David Sirota

David Sirota
Denver, Colorado,
November 02
David Sirota is a political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He is a senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future , the founder of the Progressive States Network and a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. He also blogs for Credo Action. and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. His two books, Hostile Takeover (2006) and The Uprising (2008) were both New York Times bestsellers. In the years before becoming a full-time writer, Sirota worked as the press secretary for Vermont Independent Congressman Bernard Sanders, the chief spokesman for Democrats on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, the Director of Strategic Communications for the Center for American Progress, a campaign consultant for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and a media strategist for Connecticut Senate candidate Ned Lamont. He also previously contributed writing to the website of the California Democratic Party. For more on Sirota, see these profiles of him in Newsweek or the Rocky Mountain News. Feel free to email him at lists [at] davidsirota.com

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Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 15, 2009 12:40PM

When Julia Became Julie, Content Lost Its Throne

Rate: 41 Flag

Every now and then, rank-and-file writers, bloggers and radio hosts like myself (but by no means limited to myself) are accused of "self-promotion." This is not a charge usually leveled at very famous writers, bloggers and radio hosts, nor at television hosts (who are, almost by definition, famous) - it is specifically leveled at those who have not achieved notoriety. Regardless of whether the accused is promoting some sort of substantive message or promoting themselves for their own vanity, the charge of "self-promotion" aims to indict the accused for conceit and unbridled ambition - as if only those already famous are permitted in our culture to exhibit those qualities.*

I'll be the first to say that there's a problem when someone promotes themselves for their own sake and nothing more (think Paris Hilton or Sarah Palin). That's true "self-promotion" - promotion of the self for the self's sake - and there's a lot of that these days. However, some of the "self-promotion" criticism is also aimed at people who are pushing substance. And while there is some truth to the charges against the latter (I mean, in a sense, when someone promotes a cause they are inherently promoting themselves too), the motive for the latter's self-promotion comes from a different origin - one you can see most vividly in (of all places) the recent film Julie & Julia.

The film is, at one level, a typical Nora Ephron affair - vapid and formulaic to the point of predictable. If you've seen one Nora Ephron movie, you've seen them all - which isn't necessarily an artistic criticism of Nora Ephron. There is certainly room and need for movies that are pure mindless entertainment - and there is an art to making such formula-driven pieces repeatedly entertaining (which Julie & Julia most certainly is).

But Ephron's movies often include inadvertent - and typically disturbing - points about modern society. In My Blue Heaven, for instance, the mob is effectively absolved of all its crimes, because hey, the mafia is just benign and hilarious! In You've Got Mail, Ephron focuses on a superficial happy-ending love story, and seems positively unaware that the story not only glorifies/absolves the practice of rapacious corporate conglomerates crushing locally owned stores, but worse, reinforces anti-feminist stereotypes of women as pathetically weak. The heroine, who was fighting the good fight, ends the film not merely giving up her business, but seeking shelter in and romantically rewarding the guy who economically destroyed her.

But nowhere is Ephron's patented inadvertent social commentary more powerful than in Julie & Julia. Underneath the happy stories of Julia Child and Julie Powell's ascensions, is an extremely depressing parable about how the media has changed for the worse.

Julia Child's rise is a truly up-from-the-boostraps story of great creativity and talent finally being recognized after years of grinding work in total obscurity. It took her 8 years and multiple rejections by publishers to write and then publish her masterpiece cookbook. She was rewarded with fame not because she had some insider connections or because she already was famous (what's called, in publishing circles, having a "platform"), but because her work was just so damn good.

Her story is told in tandem with Powell's tale - a tale that Ephron leads us to believe is somehow synonymous with Child's. But (and here's what Ephron never seems to grasp) it's exactly the opposite. Powell published a blog documenting her year cooking Child's recipes - and when the New York Times ran an article about her stunt, we watch as Powell's answering machine immediately fills up with publishers begging her to write a book. We innately understand that the publishers are not calling Powell because her blog is so well written or the Internet equivalent of Child's genuine masterpiece (they weren't calling about her blog before the Times piece was written). And we understand those publishers are not calling because Powell's ideas are so innovative (they aren't, by definition - she's literally replicating Child's recipes). They are calling because the New York Times - by journalistic fiat - has said Julie Powell is now famous and now has a platform.

This is exactly how much of the media world now works - celebrity for celebrity's sake rewarded well before genuine talent and compelling content.** If a publisher has the choice of publishing a brilliant work by someone nobody knows or publishing the worst-written trash by a famous person, they'll choose the latter in a heartbeat. Indeed, you get the feeling that there is a genuine Julia Child out there writing a genuinely fantastic book that will never be published because publishers will be too busy publishing Julie Powell.

Perhaps there was always some of this dynamic at play. Just as billionaires have always had an easier time making larger returns than the average income earner (ie. it takes money to make money), celebrities have an easier time of making themselves even more famous than the average person making themselves slightly famous. But, as evidenced by Julie and Julia's two stories, this dynamic has become far more powerful today than ever.

And so we get back to the question of self-promotion. For writers, bloggers, radio hosts and so many other kinds of creative workers in the media, the promotion of one's work has become as important as the quality of the work itself. I note that with no sense of happiness - it's a damn shame, if you ask me. If I had my choice, I'd spend all of my time making trying to make my writing and radio program the best content I could possibly make it, instead of having to use some of that time simply to get my work out there.

But that is now the requirement in our celebrity culture. I wouldn't have a newspaper column to write if I didn't promote it and my other work, because newspapers probably would not have chosen to pick up the column and run it had I had no established platform at all. I wouldn't have been able to get the opportunity to write a book if I hadn't done the same, no matter how well-done my book proposals, because publishers are first and foremost looking for platform. That's the same reason I probably wouldn't have had the chance to do radio fill-in (which ultimately led to my new radio show) without promoting all my other work.

It's the same for everyone else in a similar position. When you aren't world famous, you have to take time away from the content you are producing to make sure the content gets out there. Put another way, whereas previously the content created the value ("content is king"), today the publicity creates the value, almost regardless of the content. And here's the key (and most depressing) point: That publicity is so central to the value of everything, the content has a hard time existing without it.

Sure, you can publish a blog in obscurity - but it's almost impossible to be a professional content creator (which is more commonly known as a "member of the media") and make a living from that work. You can say that's a luxury, but it's only a luxury in a society that doesn't care about the quality of content, because it takes time and resources to produce good content.

Then again, perhaps that's really the lesson. Perhaps we really don't care about the quality of content - and perhaps the conversion from Julia's content-is-king world to Julie's platform-is-king society reflects a deeper degradation in what we want and demand from our media. I'd like to think that's not true. I'd like to think content, if not king, is still a prince - that ultimately, great content is rewarded, even if it has to toil in obscurity for years. But it's getting harder and harder to believe that these days when you look at the New York Times bestseller list, flip on the television, or - yes - watch a film with a very powerful message about media values have no idea it is telling anything other than a happy bubble-gum fairy tale.

So here's the deal: The next time you get annoyed a content-creators' "self-promotion," unless it's really clear that the creator is really just trying to be a narcissistic spectacle with zero substance, give that content creator a break. Those writers, bloggers and/or radio hosts probably don't want to have to be pushing their work out as hard as they are. In fact, they probably just want to spend their time making the content as good as they can and hate the fact that they have to simultaneously work to get that content out there. But as Julie & Julia show, that's what the marketplace now demands.

* Not surprisingly, most people who become very famous are accused of "self-promotion" until they achieve fame - and then the attacks are typically replaced by sycophantic worship and pure ass-kissing.

** By the way, Julie Powell may be a talented writer - I don't mean to suggest she isn't. But she didn't achieve her notoriety - and therefore, her opportunity to be a professional writer - based as much on her talent as a writer as on her getting written up in the New York Times for cooking the recipes of Julia Child.

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Fascinating analysis. Can't argue with it.
Actually, Julie Powell got famous for writing her blog while working at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which was the state agency empowered to try and redevelop the World Trade Center immediately after the attacks. The view out the window (as a lowly employee, she was blessedly facing away) was the smoking hole. Her job, answering phone calls from irate, traumatized, or otherwise difficult people, wasn't any fun either. The fact that she wrote rather than coming home and collapsing on her couch with a Scotch, as most of us did, was amazing. Still, you're absolutely right that her platform may not have been based on her talent but rather on her gimmick (that sometimes happens on OS too); still her back-story was appealing as well.

The media forces at work insist on a platform, which is another way of saying built-in recognition because, well, we all recognize recognition. A poll of British school children a few years ago found that a third of them, when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, replied "Famous." We celebrate being known. Any author who doesn't (pardon me) recognize that reality is fighting an uphill battle. And any author that does and still complains about the self-promotion we all have to undertake to get seen or heard, let alone recognized, is living in an alternate reality. If we'd like to reward merit, then let's reward merit. If we'd like to attract eyes, then we'll do whatever that takes, I suppose. But what we should be doing is figuring out how to combine the two, so that quality is what attracts the eyes, the attention, the recognition.
"When you aren't world famous, you have to take time away from the content you are producing to make sure the content gets out there." Unfortunate but true.
Excellent piece!
Rated, appreciated and emailed to a bunch of friends.
I see this dichotomy in, of all places, reality TV. Stylistically, the shows are pretty much alike - famous hosts, competitive gimmicks, dramatic music, quick cutting, and high backstage (or back-island) drama. And they're all promoted shamelessly and endlessly.

But shows like "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" have contestants with real skills who are asked to perform complicated tasks under unnatural constraints. Unlike the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise where success depends on toned bodies and white teeth, the designers and chefs of the aforementioned shows must use their genuine talents and time management ability to produce aesthetically sophisticated products, all the while undergoing progressive exhaustion and winnowing through the series. These products are then judged harshly by legitimate experts.

Top Chefs and Project Runway-winning designers earn whatever fame they receive; the lucky Bachelors/Bachelorettes are bestowed with pointless notoriety.

Excellent piece. Rated.
I was a reader, and eagerly followed along as Julie Powell plodded through Julia's recipes, from the very beginning, when blogging was still new. Nikki is right about the Julie's job, it was a depressing place to be, and when the blackout happened all of her readers worried for her well being. Julie may not have plopped on her couch with a scotch every night but there was no lack of alcohol. Julie did come home at the end of the day and cooked, but any regular reader of the blog can attest to the vast amounts of alcohol that were consumed. Rivers of the stuff. I didn't read the book so maybe some of that was toned down.

I was a little bummed out that a movie hasn't been made just about Julia Child. Her life has enough material for more than one great film.

As for Julie Powell, I say good for her, and I wish her continued success. The state of publishing, pop culture and the media in general? The platform and name recognition is everything, even if no one can name a single thing you have accomplished to merit it.
Yep, you're right. The need to for promotion is so counter-intuitive in a way (especially if you're artistic). I think we (writers) all look at Julie Powell like people look at the guy who invented the million-dollar product (Silly Putty comes to mind), and think: I wish I had thought of that.
These are fascinating points. When you take the platform-as-king mindset and throw in a whole lot of unemployed writers and journalists (including me), it feels like "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" on steroids, or a never-ending reality show, with so many talented people competing for an ever-shrinking pool of paying work. It's tough. Some days I feel like launching myself into space in a homemade balloon.
Great piece, David. I'm going to repost on my Facebook page, in an attempt to beef up my platform. Or perhaps I should say "boeuf."


Diana Rico
You've shown me another angle on a problem I've been thinking about for a long time.

Whereas blogging was once a means to an end, it has become an end unto itself because there are many more talented writers than there are opportunities for them to earn a living with their skills.

I was fortunate enough to earn a living as a writer for many years, but now that I am trying to get back into the starting rotations, I'm finding that there are too many asses vying for each empty seat, a function of the increasing number of asses divided by the decreasing number of seats.

A new paradigm is required, a new mechanism for readers to find writers and writers to reach readers; the blog system merely scratches that itch without curing it.
I thought the point of Julie Powell's blog was to force her to complete the task of re-creating all of Julie Child's recipes in front of an audience (so to speak), not to become famous. I mean, her work was on a Salon blog, not on some self-promoted website - she didn't cook naked or feed the poor these creations - nothing self-serving, just a review of how tough it was to accurately re-create Julia Childs recipes these days, when you worked fulltime and lived in a small apartment. She developed a small, devoted following, and got lucky.... She didn't send her child up in a balloon, nor sleep with Tiger Woods to get attention.
Actually, I thought the movie made Julia Child seem like a bored genius - someone who could out cook very experienced chefs, no sweat, while Julie looked exasperated at times, like the inexperienced cook she was. How did Julia come up with the exact ingredients and cooking technique? I didn't see the effort in the movie.
"If a publisher has the choice of publishing a brilliant work by someone nobody knows or publishing the worst-written trash by a famous person, they'll choose the latter in a heartbeat."

Truer words were never blogged. I ran across a similar statement a while back, to the effect that if you were an unknown and at the beginning of your writing career, and wrote like a genius - you couldn't get arrested by a publisher. If you were a famous writer and at the peak of your career, any old drek you cared to scribble would be lauded.

Candidly, the way that traditional publishing is cratering - you might be better off going it on your own, and self-promoting relentlessly ... say, anyone want to read old-fashioned but impeccably researched historical novels set on the American frontier? Just thought I'd ask.
Interesting analysis. You might also check out Newsweek's piece on the nature of Celebrity - I read it earlier today, it goes hand-in-hand with your take.

I guess I am hopeful that this is still shaking out and that ultimately, good content does drive interest. "If you build it, they will come..." so to speak. Obviously, "they" need to know about it, but as Internet/TV/journalistic platforms merge - content becomes even more key.

and, right on about the You've Got Mail movie. I never quite pegged what bugged me so much about that one.
Um, I think Julie Powell always had ambitions that her project would lead to a new career and better life. She associated her blog with a very public mass media site (Salon), and actively courted her readers. She also made no secret of her dislike for her job, and made it clear that she expected better things for herself, even if she was vague about exactly what that would be. A considerable investment in time and no small sum of money was expended in the completion of her goal.

It will be interesting to see how her second book sells and if Hollywood knocks on her door again. Julie may not be much of a draw with the connection to the venerable Ms. Child.
I was threatened with expulsion from ivillage for offering free copies of one of my books to anybody who would consider writing a review. ivillage told me that since I wasn't already famous, my offer was considered threatening to the other members of ivillage. The deleted my offer and told me that if I ever made such an offer again they would cancel my membership. I saw no purpose in repeating the offer, since they were going to delete it. I also saw no purpose in continuing my membership.
I have to wonder if anyone else noticed the reference to Salon in that particular movie...

I'd much rather come up with recipes of my own creation than I would make myself famous using someone else's. That's just me though.
David, thanks for your insightful post. To carry your thoughtful points further, not only were Julie Powell's blog posts made special because the NY Times anointed them as such, the film itself was then unbelievably overrated and promoted by none other than the NYTimes. This was no doubt because of Nora Ephron's connections to journalism royalty, but also, I think, as a way of creepily reinforcing the "wisdom" of the paper's "discovery" of Powell's blog.

I think I counted 5-6 mentions/stories about Julie & Julia in the NYTimes right before the film opened. So everyone involved, including the NYTimes itself, became part of a ever-growing PR juggernaut, all feasting off the one person in the project who, as you noted, actually accomplished something on grit and talent alone, Julia Childs.
All you have to do is look at the cover here some days. Not that many of the people aren't talented; they're just not AS talented as many of the people who get (consistently) overlooked. If my name was "x" and I scribbled seven letters drawn from Scrabble, I bet you would see my name a lot more often. And many other people's too.
If you can't promote yourself...then who will? My blog is my journal on how I am going to go about promoting my book I am going to go it alone without the help of a publicist. Everyone just gets to read along. Is it wrong to promote myself?
As much as I wish that my scintillating writing and wise counsel were enough to bring people to my silly blog, I have to agree that it just ain't so.
Who makes these rules? In India a doctor is not even allowed to advertise in big letters(bad form). That is not the case in US. So if there is no universality to this whole thing I wonder what the ballyhoo is all about. The population is bursting at the seams and the productivity of people and media is exploding. If one saw how humility is drummed into the East at the cost of creativity and pride sometimes I think one would simply want moderation and leave the rest alone.
I say if people dont want to know shut it off, delete it,turn away...
"If a publisher has the choice of publishing a brilliant work by someone nobody knows or publishing the worst-written trash by a famous person, they'll choose the latter in a heartbeat."

Of course. They want a Best SELLER more than they want a literary award winner. Books/Authors that come with a pre-existing audience are more likely to sell than those with no audience. With the cost of media these days, the only way they can justify a marketing budget is to know there's buyers waiting.

PT Barnum said "without publicity, a terrible thing happens. Nothing!"

Everyone flocks to watch a circus... which you see abundantly online. Here, too. ;) rated...
You're right, and I like the notion that it's important to have sympathy for all us self-promoters. It's become part of the job, but, yes, I'd rather just be focusing on content. The other thing about the need for self-promotion is that it forces writers of mainstream nonfiction into more provocative or hot-button statements just to get eyeballs. That's always been true with slick magazines, but the stakes are higher now for freelancers.

Sigh. I guess I'm going with the flow, trying not to feel too depressed...
I liked the book, I liked the movie. Very interesting assessment...food for thought. ;)
Well David, I guess I don't see it this way.

I thought that the original idea: to cook through Child's massive tome while blogging about it was brilliant. She had me right there.

You seem to be ranting about self-promotion, and well, I have no idea how the Times came to run a piece about Julie Powell. Did she call them? Did one of their writers just stumble on the blog and love it? In the absence of knowing, I'd guess somebody just stumbled on the blog.

And from there. . . it might well have been a question of talent. If her blog entries had been boring and poorly written-- the NYTimes might not have pursued it. And if people hadn't gone to her blog, then bought her book (remember the book--that came out in 2005, so was likely being shopped to publishers before the movie by Ephron was conceived). . . . I'm not sure if Ephron would have found her, no?

Your other point seems to be that Powell is not as brilliant as Child. Maybe. Heck if I know. But the truth is, I didn't want to learn French cooking, I wanted to read Powell. Hate me if you want, but I am not currently listening to opera either. Is success ever about talent alone? Nope, never has been.

So your point is that the New York Times are kingmakers, and that's not fair? Okeydokey.

I'm also confused: am I supposed to be indignant that Ephron made a movie you think is schlock, or am I supposed to be indignant that Powell got famous for being in the pages of the NYTimes? Both?

Writers just want to write, you say, and hate the business of marketing. I understand. But isn't this life? Van Gogh just wanted to paint. Luckily he had a brother. But absent luck like this, every artist has to schlep.
lot's of people are in the habit of getting paid to talk. then blogging filled the world with free speech. bummer.

some people will continue to get paid,which one's i don't know. considering the relative attention tiger and global warming get, roland hedley should be your role model.
Julie's concept was brilliant. It was about cooking all the recipes in Julia Child's book, BUT IT WAS NOT REALLY ABOUT COOKING it was about growing up and into your own skin as a grown woman. It is about going to college, paying for student loans and not having or getting a job that could even remotely be termed fulfilling. And within those rough parameters came a story of triumph, of not settling for the mindless and easy route, to carry on in search of some sort of personal fucking fulfillment that is not an either or situation, in other words it shouldn't be a choice between a mindless robotic job that pays the bills versus an intellectually challenging but monetarily enhancing gig.

All things considered I am guessing too that if Julie had been blogging from Wichita not only would she have been unable to obtain many of the ingredients necessary to meet the goal (unless she had a lot of money), but I doubt she ever would have had the following she did. So, blogging in Brooklyn was a good thing for Ms. Powell.
Interesting thoughts. I had no idea accusing someone of self-promotion was such an affront. Perhaps, though, that makes your point. Rated.
The simple act of writing something and posting it where people you don't know can see and read it is where self-promotion begins; nobody wants to be invisible ALL the time. But who else's POV can each of us possibly write from other than our own? The skill with which it is done, whether it becomes a fascinating series of well-written posts that reward the reader or a series of self-addressed valentines or whines or a combination thereof, makes all the difference. I like writers who can make me laugh and make me think, and if they can do both at once, hooray.

I certainly think Julia Child had and has it all over Julie Powell. She is and always will be the better cook and the better writer. Julie and Julia was one of the few movies I saw this year though, and I did enjoy it. But Mastering is a far greater work with more gravitas than Julie and Julia will ever have.
You can see the same thing with OS. There's an editor, but as far as I can tell, he doesn't read the 150 odd new entries a day. He scans the titles, reads his favorites' blogs and picks just enough stuff to fill the cover. Some of it's great, some of it is merely okay.

OS could get some software, like Amazon has that allows readers to do a better job of sifting through the posts and finding stuff they like. But they don't do that.

Instead, they give us advice on self-promotion. Some people choose to blog-whore.

I have thought about ways to garner readership, but I'm here because I want to write, not because I want to market myself or my writing.
i just want to know how i can get a platform. and get famous. because then i can surely (finally!) get a chauffeur.
Great post. I personally prefer to spend my time writing and providing great content and something that makes people think. I resent having to do the whole "marketing" thing to get my writing out there but it seems to now be a necessary evil.
I have mixed feelings about this. One one hand, Julie's story paled in comparison to that of Julia. But I also found myself rooting for her. Someone without fame got the goons to grant it to her. And in a second hand way, she got a lot of people hip to the idea that food ought to be good, and can be if one cares to work at making it so.
I just downloaded the movie "Julie and Julia". I knew it wasn't important enough to actually go to a theater and see, particularly because it was an Ephron effort. Thanks, BTW, for the accurate assessment of her talent and style. I watched it for Streep's performance, which I thought was a typically skillful performance from her, but also predictable (maybe this rubbed off on her from Ephron).

I hadn't reflected on the content of the movie until it was unfolding before my eyes. Yes, the flimsy premise was disconcerting. Comparing Childs with Powell was depressing. But I did think about Child's world back in the 50's. She became hugely famous because her excellent work got to the biggest audience in the world -- the American public. She could have done the same level of excellent work as a European citizen in one European country and wouldn't have become huge. Huge is an American phenomenon. Lots of foolishness comes with it. We've lost the hard work part and kept the foolishness.

Per your points about our ever-evolving media. Yeah, it's sad these days -- and getting sadder. But our American penchant for the recognizable "platform/celebrity" is not new. What's new is that media is in chaos and good writing is in the doldrums now that we are squarely in the "information age." There's just too much to consume. We are all overwhelmed. The "15-minutes of fame" thing came true primarily not because we are shallow (we are), but because we just don't have more time than that. In fact, it's gotten down to 15 seconds of fame. We all know this well.

And what suffers is the art. Last night I watched a great documentary on the making of the movie "Gone With The Wind." The book was a popular sensation for adult readers all over the world. The movie was a civic event. We will never have that kind of cultural convergence again, because we live in a time that no longer has time for it. Art forms -- both high and popular -- grow out of a culture. Ours can't grow anything important right now -- heck, it can't even report the news well anymore.

And so the 15 seconds are filled with wacky blogger ideas (I cannot believe that Powell held down a full-time job, cooked 500+ recipes in one year and blogged about it everyday--sorry!) and mediocre script writers like Ephron -- who BTW produced and directed the silly thing. I remember Streep and Ephron on Charlie Rose earlier this year. They seemed to be talking right passed each other. I saw how diplomatic Streep knew to be -- a big reason she's still in the game.

Another point: "Julie and Julia" is so August '08. Everything about it comes from the economic bubble that popped last year. This sort of inflated nonsense won't find promoters so easily these days.

Thanks for your post.
"...the promotion of one's work has become as important as the quality of the work itself."

No, more important. Singularly important.

Out "there," it's platform, platform, platform.

Tremendous piece. Rated.
And when you find out that Julie left out the fact that while writing her blog and having her husband suffer through her cooking compulsion, she was having an affair that ended up ruining her relationship.

It was rather a shock and left an unsavory taste in our mouths (my wife and I) when I researched this Julie Powell. In the movie, I can't imagine her having the time and after seeing her in the DVD extras we were both struck by the strangely bizarre voyeuristic nature of the movie and the complete absence of mention of that 'little detail'. It was just kinda sick. The movie tries so hard to get us to like her and identify with her and in the end, rooting for her only to find out that the real 'her' was a narcissistic and shallow attention grabbing sideshow hawker looking for her minutes of fame. Delivered, as you say, by the New York Times...

Yes, the content surely suffered in this case.
David, I love, love love you.. actually I didn't even realize you wrote this until I went back up to the top and realized this.. soo.. BEFORE I did realize that.. my thought was..

True, true.. but..

There was a message to the Julie/Julia story that was profound.. I disagree with some of what you got out of it..

Julia Child was a taken care of woman.. who didn't have to work an 8 hour day before going home to cook and then blog it.

She took 8 years because she likely HAD 8 years at her disposal. As it was portrayed, she was in no hurry.. it began as a past-time.

On the other hand.. what I got from Julie's portrait was a woman emotionally hanging on the edge.. miserable.. turned bitchy from her stress and sad work.

That she got to make a movie from that concept is just the afterthought.. what she conveyed to others is straight from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's proven concepts of happiness in "Flow".. find your dream and pursue it.

I don't think that's about success as a blogger.

As for your comments on Nora Ephron.. I think the majority of intellectuals agree, she writes from a 1950's style illogical romance. Insulting, but most just look past it to enjoy the acting style of light and lovely.. which is in the minority in Hollywood since the 50's too.

And perhaps in your links you could add what radio station you're on and when.
I heard the hype, read the book, didn't much like Julie Powell but felt strangely compelled to finish the book. Have to admit it takes guts writing about yourself so unflatteringly. (Didn't know about the alleged affair; too bad for all.) Casting Amy Adams was brilliant to ensure more likability. Saw the movie, loved the movie, for its celebration of food (am a big fan of butter) and two loving (and very different) relationships. Didn't think it equated Julie's achievements with Julia's, was interesting comparison, though, of two women in two different ages who found some kind of meaning in cooking and writing. Lucky Julie, esteemed Julia. The latter inspired me to get serious about improving my cooking. Or was it the former? Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were marvelous. This was much better than the usual Nora Ephron.

Not only is it sad that fame often beats out talent and hard work, as an unemployed editor, it pains me to see books and articles published without the benefit of an editor's touch. That is so wrong. This is indeed a cold, cruel, screwed-up world, David Sirota. I enjoyed your thoughts; keep it up.
I actually completely disagree with David Sirota's examination.

I didn't particularly enjoy Julie Powell's writing or her narcissistic self-absorption, and I thought that Amy Adams lent Nora Ephron's movie an otherwise undeserved weight with her understated but pointed performance of Powell as terminally self-absorbed.

But that said, it seems clear that Powell succeeded with her writing for the simple reason that she spoke to her times, with a voice that resonated with a broad readership.

Maybe it was because they, too, were terminally self-absorbed. Maybe it was because Powell's chosen material -- "Nine Eleven" intersected with the Manhattan foodie craze -- was cleverly arranged to achieve maximum emotional resonance.

Maybe it was something else. But whatever the reason, she clearly did have a recognizable talent, even if it is not easy to define -- otherwise her blog wouldn't have attracted the considerable audience that it did.

Perhaps David Sirota's real complaint is that writers are frequently faced with the dichotomy between originality of thought and comforting appeal to a broad audience eager for the reification of their existing values.
Thank you for a thoughtful, dead-on piece. The pressure on writers to create a platform is intense. It's turning too many of us into relentless self-promoters who may not recognize how obnoxious it is to turn friends into "planks" in one's platform.
I understand your point but I don't know if I agree that it applies here. You see, I read the book, saw the movie, didn't read the blog while it was being written but my impression of Julie Powell was the same as most of her fans, she was undertaking an enormous, daunting and fascinating undertaking particularly for anyone who loves food and cooking (and Julia Child), Julie took on some hellofa hard task.

The difficulties: French cooking WITH sauces isn't simple, might even be considered advanced level (to do correctly) even if you're an experienced cook. There's a LOT of browning of the bones and making of the base soups and all kinds of basic preliminary that if you know cooking, know she had to undertake. Then there's this serious (and expensive) cooking after a stressful day at a full time job, which in itself is VERY hard because you're tired and from my vantage point most of the time when I worked stressful projects, I would rather pick up some takeout and flop on the couch and veg out. So doing both is mad crazy. And you have to admit, it's fun to read about, this idea of eating serious The Art Of French Cooking (BOTH editions) Julia food 7 days a week, 365 days a year - that's pretty amazing.

To my thinking Julie is a derivative of Julia and an idea whose time had arrived with a bang. We ALL love Julia Child. She teaches us patiently, with great good humor and relaxed bon vivant how to simplify the approach to creating good food. What cookbook reader/lover of good food HASN"T considered something like that, just cooking day in day out every recipe in a favorite cookbook? And to take on Julia, the Goddess herself? WOW. that's butterballs, baybee!

Julia Child deserves lots of books written about her (there aren't many) and a number of movies made about her (there is only this one and while she comes off adorably (as usual) it revealed very little we didn't know because it was about Julie.)
one last thing:
it occurs to me, this is nothing new under the sun. there have always been the famous, the "known" geniuses who even took credit for work produced under their name, in their studios. and then there are those who grunt work, do it, never get credit, never get known, go on into oblivion with nary a word ever said or written about them by anyone other than someone who loved them.

It's not fair, but it's the way of the world. We don't just want our genius, we want our genius to be appealing, to be memorable. Whether it's wearing a great plume in your hat or all white, as the ladies sang in "Gypsy":

Do something special
Anything special
And you'll get better because
Come on and just do mimic
When you gotta gimmick
Take a look how different we are!

If you wanna make it,
Twinkle while you shake it.

If you wanna grind it,
Wait till you refined it.

If you wanna stump it,
Bump it with a trumpet!

Get yourself a gimmick and you too,
Can be a star!