(This post is modified from an earlier one posted here).
I have been reading (and writing) about Mr. Oliver’s latest LA venture for some time now, but I didn’t get to *enjoy* the full spectacle of it for myself until recently. Unsurprisingly, it depressed me.
I am not depressed about the obesity “epidemic” in Los Angeles, America, or the rest of the world for that matter. Which is not to say I don’t find it sad that so many people get it wrong when it comes to feeding themselves and their families. Nor that I don’t find it sad that some children are made to eat something resembling airplane food on a mostly-daily basis. But getting depressed about these things would be a waste of my time and energy, a) because the reasons for this state of affairs are much more complex than even I dare to imagine that I fully comprehend, and b) because there is little I can do to change it.
A few days ago the LA Weekly reported that Jamie Oliver’s latest US crusade was off to a bad start, because the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) had banned the chef access to all their schools. He responded with this remarkable statement:
“Normally getting into schools isn’t a problem. We’ve never had a total shutdown. In my country, it would be illegal.”
I’m intrigued as to which part of this situation could be considered illegal in the UK. Not allowing a celebrity chef to film a documentary in schools? Not allowing a celebrity chef to interfere with issues of public health (if indeed school lunches are that)? Or perhaps not paying attention to Jamie Oliver?
But the main problem here is not really any of the above, but rather that first word: “Normally.” There is really nothing “normal” in the world of Jamie Oliver, or in the world of celebrity chefs saving the fat world from its fat self, because everything is made up as they go along. And luckily for Mr. O, they’ve been going along quite swimmingly, not least thanks to his “activist” endorsement by TED last year.
Until now, that is. Which also makes it hard to not actually feel sorry for the man when you see a headline like this:
“I’m finding it really hard to tell the truth in this country,” he apparently said – adding that he’s never been “so deflated” in his whole career. Now, say what you like about him – and I have plenty to say myself – but the only reason that he’s been able to get to the self-delusional position of believing that he is some sort of truthsayer is because no one has ever gotten in his way before (OK, a bit here and there, but they “normally” come round to his side and everyone comes out larfin’).
It’s all a very curious drama to watch – including the sideshow which features Michelle Obama hooking up with Walmart (not for the first time, mind you) to promote “healthy” eating: some say it rocks, while others think it’s doomed.
Talking about the surprising popular success in 1988 of a near-700 page book called The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000, Francis Wheen cites the New Republic‘s comment that ‘When a serious work of history with more than a 1000 footnotes starts selling in Stephen King-like quantities, you can be sure it has touched something in the public mood’ (you’ll find this in Wheen’s very amusing – and sometimes scary – How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered The World, p.66).
Let’s edit that a bit and apply it to Jamie Oliver’s American “Food Revolution” for a near-perfect description of what’s going on – ‘When a smutty work of Reality TV about a very serious issue gets the world talking ad nauseum, you can be sure it has touched something in the public mood’.