The Deen diabetes story gets more complicated here:
Virginia Willis, a food writer in Atlanta, said the criticisms directed at Ms. Deen often reflect sexism and stereotyping about the South, in addition to food snobbery. “No one vilifies Michelin chefs for putting sticks of butter in their food,” Ms. Willis said. “But when a Southern woman does it, that’s tacky.” Contrary to popular belief, however, she said Ms. Deen’s fat-laden cooking does not in fact represent the apotheosis of Southern cuisine.
“Paula’s food often reflects modern cooking and convenience foods more than Southern tradition,” she said. “She feels like she cooks for ‘real people’ and for better or worse, that is how many people in this country choose to eat.”
An astute comment from Todd raised a similar issue, with more nuance. So, class, region, and gender are all on the table here. In strict terms, there is no class argument, in that Paula Deen cashed in her working-class cred the moment she inked a deal to shill Smithfield-branded that are the products of the labor of America's most desperate underclass. And restaurauteur turned corporate shill makes a pretty lousy friend to the working class.
I've been suggesting that Deen represents a perversion of what's good about Southern food for some time now, but Acheson gets at the root of the issue better than I ever have. I don't think criticizing Deen's ethos is regional snobbery. More generally, if disliking shitty, unhealthy food = elitist, then pull the Silver Ghost around, James.
The gender question is maybe the area where defenses like Willis's make the most sense. There is a double standard, and bodyshaming is a big part of that. The "what if this had happened to Mario" question is an interesting one. However, and this is important -- I don't recall seeing much along the lines of "fatty got diabetes, ha ha!" any more than I recall seeing people claim that ODB or Amy Winehouse got what they deserved for the choices they made. Where the criticisms came, and continue to come, is in the cynical opportunisim inherent in using this diagnosis as a rebranding opportunity.