R.D. -- which basically entails obscenely rich people insisting that we commoners sit still while they yammer
|Martha Stewart: Will she suffer the Rosie Delusion?
So far there doesn't seem to be any real danger of Martha doing a similarly self-pitying, self-indulgent, self-destructive cover at Martha Stewart Living, but she has exhibited some of the other classic symptoms of R.D., which include: a) being convinced of your own infallibility; b) taking no real responsibility for any failures in your own realm; and c) naming names -- of those who are responsible for your failures.
We keep on hearing about the media rehabilitation of Martha Stewart, and it's gradually become clear that this is in lieu of actual rehabilitation within the penal system. Prison, Martha has told us, was preferable to home confinement. (How awful to be stuck in a fully-staffed luxury farmhouse estate!) In both prison and home confinement, though, she couldn't quite play by the rules.
In her first big media rehab play -- her summer cover interview with Matt Tyrnauer of Vanity Fair -- she cheerfully admitted to stealing some greenery from the Alderson Federal Prison Camp. "I have Alderson ginkgo," she told Tyrnauer, "from Alderson. I smuggled out some pods, and they are trees already." She also famously crowed about the fact that she knew how to take off her ankle bracelet. And as the New York Post reported, she violated her home confinement (to attend a yoga class).
If she seemed defiant -- prideful, even -- in Vanity Fair, well, it was understandable: She was still riding a wave of high expectations. Since then, though, her TV series have both debuted and both have proved to be ratings disappointments.
Whose fault is that? Not Martha's! As Patricia Sellers' recent Fortune cover story revealed, Martha actually expected that "I was replacing The Donald" on "The Apprentice." "It was even discussed that I would be firing The Donald on the first show." It becomes clear that she thinks Trump is standing in the way of the ratings primacy that is her due. As for the underperforming daytime "Martha," Stewart seems oblivious to the fact that a daily morning hour of her fine self (vs. her pre-prison half-hour format) might amount to overexposure.
But the worst thing about Stewart's most recent rantings: finding out, yet again, that she sees herself as a victim at every turn. For instance, the real f***-up, she tells Sellers, is not Stewart herself, but former CEO Sharon Patrick. "When I resigned and Sharon took over, it was clear the job was way too much for one person. ... She said she could handle it. She just wasn't handling it."
And in prison -- where Stewart was, of course, not allowed to conduct business -- we learn that she wrote an introduction to "Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett's book, which she dictated to her assistant from a prison phone. When she got called on the carpet for it, she insisted that "this is one friend doing another friend a favor. You can't look at this as business. I didn't get paid for it." Yeah, a favor to a friend who gave her a prime-time TV show.
Meanwhile, you know that New York Times bestseller, "The Martha Rules"? Turns out Martha worked on that in prison too -- it was, Sellers tells us, born of a seminar Stewart gave in prison.
Topping it all off, Stewart insists, "What I don't want is to be told that I can't be a corporate officer" and that she fully intends to become MSLO chairman again -- an ambition that comes as a surprise to the guy who helped her rescue her company, current Chairman Charles Koppelman.
So what have we all learned? That the most important Martha Rule is, basically, I am above the rules. Followed by: There is no such thing as overkill. And, There is no risk in hubris. And, Imperiousness is OK if you balance it out with yoga class.
All this, of course, might just be an inevitable byproduct of investing, heart and soul, in the Commodification of Self -- that slippery moral slope that convinces some brand-name celebrities that because we like some of the things they do (I've got some nice Martha Stewart sheets, for instance), we automatically like everything about them. And that they can do no harm.
But trust me on this, Martha: You can do harm. To yourself.
Just ask Rosie.
The Media Guy's column appears weekly on AdAge.com and in the print edition of Advertising Age. E-mail him at [email protected]