«The Food Network has achieved tremendous popularity with the American public in the last decade. It has created the genre of the celebrity chef and ...»
Concluding Note The Food Network sells a fantasy. It does not actually market the food it shows, but rather, it creates brand names and sells itself on the idea of the ideal, perfect hostess. In its daytime programming it creates an imago that supports the traditional imago of the woman who cooks and feeds, but presents this performance of cooking as a tool of socio-economic betterment, appealing to a central contemporary social aspiration. Since the actual task of cooking and creating the actual food is left to the viewer, the Food Network itself becomes a tool. By using the information offered by the network, an audience member has the ability to take the image of the food that the network presents and to produce real food that emulates this image.
In the moment that an audience member uses and then amends a recipe seen on the Food Network, she transforms herself from a consumer to a producer. In effect, she momentarily realizes and becomes the Ideal-I of the ideal hostess. Just as the child’s first glimpse of himself in the mirror leads to misrecognition and disillusion, the home cook’s attainment of the Food Network Ideal-I is fleeting.
The Ideal-I can never be completely attained, but its fleeting moment of misrecognition and disillusion leads to a perpetual, driving desire for completeness. This unattainable completeness is what consumer culture depends on. For the Food Network, this moment ensures loyal and lucrative fandom. And it is this loyal fandom characteristic of our historical moment that has worked to produce a new domestic paragon—that of the ideal hostess.
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