Thursday, July 14, 2011

confessions of a pioneer woman fan

If you don't care about the Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, famous blogger and fortunate recipient of an open letter from me, I can assure you, you're not going to care about this post.  Sorry.

One day last week someone at work mentioned with no small amount of horror the existence of Pioneer Woman-bashing websites.  I was instantly curious.  What particularly did people think sucked about her?  Though I count myself as a fan especially of her earlier posts where she did more writing and storytelling and fewer of her trademark bits, I could definitely see that she could be a person who inspired annoyance and criticism.  A little googling (wouldn't you think that the spell-checker in Google Chrome would recognize googling as a word?) led me to The Pioneer Woman Sux which led me to some other sites (Rechelle UnpluggedPie Near WomanMarlboro Woman), and I became fascinated with the anti-Ree movement that I discovered.

I don't want to over-generalize the views of these folks, but by and large, they are people who have a problem with the false image she's projecting.  She's made her following by "keepin' it real," but according to her detractors, she's not.  Her ordinary family ranch is one of the largest in Oklahoma, and they were millionaires long before her books became national best-sellers, which doesn't necessarily jibe with the down-home, regular girl persona (although anyone looking at her cooking posts can tell from her cookware and dishes that her disposable income isn't exactly in the "regular" range).  Another fact that lends to the perceived lack of authenticity is the cleaning up of her site--posts that have disappeared, wording that has been prettied up from the original posts as she's grown in popularity, negative comments from readers that disappear or never get published at all. There are many who also have quite a bit to say about her writing style, the nutritional value (or lack therof) of her recipes, and all those basset hound photos, but I think these smaller quibbles wouldn't have created the heated backlash that has spawned these sites if not for the more duplicitous feel of the image she's projecting versus the facts of her life.

My research may have started from simple curiosity, but the more I read the more sense all these folks made, and I must admit that I'm much less comfortable now about Ree as my homegirl.  In truth, I feel foolish for having bought into her story.  And perhaps that foolish feeling is well-deserved.  Of course, people don't achieve overwhelming success as she has without seeking out some of that recognition.  Of course, there's a marketing/branding agenda.  I guess I never noticed because I didn't care . . . and I kind of still don't.  I can still like most of the things I've liked about her even if she's fake--probably.

With the intense following that PW has, the sites I've mentioned naturally get at least some criticism from Ree's loyal fans.  A few comments I read wondered why if people were so unhappy with her, they continued to read her site or give it attention, and admittedly, I initially wondered this myself.  No one's forcing them to read her posts or acknowledge her in any way, so why go there and read the stuff and get worked up enough to create entire sites pointing out her flaws?

But the truth is I completely understand why because I am often that person.  I do that.  There are times and people and situations in my life where I'm so incensed/offended/horrified by some falseness or deceit or pretension or brazen rule-breaking that I've been unable ignore it or forgive it or move past it.  Even when it doesn't directly affect me, these sorts of traits fly in the face of my sense of honesty and justice, and while I've never created websites to right any wrongs or vent my frustrations, it makes sense to me.  And it makes me feel a certain kinship with PWSux and Rechelle and the Marlboro Woman, even if their fight isn't my fight--even if I probably won't stop reading PW or making buttery recipes or entering some of her contests.

Because the truth is reading Rechelle's parody website is about to become my new obsession, and it's ever so much funnier if you know enough about PW to understand what's going on.


  1. I don't know. I feel bad for Ree. She can't win. I mean, if she wrote her blog in a way that made it obvious that she's a millionaire, everybody would give her grief for pretension etc. Doesn't it say something good about her if she's able to connect with average folks despite her fortunate circumstances.

  2. And when you say it like that I kinda agree with you too . . . but I think as people who've been devoted fans "see the light" about her, they do feel lied to on a personal level because even though the relationship was one-sided, she's done a really excellent job of presenting herself as though you're getting the whole picture--the real Ree. And that seems like a betrayal.

    But really I'm not nearly as invested in this whole saga as I may seem. I just thought it was so interesting that this whole movement is out there, and I imagine it'll only grow as she gets more fame when her tv show airs.

  3. I have never read her stuff, so I don't have a dog in this hunt. I am sure that I would be devastated if I found out that Allie Brosh was something other than the poorly drawn, impoverished bundle of ADD that she appears to be in her blog. Though, since she calls her blog Hyperbole and a Half, I probably should not believe everything she writes anyway.

  4. Hi Ellen,

    So glad you wrote this. I am a HUGE fan of Rechelle's satire. Of course, I never would have found Rechelle if I had not read Ree's blog first.

    Here is the thing. When I first read PW, I was impressed that she has 4 kids, cooks a ton, take beautiful photos, and apparently still has time/ money to shop at Anthropologie. It was a scoop of awe, half cup of envy, and a dash of self-loathing (I can't handle entertaining my own 2 sons for the summer, yet PW homeschools her 4 every day?) all thrown into the Kitchen Aid mixer and set on pulverize. Then, spread it all out on a cookie sheet, and bake it in a blog for 30 minutes. It is done when it looks perfect and tastes like plastic.

    I also write a blog, and it takes me minimum one hour to write a pretty good essay, three hours to write a kick-ass one. I don't even bother with rough drafts, because who has the time (see above: "I have 2 kids")? (And my blog has zero photos! sometimes I will do silly illustrations, but that takes hours.) It makes me feel minimized beyond belief that I work so hard and can barely get 3 loads of laundry done and lunch for the kids made (mac and cheese from a box, AGAIN), yet Ree is writing multiple posts on multiple subjects simultanously and cooking 12 desserts and chasing cows with her everpresent camera.

    She is the Martha Stewart of the internet.

    How does she do it?????

    She doesn't. She has hired lots and lots and lots of people (maids, editors, managers, consultants, and tutors for her so-called "homeschooled" kids). That is all fine, but don't call yourself Pioneer Woman. Call yourself *Pioneer Team.*

    That would be "keeping it real."


  5. Hi Ellen,
    I'm so glad you wrote this post. I'm a regular at Marlboro Woman and PWSux, and sometimes stop by for the great satire at PieNearWoman.
    I believe I saw you comment on PWSux, but had no idea you were a fellow Arkansan. Right here in the land of french fried grass and heat stroke temps.
    You are now on my bookmark list and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  6. Sometimes you want to laugh, sometimes it is okay to cry, but it is never right to tell people to bake Krispy Kremes before you serve them. That is why it is called fast food. No further cooking.

  7. Sorry. I should have left a comment, but posted a link to your blog in the forum section at PW Sux. I found your prespective to be very refreshing and we don't often get PW readers who say nice things about us.

    The Pie Near Woman is comedy gold. Welcome.


  8. Do any of you watch reality TV? If you do, do you believe that the people on it are exactly as they potray themselves to be. Face it, if your face is in front of a camera, you are keeping it as real as the people who pay you to do it.
    I enjoy her show, do I think she is middle class or below, NO. What is wrong with someone giving people a small amount of time to lose themselves, enjoy the story and then go back to reality.
    It is no different in losing yourself in any media show out there or reading a book. It is entertainment pure and simple.

  9. How stupid. She never said she was poor or that they were rich. Who cares? If you don't like her, don't read her blogs or watch her show. You will not be missed.

  10. How stupid. She never said she was poor or that they were rich. Who cares? If you don't like her, don't read her blogs or watch her show. You will not be missed.


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