Hillary Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres…Paula Deen? Such is the logic of Bluewater Productions, the comic-book company that’s announced Deen as the latest subject of its Female Force series. The comic was in the works for months before Deen’s racism scandal broke last month, but the decision to go forward in light of recent allegations against the TV personality seems a little questionable, especially after everyone from Food Network to Walmart has dropped Deen from their roster.
The comic was produced without officially partnering with Deen, and Paula won’t profit off of it—proceeds will instead go to a charity of her choosing, assuming she eventually cooperates—but Bluewater’s president Darren G. Davis seems to genuinely believe that Deen is a “star of female empowerment,” telling Reuters that she “changed cooking…for women” and “fits in with women like Julia Child and Barbara Walters,” promising not to “flambé” her. It’s unclear whether the food pun was intended.
Although it’s not the first time Bluewater’s chosen to profile someone with dubious feminist credentials (past subjects include Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie), it bears saying that feminism means more than just being famous and female at the same time. Deen’s self-styled image isn’t exactly trail-blazing, playing into old stereotypes of the homemaker by cooking traditional food in a domestic setting. She’s what food writer Charlotte Druckman has referred to in the past as “a professional home cook,” not a chef.
If Bluewater’s really interested in depicting true glass-ceiling breakers and not just capitalizing on scandal-related publicity, it’d do better celebratign lesser-known but far more interesting figures like April Bloomfield, Amanda Cohen (already a comic-book star!), or Anita Lo. They may not have Deen’s name recognition, but they’re much better examples of women breaking down barriers in the industry. Just saying.