The raw and the Cooking Channel : gender and the branding of a niche cable identity



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The proliferation of niche cable programming in the U.S. post-network era includes a meteoric rise in food television. Indicative of this move toward an increase in food-related programming is the recent unveiling of the cable offering Cooking Channel. Creators behind Cooking Channel have worked to establish a distinct brand, describing the channel as a place for “food people” who are authentically and passionately “interested in upping their food IQ” (Scripps). The discourse surrounding the Cooking Channel launch is further complicated by the fact that men have an ostensibly larger presence on the channel. Men are featured in promotional spots, press releases, and on programs that take viewers on quests to increase their cultural food capital. This project works to unravel the gendered discourses surrounding the U.S. launch of Cooking Channel, asserting that the discursive site of the foodie is leveraged in an attempt to construct a foodie identity via gendered social distinction processes. The project initially analyzes the paratextual dialogue produced by mainstream press in order to highlight the negotiation among voices charged with creating the channel’s brand. The press – spearheaded by Cooking Channel parent Scripps Networks Interactive – provides an introduction to the channel that invokes consumption of new foodie content and a streamlined branding process that is divided along historically gendered binaries. The project then considers the ideological structures that underpin Cooking Channel’s programming and reinforce its identity as steeped in the pervasiveness of perpetual normative gender ideology. In turn, the final portion of the project uproots normative and hegemonic ideals with its focus on gender liminality, considering Cooking Channel as a conflicted site of negotiation that reflects shifting discourses of masculinity and femininity. These analyses merge to form a compelling look at how gender is situated in Cooking Channel’s construction of a niche cable brand.