Why? Why? Why?
A couple of months ago, I realized that the guy doing the voice-over for the latest Dunkin Donuts commercials was John Goodman. I started to wonder why on earth they would choose a large, fat man to push their product. You never saw him on the ads, but it was clear who he was. Probably what they were trying to do was borrow from his image as working class hero on the Rosanne show and play up the differences in their clientle, vs. say, the designer coffee set. The message I got was "eat this stuff, and you'll look like him."
Now New England based Dunkin has gone completely the other way. They have chosen perky, peppy, Rachel Ray as a spokesperson. Now, I understand that she might appeal to those busy moms on the go, you can just see her driving that minivan with the five kids all needing to get to different places (and those kids rolling their eyes at her incessant chatter). But I wonder why she chose to do this.
I don't hate Rachel Ray. There are people who do, and I wonder why they just don't shut the TV off. I see her as riding a wave of her own popularity, milking it for all it's worth before her 15 minutes are up. As a business woman, I can see the merits of doing that. When she retires (or is retired) she will have enough money to do whatever the hell she wants for the rest of her life. We should all be so lucky.
Ray, to me, is like Oprah's book club. As a reader and writer, it's frustrating to me that the public taste in "literature" is so heavily influenced by a pop-culture icon, but as a librarian friend once told me, "at least she's getting people to read." And in a culture surrounded by very unhealthy pre-processed food, at least Rachel Ray is energetically encouraging fans by the thousands to cook for themselves.
But in taking on the Dunkin mantle, she is wrecking that image. Maybe I'll feel differently when I see the ads, but I hate to see her go from fresh to fattening overnight. Like it or not, Rachel Ray has a lot of power. In doing this, she stops using it only for good.
I'm writing this in a bookstore and the section closest to the cafe is Cooking. Looking up to see how many of Ray's books I can spot, I find, instead, Anthony Bourdain staring at me from the cover of his book The Nasty Bits. Bourdain caused a bit of a stir with a guest blog post at Ruhlman few weeks ago; chewing up and spitting out many of the current shows on the Food Network. Gotta wonder what he'd say about this.