Pop Culture Warriors: Julia Child & the New TV Series in Her Honor

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  • 03/02/2023

Pop Culture Warriors with Lisa De Pasquale is an interview column dedicated to the significant work of freedom lovers who chose the path of more resistance. Not only are these pop culture warriors fighting the predominant groupthink in entertainment, but also the predominant groupthink on the right side of politics that entertainment doesn’t matter or that the pop culture war is lost. The purpose of this column is to highlight their projects and contributions to expand freedom in new, exciting, and counterculture ways.  

This week on Pop Culture Warriors with Lisa De Pasquale–Julia Child and the series Julia on HBO Max

Like many people, I recently cut the cord on cable and many streaming services grew in its place. While trying out HBO Max, I settled on the series Julia about Julia Child and the birth of her public television cooking show, The French Chef.

Birth is the right word because, sadly, Julia and Paul Child were not able to have children, but The French Chef became their child. Together they created a show that’s still alive in syndication today.

Pop culture warriors can learn a lot from Julia and Julia.

Julia wasn’t Boston public television’s cup of tea. She was loud, cheeky, and not intimidated by the self-important staff. Her time overseas in the foreign service and the author of a bestselling cookbook didn’t outrank her current title – housewife. When she was asked to make a last-minute appearance on a show about books, the snooty host was aghast at having a cookbook author on his show. Never mind that this humble cookbook host had the same editor as John Updike. It was vulgar when she took out a hot plate and whipped up a classic French omelet for the host during her appearance. Despite enjoying the free meal, the host never warmed up to the idea of a cooking show on public television.

When the station received nearly a dozen letters about the segment, Julia got the idea to film a pilot. The program manager acquiesced. After all, they already had a hot plate.

Julia knew that wouldn’t do. She paid for the production costs of the show, including ingredients, set, and real kitchen appliances.

The first lesson from Julia – don’t compromise on cost if it compromises your vision of the final product. We’ve all seen everything from logos to children’s books to movies to ads that were not visually appealing and to the level of the competition. If Boston public television had a fake, mahogany library set for its stuck-up host, she was going to have a real kitchen even if she had to pay for it herself.

The hot plate might have done for the segment like a homemade meme might do for a tweet but to be ready for primetime, use a professional. Too often freedom-lovers on the right lean on the intern who knows Photoshop or the friend of a friend who can draw rather than work with professional, creative talent. As Ann Coulter said in a Pop Culture Warriors interview a few weeks ago, “Get people who know how to make movies to make movies.  You don’t hire a plumber because you like his politics. Being conservative does not automatically confer the talent to make a movie.”

The second lesson from Julia: Tell your husband that you agreed to foot the bill rather than hiding it for a year. Poor Paul.

In the last episode of Julia, she meets communist and feminist Betty Friedan. At a dinner honoring Julia and her show, Betty scolds her for setting women back and keeping them in the kitchen. Betty says to Julia, “How can these women, who you have locked in the kitchen, possibly find time for anything else, let alone a career?”

Like Betty, Julia was also a graduate of Smith College. Unlike Betty, Julia empowered women to be happy on their own terms rather than think of themselves as victims of the patriarchy. Julia didn’t tell women that the only path to happiness was that every woman make coq au vin and a Queen of Sheba cake for her husband. Millions of people were happy trying her recipes or simply watching her try. Betty’s recipe was to destroy the nuclear family for the good of “womanhood.”

In her book, The Feminine Mystique, Betty wrote, “The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women…. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries ... she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — ‘Is this all?’"

Decades later of radical feminist rhetoric, unhappy career women ask themselves – “Is this all?”

In addition to not compromising on cost, Julia didn’t compromise on her vision because of criticism or others’ ignorance about what she did. In her actions, she answered Peter Thiel’s favorite interview question, “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

Julia, Paul, and the cast around her saw that she connected with her audience, and that she made cooking fun, not a tool of oppression. It didn’t matter if others didn’t see it. She didn’t let a sour feminist dampen the joy she gave people.

Likewise, pop culture warriors don’t follow trends. They invest their money and time into projects they believe in, even if others don’t have the foresight to see their vision.

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