She hasn't quite got the old-media fame of mommy blogger Heather Armstrong, but Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond is making headlines — and cash. What makes her life on the ranch so popular with readers?
That's more or less the question Amanda Fortini asks in her New Yorker profile of Drummond this week. The whole piece has the feel of highbrow meets lowbrow and tries (but sometimes fails) to make nice, as when Fortini writes,
Drummond punctuates many of her interactions with jokes, mimicry, and odd, unexpected voices. In conversation, this is quirky and funny, but on the blog her clowning can sometimes read as shtick.
The blog itself chronicles Drummond's life on a cattle ranch with her husband, four home-schooled children, dogs, and numerous cooking projects. Here's how Fortini sums up its tone:
There is no serious conﬂict, no controversy, no cynicism, no snark. Drummond doesn't discuss politics or engage in cultural criticism; she doesn't even gossip. Whole continents of contemporary worry go unmentioned: this is a universe free from credit-card debt, toxins, "work-life balance," and marital strife. The blog provides an escape from the viperous forces elsewhere on the Internet. Depending on your circumstances and your disposition, the relentless good cheer admirable or annoying.
How can people possibly stand a website without snark? And lots of people — Drummond says her ad revenue was "solidly one million" dollars last year. Fortini implies that women (Drummond says her audience is 95% female) respond to the scrubbed perfection of her home life and the "romantic fantasy" of her marriage to a cowboy she calls "Marlboro Man." But there may be something else at play.
Fortini notes that "the Drummonds' partnership is a modern marriage masquerading as a traditional one," with the strapping Marlboro Man helping out with the children and the blog. And the blog itself is clearly many things to Drummond — a creative outlet, a driving force (says her husband, "You're type A when it comes to your blog"), a cash cow. At least as far as readers can see, Drummond doesn't just have a perfect personal life — she has a perfect career, too, one that's satisfying, lucrative, and still allows her to spend lots of time with her family. To many women, this probably feels as far out of reach as a rural ranch — it's no wonder so many of them are intrigued. Strangely enough, the blog itself may be as central to the Pioneer Woman's mystique as the prairie. And the more people click, the more powerful that mystique becomes.
O Pioneer Woman! [New Yorker]