Ree Drummond vs Pioneer Woman

THIS is a pioneer woman.
THIS isn't.
Neither is this.

Some years back (2006?) I started reading ThePioneerWomanCooks.com. I enjoyed the comfort food recipes and seeing pictures of each step along the way. Eventually I sidled over to the main website. Ree's self-deprecating humor and folksy stories were a lot of fun, too.

I enjoyed her pictures or ranch life, tolerated/ignored her homeschooling anecdotes (at the best they're unrelated to me and at the worst, as a public school teacher, they're vaguely offensive to my sensibilities), and tried a few of her recipes (Joe complained, and rightly so, about the greasiness of each one of them ... so I always modified the recipes to lower the fat content). I even got past cringing at the way she calls her husband Marlboro Man. Nothing like glorifying a cigarette advertising icon. Ick! I vicariously enjoyed her Black Heels to Tractor Wheels saga of how she and her husband met and fell in love, impressed at her level of detailed recollection.

But then things started to change. Ree became less folksy. I think my first insight into this was when the Drummonds began a multi-jillion dollar remodel of The Lodge back in 2008, just to use it as a kitchen-photography location and a guest house. "Who are these people," I thought? "Blogging must pay pretty well, or else I now have better insight into why beef is so expensive."

But I didn't know the half of it.

Recently I grew even more weary of of Ree's 5-star hotel room tours and gratuitous basset hound pictures, not to mention her continual self-hype. It's not that I like her folksiness any less ... it's more that there's less folksiness and more caricature. It's all Pioneer Woman now, without any Ree Drummond.

To be fair, I think that once the site got sufficiently lucrative and time-consuming that Ree's life changed. She's been on multiple book tours by this time and now has a new show on The Food Network (which disappoints me, Food Network....I watch The Next Food Network Star and you're always going on about having star power, but that the most important thing is being able to really cook well and extensive culinary knowledge ... this move feels like you're just trying to make a few bucks off of Pioneer Woman's enormous popularity. Her recipes are sometimes unsafe* and sometimes just make her look clueless**). She's not the person she was when she started blogging. Her life's not the same.

Anyway, a few months ago I started Googling around looking for non-party-line info on the Drummonds. Idle curiosity quickly became surprise and even occasionally, alarm. Other than in my sidebar, I'm not going to link to Ree's page. Everyone knows how to find it. I'm not going to add any links to any Pioneer Woman re-education sites, either. There's one in the sidebar. You can Google others verrrry easily. There are a lot of people out there.

I feel as though I've had the scales removed from my eyes.

First of all, the Drummonds are loaded. Big huge bucks even before she started blogging. This isn't really a strike against them, or anything. Good for them for making piles of cash (apparently housing the nation's wild mustangs is extremely lucrative ... ). But don't try to tell me you're just like me, only ranchier. You're millionaires several times over. I'm thrilled that you garden and have laundry and all those other normal things to do, but you're not just like me. And, you're not even like most cattle ranchers, either.

Secondly, Ree is apparently quite a snob. All her readers know she grew up on a golf course with ballet lessons, etc. But part of her whole schtick is that she left that life all behind her to become a folksy Pioneer Woman (Sorry...Ma Ingalls, she ain't). Ree hung out to dry at least one other "mommy blogger" she hired, apparently just because Ree was afraid of what her readers might think if she stuck up for the woman's personal experience with teaching religion to her own homeschooled children. According to many sources, the locals around her town don't like her much, either, for what that's worth.

Additionally, Ree and Ladd (that's Marlboro Man's real name) seem to be kind of dumb about horses and keeping their children safe around and on the horses. At the time I read it, I was really alarmed by a post wherein her youngest child (four at the time) was plunked on a horse to follow along while the rest of the family and professional cowboys were on horseback, driving cattle. Except for Ree. She was standing nearby, shooting pictures through a ginormous telephoto lens. (Which is fine...I don't detract from her for photographing her life. Lord knows I've done the same thing plenty of times.) But then she notices that her son is scared on the horse and is starting to cry. He's doing all the wrong things and the horse is getting jittery about the unclear signals, and pain in its mouth. But she just keeps taking pictures. Lots of them. Who does this? Who puts a four-year old alone, UNHELMETED?, on an unled horse, loose in a field? There are a bunch more examples of bad riding throughout her blog: sawing on horses' tender mouths, holding the reins improperly, plenty of unhelmeted kids riding, even ... tying a horse to a barbed wire fence (!!!). I don't know much about horses, but I can ride a little. I spent 6 summers at horse camp for just a week each time, but even I can tell that some of these experienced fourth-generation cowhands are being unnecessarily cruel to their animals. Apparently on her TV show premiere she and her children are riding on calves as the calves are being dragged across the ground to be processed. How is this OK? Why are people not all over her? Why are her own people who monitor her and her blog and her image not all over her?

Finally, I no longer believe there's much of her site that has anything to do with one of her favorite assertions -- that she's "keepin' it real." Based on some things she's posted, some things she's deleted or edited in past posts (does anyone remember when she used to call her mentally disabled brother her "retarded brother, Mike?"), and some things I've read on various other sites ... I'm certain she has a rather extensive staff comprised of teachers for her kids, housekeepers, web designers, publicists, guest bloggers, etc. While none of these things is damning, really ... I mean, "Good for you if you can afford a staff," right? However, I think it's disingenuous, even fraudulent, to keep most of this information from her own blog posts. Why keep your readership in the dark, when you're so fond of being "real" for them? Why not throw some busy working moms a bone and admit that the many things you do (homeschool your kids, garden, cook, blog, take pictures, Photoshop the frak out of them, write books, tour the country, remodel buildings and rooms, appear on TV shows, clean your house and do your mountains of laundry) so effortlessly can't actually all be done by one human being? Throw us a bone, here. Why go back and delete old less-flattering blog posts in your past? How is that being real? If the posts were real for you at the time, Ree, why don't you leave them alone? I've come to the conclusion that this five-star-hoteling-book-touring-Today-Show-appearancing lifestyle was the goal long ago and that her I'm-just-a-back-country-agoraphobic-school-marm thing was all schtick.

I think it's because Ree Drummond has left the building. The Pioneer Woman, Marlboro Man (and their publicists) have taken over. I still go to her site, albeit way less than I used to. But, I read PioneerWomanSux.com every day as well. I enjoy a reminder that what's portrayed on someone's blog is frequently a character he or she has created and not a real person. I'd lost sight of that.

Anyway, this is what's really on my mind this morning. I don't have a following, or publicists or advertising revenue from my blog. I don't even have a real domain name. That's as real as it gets. Though, it's be nice to wind up with a book and Food Network deal, so I could start posting pictures of $600/night hotel rooms. So, if anyone out there wants to pay me to do what I do, feel free to get in touch.


* You NEVER use your used marinade as a sauce on your meat unless you've boiled it a good long while, first. And, you NEVER stick a metal utensil into a jar of hot jelly. Etc.

** The curvy part of the canning lifter thingy is the end that goes around the mouth of the jar....that's WHY it's curvy.


Navhelowife said...

Very nicely written post. I've noticed the same things as well. I used (Waaayyyyy back when) to read her and enjoy her *real* voice. I think she's lost that.

Rachel S-H said...

Well-written post. I used to buy into her spiel, til I realized it was just a spiel, nothing more.

Alleghator said...

Thought I should mention that I received the following *anonymous* comment, to which I've added my responses: When it comes to riding horses, I just have to ask, have you ever ridden a horse? [Yes, I used to ride regularly as a child ... and I was unhelmeted. But you'd better believe I make my own children ride their bikes, ski, and ride horses wearing helmets ... time's have changed as has our awareness of brain trauma.] Did you grow up around horses? [Yes. I started riding in primary school and continued into high school. I am very comfortable riding, gtrooming, and working with tack.] I did. NEVER have I worn a helmet. I'm sorry but that's just City people's thing, not real country life. No where now nor in history of a real working ranch do you EVER see a kid or an adult wearing a helmet. [Generally you should try to avoid this sort of universal generalization in n argument, as it weakens your case.] That's just the point of it. [I don't know what this means.] I was on a horse at one month old in my dad's arms. Everyone of course is entitled to their [his or her] own opinion, but my whole family has grown up on horses and helmets are for city people. [You're welcome to this opinion. I grew up in farm country on a dirt road. Please don't pretend to know who I am based on one blog post with which you happen to disagree.]

Anonymous said...

As a trauma nurse who works in a city surrounded by lots of rural "horsey" land, I can promise you that once you've seen an experienced rider come in with a life altering traumatic brain injury (a fairly commonplace occurrence) it doesn't matter whether your "city folk" or "country folk" you don't let your kids go anywhere near a horse without a helmet on. Shame on them! A 4 year old! When kids die of traumatic injuries, it can often be traced back to their parents' idiocy.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that it was clear to me, a homeschooling mom, that Ree had help. I am raising 5 adopted special needs(of varying degrees)kids. We live on a measely 8 acres and just doing school every day, caring for goats and chickens, laundry, chores, trying to make ends meet I have not one second left to blog or cook fancy, let alone take lovely color photos of each step.
My blog would read- Yes, here I am notice me zapping the hot dogs in the microwave, then for the finishing touch I scrape the dregs of hardened relish out of the jar to make the meal complete.
Seriously NO ONE can do what Ree does. Not even Ree herself. She is not the only fraud on the blogosphere. There are many phonies. Just life I guess.

Amy D said...

Probably because no one is interested in reading REAL life blogs. LOL. I get that feeling from the lack of readership on my blog.

I rarely read her blog, but I do go to her site for recipes, because some of them ARE yummy.

As for the rest... I'm the one reading the little blogs!

Misty Dawn said...

I know I'm late to the discussion, but I just wanted to thank you for putting into words what I've been thinking for years!

Do I read her blog? Yes, I do. Do I watch her show? Yes, I have. I've also read her love story book (not the cookbooks though). As someone whose dream is to be a full-time photographer and blogger/creative writer, I admire the numerous successes she's had. I'll even admit I'm envious.

However, I also know that there's a lot of BS and very, very little 'realness'. My husband and my friends ask me why in the heck I read/watch her. They say that she's fake, and that I'm way more real than her as far as farm work (we're farmers too). My response is "She's done it! She's made it happen for herself as far as the blog and the books, etc." Maybe I'm hoping to see what it is that made it all happen for her... how she became a household name.

I have to admire her for making things happen for herself. I just wish she'd be more real, like you said. Heck, even Dooce admits that she has an assistant and staff and nannies, etc. Does PW really think we are so stupid to think that her blog is a place to write about her life, rather than the fact that he blog is her money-making business?

Anonymous said...

WONDERFUL WRITING! Thanks - and would I ever LOVE to know where you found that wonderful image of a REAL pioneer woman! I'm working on a real cowboy's memoir, and would love to add it to the section about his people coming west in a wagon train. Hope you will be kind enough to share the site. Meanwhile, lol - spot on writing re Ree. Best, Patty

Anonymous said...

I love it. Having figured most of this out awhile back, it now cracks me up to see the fanatic responses to her blog posts and the drooly reviews of her books on Amazon. This is the era of "reality tv" and it comes in all sorts of fake shapes and sizes. Take it all in and enjoy it for what it is... escapism/fiction/b.s., whatever. It only matters if you really BELIEVE. Because if so, you've been used.

Anonymous said...

Found this site/blog when wondering why PW calls her husband Marlboro man just out of curiosity. Wow don't care for her but what a bunch of bitter, miserable haters y'all are. Good luck with that & good luck finding happiness in life. I feel sorry for your kids folks & I'm not surprised your husbands step out on you either.

Alleghator said...

Patty, I googled around and found the pic. I don't own the rights to it, and I don't remember where it came from. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.

Alleghator said...

Found this site/blog when wondering why PW calls her husband Marlboro man just out of curiosity. Wow don't care for her but what a bunch of bitter, miserable haters y'all are. [I don't know who "y'all" refers to. I'd prefer it if you took me for myself, rather than lumping me in with other people. I don't hate Ree or Ladd.] Good luck with that & good luck finding happiness in life. I feel sorry for your kids folks [again, I'm just me and not 'folks,' and if you read my other blog posts, maybe you'll gain insight into who I am and whether my children are worthy of your pity] & I'm not surprised your husbands step out on you either. [so, if I am not enchanted by The Pioneer Woman, my husband is justified in cheating on me?]

Anonymous said...

My husband is the one to bring PW blog to my attention. At first thought wow, what a talented woman. But being born in Bartlesville soon realized who the Drummonds" of Ree Drummond was. Put two and two together to realize that like many of us, the "rancher's wife turned blogger" persona was fake, and had a lot of money behind the scenes.Most likely with a lot of other people doing the work, while she took the credit.

Lynn Mooney said...

Thanks for this post, it's a GREAT explanation for the clueless, like myself.

I know it's really old (or maybe I should say I'm commenting really late) but I happened to Google this person this A.M. because I saw a smoothie recipe and was thinking....wait, I don't think that's as healthy as I'm gonna need it to be if I'm actually trying. So, I wanted to find her site and the recipe to doublecheck ingredients. What I found was another snark site which appeared to be dedicated to her show. And thought...seriously? There's actually a person hating on a minor celeb with a cooking show??? Because I've never heard of Ree Drummond till today. But decided that before I blew it off as folks with too much time on their hands I decided to check out this blog and found exactly the context that I needed!!!!! Great context and I'll definitely be wary of her advice/ skills when I see her on tv. But more importantly, you pointed out a thing that I really do hate about all the reality t.v. and personas who attempt to tell the story of their lives in their entertainment....when it's not real, REAL moms need to recognize that rather than beating themselves up for NOT being this person. Pretending to be an industrious pioneer woman is fine and fun...but not if you are passing off the pretense as being for real. Mom'ing is hard enough without the needless pressure....and yes, that needs to be shared to balance out the pretense. Good for you!!

Heidi Dugan said...

Thanks for your feedback. I'm glad you appreciated my message. Mom-ing is hard and it's important that we give each other support an honesty.

Margie said...

I am happy to say that I am no longer taking the Pioneer Woman kool-aid.

Susan Turner said...

Wow-anonymous must be one miserable person to jump on everyone like that just for having a negative opinion of Ms. Drummond. I watched her show once and didn't care for it at all. Read her blog a few times early on and nearly died from a saccharine overdose. Obviously the jig is up and anyone with half a wit of sense knows it's mostly fiction and unhealthy cooking.
P.S. My kids are grown and very productive and my husband doesn't cheat on me.

jane isom said...

MS. Drummond is neither a "pioneer woman" or a good cook.
Her recipes are very unhealthy and seem pulled from some bad cookbook. Her schtick is the pioneer woman -- living on the plains of oklahoma on a million dollar ranch-- so realistic... It seems so disingenuine-- and so....tired of seeing her on everything.. I ask for a recipe and all I get is her site--- Nothing like "shoving" your brand down everyone's throat. Sorry-- I am an excellent cook and her recipes and cooking are an insult...