This is when blogging gets weird. We do this thing for a living: We sit around, we talk about celebrities, we follow their narratives, we “extend” the narrative (or attempt to) in each blog post, as though these are characters with story arcs it is our business to tend to, on the existential wager that you, the reader, are going to be interested in the minutiae of these people you don’t know, who may be famous to you for no other reason than being other-worldly beautiful. As evidenced by the fact that we’re still here—too many of us, really—this model seems to be working.
But don’t think it’s not weird when we pass around an email of Nigella Lawson evidently being choked out by her husband, Charles Saatchi. It starts out with the very immediate feeling of (gender-normative) anger: Fuck this guy. No man should ever put his hands on a woman.
And then you read some more, and see Saatchi scrambling to explain what having his hands around a clearly tearful wife’s neck is supposed to mean to us:
We had made up by the time we were home. The paparazzi were congregated outside our house after the story broke yesterday morning, so I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled.
Which is followed by doubt and remorse: Maybe he’s telling the truth?
But because we’re bloggers and the Internet loves nothing more than a good double-down, you go back to the initial impression that no man’s hands should ever around another woman’s neck like that, unless they’re acting out a very liberal interpretation of Macbeth in the middle of lunch. And even then, why not finish lunch?
But past that: Why get upset, or weigh in? We don’t need to tell you what a problem domestic violence there is in the world, let alone on these shores, where it’s basically a public health crisis. Why does the epically embarrassing and scandalizing and sad drama of Nigella Lawson merit any of our time for the reason alone—at the bare minimum—that she is a celebrity, and there are millions of women (and men, to be fair) whose stories of domestic abuse don’t just go unwritten, but unreported as well. Why give even the most remote of fucks in the instance of Nigella Lawson when our compassion could maybe be better used for more anonymous circumstances?
I’ve been trying to figure this answer out for the better part of two hours—a scholarly effort, I know—but what I have is this:
There’s the basic premise of Bad Life Shit happening to celebrities makes our own Bad Life Shit easier to cope with. See Jolie, Angelina, and the outpouring of support she recently inspired.
Then there’s the ownership/kinship construct: That in which Nigella Lawson is one of our own. I’m not crazy about Nigella Lawson as a figure. I saw her on The Taste as part of the Bourdain Selling Out Machine and as a one-dimensional character built for TV. I know she’s more than that, but it’s a hard one to get over. And yet, the rivalries, the kinship, the narratives—it all goes away in a time of tragedy and chaos for people who legitimately, passionately cares about the same things you do, and works to make them better in their own way. Maybe they’re not the way you think things should go, but it’s hard to argue against the intent, and short of explicitly ruining the world, it’s hard not to rally around someone very public in a moment like this. [As an aside, even if they are ruining the world—even if, say, George W. Bush were getting beaten helplessly by Laura Bush—I would still, at the very least, want to feel empathy as another human.]
Finally, there’s the simple matter of humanity: Because it’s wrong to just stare, and yes, we’re all staring. Yeah, I clicked. A lot of other people did too. And even though the publication of these photos is itself an inherent indictment of Saatchi’s behavior, and even though there is—as the saying should go—no honor among thieves (or bloggers, as the case may be), to simply note it as something that happened isn’t enough, and to ignore it as though it isn’t the talk of the food world (and the gossip rags) today is dishonest.
So there, we covered it. We talked about it, and we got it out there. Let’s hope Nigella Lawson is doing better, and her family is okay. Let’s not forget the other victims of domestic violence and let this serve as a stark reminder that this kind of thing exists everywhere. And let’s remind ourselves—even this writer—of the value of Lawson in our industry, an exceptional cookbook author and personality for a reason, and one our ecosystem should be grateful for, and not take for granted. Not just as a personality, but as nothing more than another human, which is something that often gets lost as viewers, as writers, as people distanced from one another.
And that’s all we’ve got.