On Martha Stewart

Joan Didion at The New Yorker:

The message Martha is actually sending, the reason large numbers of American women count watching her a comforting and obscurely inspirational experience, seems not very well understood. There has been a flurry of academic work done on the cultural meaning of her success (in the summer of 1998, the New York Times reported that “about two dozen scholars across the United States and Canada” were producing such studies as “A Look at Linen Closets: Liminality, Structure and Anti-Structure in Martha Stewart Living” and locating “the fear of transgression” in the magazine’s “recurrent images of fences, hedges and garden walls”), but there remains, both in the bond she makes and in the outrage she provokes, something unaddressed, something pitched, like a dog whistle, too high for traditional textual analysis. The outrage, which reaches sometimes startling levels, centers on the misconception that she has somehow tricked her admirers into not noticing the ambition that brought her to their attention. To her critics, she seems to represent a fraud to be exposed, a wrong to be righted. “She’s a shark,” one declares in Salon. “However much she’s got, Martha wants more. And she wants it her way and in her world, not in the balls-out boys’ club realms of real estate or technology, but in the delicate land of doily hearts and wedding cakes.”

more here.