On the Simpsons episode, “Lisa’s Wedding,” which takes place twenty years in the future, Marge turns to Homer at one point and remarks, “You know, FOX turned into a hard core sex channel so gradually, I didn’t even notice.” Though it was a dig at the sleazy programming Fox was known for in the ’90s, the comment often comes to my mind when I’m watching the Food Network.
It started with Giada, of course. When she first came on the scene I thought, “Her food looks good. But that top seems kind of low-cut.” Still, I watched the show for the recipes, which were usually simple and easy enough for me to remember without having to visit the Food Network site and print them out. But as Giada’s necklines got lower and lower, my patience with her wardrobe stylist got shorter and shorter. And now it’s gotten so bad that I can’t even stand to watch the show anymore. Dowdy though they may be, I prefer Ina Garten’s button-up blouses to the half-hour peep-show that is Giada at Home.
Giada’s lack of coverage is bad enough. What is more troublesome, however, is that the boobage is…well…spilling out into other shows. Rachael Ray, once content with simply wearing the tightest clothes ever, has lately upped the ante and invested in a push-up bra to showcase what little she has up top, while her jeans continue to look like they were applied with a vacuum sealer.
Meanwhile, in scouting for new talent last year, the Food Network seemed to have made ample cleavage (and the willingness to display it) an employment requirement when they gave Ingrid Hoffman a show called, “Simply Delicioso.” Hoffman’s promo aired so frequently that it often seemed she was guest-starring on the show I was actually watching; in the advert she sported a top low enough to cause anyone watching to worry that one breast might escape and lob one of Hoffman’s dining partners right in the face. To add to the tackiness, Hoffman wore a phallic-shaped pendant that hung right between her money-makers. It was all…Just. So. Obvious.
Now, I know that “sex sells,” and that people in the entertainment industry are expected to be attractive, and blah, blah, blah. And really, I have nothing against cleavage in certain situations. But when I’m tuning in to a cooking show, I’m really interested in the food; I’m not interested in spending a half an hour peering down Giada’s blouse. It’s ridiculous and downright tacky; even Nigella Lawson, whose career was made on her ability to use her sex appeal to get people interested in her cooking, at least never seems on the verge of exposing her nipples to the folks at home, something that seems inevitable with Giada if those necklines keep going where they’re going.
And while sex may sell, the boob exposure on the Food Network is not just sex, its sexism; if Food Network was an equal opportunity exploiter, Tyler Florence would have been providing shirtless Food 911 to women across the country years ago, and Danny Boome would be coming to the Rescue with jeans that fit oh so snug.
But instead, the men remain fully-clothed (often in layers), while many of the women seem moments away from showing up to their set in a thong bikini. All I can say is, “Ina, if they so much as ask you to roll up a sleeve, woman, resist!” because the only breasts I’m interested in are the ones getting seasoned on their way to the stove.