real story.)

  3. shelly says:

    Why cant you post neg on Ree’s blog never ever see any neg post. And hell why so many pic of a dog who has g a s###

  4. Trish says:

    I see that PW is holding a contest for grilling recipes and the rules are to submit an “original recipe.” I’m tempted to get a recipe off the back of Bush’s Beans (sponsor of contest) and change one ingredient, add more butter, and submit it. Maybe I’ll win and get my recipe stolen for the next cookbook!

    • The Marlboro Woman says:

      It’s worth a try!

    • AK says:

      Didn’t you just love her sample recipe for barbequed chicken? Basically it’s just cooked chicken with a horrible sauce glopped around it. How bad is the sauce? Think candied bacon–her beloved balSAMic vinegar in it, of course. Let’s see: fancy bacon, sugar and bacon. Yep, that sounds like good ol’ country cookin’ all right.

      The wench doens’t have two functioning taste buds.

  5. Hellen Wheels says:

    “Press suppository” needs to be entered in the Urban Dictionary! Great job, MW!

    Yeah, that whole Birdsall thing was vomit-inducing. Kinda like PDumb’s food.

    • The Marlboro Woman says:

      Thanks Helen. After you read the same verbiage over and over and over ad nauseam, calling it a press release just doesn’t pack a punch or even begin to describe how incestuous this whole thing is. All these people are so far up each other’s butts, they’re like worms.

  6. Cheyenne says:

    Comment deleted by Admin:

    Cheyene, your commenting privileges have been suspended indefinitely for falsely accusing me of deleting your comment, when I didn’t, and referring to me as “rude” as PW. You can call me just about anything and tell me to go to Hell, but don’t equate me with a media whore. Now my dear, all of your comments have now been deleted.

  7. Jenny says:

    Its surprising that a lot of the comments on that article are from Reebots that take offense at how awful the writer was to Ree, judging her on her looks by calling her doughy, dimpled and jowly. Several of them swear that they couldn’t read past the first paragraph and were horrified that this writer could be so crass, and they’ll never read Chow.com again, yada yada yada. So it seems no one likes his review–her sheeple or the brutal againsters like us.

    • The Marlboro Woman says:

      Where are you reading those? The ones I read were fairly critical of PW–being fake, devoid of cooking skills, etc.

  8. AK says:

    That article is enough to induce projectile vomiting. Birdsall had to be either knee-crawling drunk or desperate to churn out an article. That isn’t a profile, it’s nonsensical word salad.
    My favorite line was Ree’s branding and narrative “seem to be totally authentic”. Now there’s an exercise in critical thinking. Anybody with half a functioning brain cell can tell Ree’s carefully crafted shtick is nonsense. Gee, how many humble lil’ ol’ ranch wives have million dollar Lodges/studio sets on the back forty?
    Shit sells. Wrap it up in enough shiny ribbon and some dang fools will buy it. It’s impossible to respect them though, or the conscienceless hucksters who push the “product”.

  9. I have to say, I read a lot of sarcasm in Birdsall’s article. Like, the definition of tongue in cheek. It didn’t come of as a flattering piece to me.

  10. NG says:

    I can’t believe that article! While I love the description of her face that is a pale as biscuit dough, the rest of the sucking up is enough to make me nauseous.

    Did he see the episode where she made hot chocolate by explaining you don’t need a special packet of mix? She demonstrated her “special” method by…wait for it….melting chocolate chips in warm milk!! Can you believe how fabulous she is?? I would have never thought of that!

  11. Laurel says:

    Ugh. I want to throw up. Her public relations machine is staggeringly efficient and it makes it all the more reprehensible to anyone who clearly sees through her and her b.s.

    Too bad more people don’t pay attention to you and PWSux rather than her $$$. Truth evidently takes a backseat compared to regurgitated pablum once advertising dollars are freely thrown around.

    And by the way, cooking with foil? “after a lunch of pasta and seafood baked in foil”
    Isn’t aluminum toxic?

    http://www.drpepi.com/aluminum-poisoning.php

    • The Marlboro Woman says:

      Thanks for sharing the link. Martha Stewart has always advised against foil coming in direct contact with food. In fact, she has a line of parchment-backed foil to prevent that situation.

      • Beekay says:

        WHAT?? no foil? hmph….if it’s good enough for “silver treasures” on a camping trip, then by golly it’s good enough for me

  12. Eppie says:

    I think Birdsall was paid royally by someone with alot of whiskey to be writing this piece of malarky.

  13. anon. says:

    I’m not sure her “face that looks as pale and soft as biscuit dough” is a compliment.

    Great post, MW!

    • ameliaJake says:

      Anon, I agree with both statements. In fact, I was wondering about the use of the words “jowly” and “brashly” as well. Then there’s the word “dorkishness” . . . Oh, dear, trace it back to its root on
      Wikitionary (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dork) and you will find this definition: Noun

      dork (plural dorks)

      (US, pejorative, slang) A quirky, silly and/or stupid, socially inept person, or one who is out of touch with contemporary trends. Often confused with nerd and geek, but does not imply the same level of intelligence.
      (archaic, vulgar, slang) A penis.

      [edit] Usage notes

      Narrowly used to indicate someone inept or out of touch, broadly used to mean simply “silly, foolish”; compare doofus, twit.

      Could it be the real analysis is coded into his article?

  14. Big Shamu says:

    Was that a April Fool’s joke? Talk about putting lipstick on a pig (of a television show).

    Although I did have to laugh at his comparison of Ree’s audience numbers and Martha Stewart’s. Martha’s television show was cancelled due to low ratings and Ree is no Martha, (pre or post prison versions of Martha) so we can only hope we can stamp cancelled on Ree as well.

    • The Marlboro Woman says:

      I watched Martha’s show until she went to the Hallmark Channel which my cable system doesn’t carry. Since Hallmark was trying to charge an arm and a leg to carry its programming, I think many carriers opted out which would have had a negative impact on ratings. I wonder if her show was carried on say Fox, NBC, ABC, etc. if it would bring in a larger audience.

      • Kait says:

        I miss Martha! When she had to go to “jail” they took her stuff off the air on the US channels I got. She was on about 4 hours a day if you shot around on the channels. All her different incarnations. I pay over $100 a month for my cable channels and I wasn’t going to fork out more for Hallmark either. If they brought her back to daytime network tv I bet her viewers would be there.

  15. Mary Beth says:

    I’m so glad Birdsall wrote this article. It isn’t often I read an article where the comments are better than the article itself. A “press suppository” – that is so funny that I’ve got to find a way to work it into a conversation soon. Thanks MM.

    What I love about this site is I don’t have to be “nice”. One of the most egregious parts of internet blogging is the dishonesty. Most of the comments in blogdom are of the “I’ll be nice to you and you be nice to me” type – all in the interest of driving traffic. Ree is definitely at the top of this list. However, running a close second are the crafters and the decorator blogs. Many of them are so sensitive. They are the ones it is fun to toy with. Good grief. They just spent 4 hours and $12.00 on spray paint making something that could have been picked up in the dollar store for $1.99. Or they drag a piece of furniture behind the SUV, paint it white and call it shabby chid.and I have the audacity to say it’s not my style (nice way of saying it looks like dreck).

  16. Catherine says:

    Eeew and urgh urgh. Birdsall was really in his cups wasn’t he?

  17. Sue M. says:

    Standing ovation MW.