Martha Stewartship

I do not hate Martha Stewart. But I understand why some do.

She projects a preternatural smugness that can draw out the most bitter and insecure depths of one's inner adolescent. Martha has the Machiavellian surety of a well-preserved prom queen—a prom queen with a multimedia empire and a fantastic investment portfolio that's chock full of good and very, very tasteful funds. It's all there in her voice, which a friend of mine likens to that of a woman from the suburbs of Stepford.

In TV and radio appearances, Martha can be funny and almost self-mocking about her reputation as a domestic dominatrix—that only makes it worse for many with a cynical or paranoid bent. It would be the perfect cover, that smile and low chuckle, while she steals your very soul, imprisoning it with all the others in her collection of antique porcelain soup tureens.

Martha peddles housewifery on steroids—Yankee ingenuity fiercely aimed at centerpieces and doily collections. It's a purred command to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps and give those boots a gleaming, mirror-like polish along the way." It's life trapped in a country manse with a matriarch who's perpetually in manic mode. It's a myth of attainable perfection; a perfectly color-coordinated world built on works righteousness.

But sometimes I am entertained when flipping through Martha Stewart Living, enjoying the lovely photographs of carefully accessorized salads and elaborate crafts. I read the articles that tell much more than I knew I wanted to know about, say, bats (the kind that fly), potatoes, or antique kitchen towels. Sometimes I don't want to think. I want to read step-by-step instructions for making Christmas ornaments out of sheet metal or whipping up ice cream bombes (not to be confused with "bombs"—fortunately we've not yet had the corporate merger that will produce Martha Stewart Munitions).

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2002
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