Celebrity Chefs & Character Types
In addition to working on scripted drama around the world, I also work on unscripted or reality shows. The narrative problems are surprisingly similar. In a lawyer show, a cop show or a doctor show a whole group of characters are doing pretty much the same job.
They all meet challenges, reversals, and opposition from someone or something along the way. Every character wants to be successful and do a generally good job. Likewise, in an elimination reality show, everyone is together in a group doing generally the same thing. They all want to be successful and do a good job which, in the case of a reality show, means lasting long enough to win the big money prize by avoiding eviction from the show.
Whether you are writing a scripted drama or producing an unscripted reality show, you have the same character problem: How do you differentiate each character and make each one a unique and compelling individual? The key is why characters do what they do, how they define doing a good job or a successful strategy, and how they approach challenges, obstacles, work or what they love.
In preparing for a recent consulting job, I wanted to illustrate the Character Types with real life individuals who are clearly defined characters in their own right and who each embody very different approach to life and work. The subjects had to have an international reputation since I was working with producers from a variety of different countries.
Celebrity chefs turned to be an effective example. Each person is doing approximately the same thing (discussing and/or demonstrating food, cooking, or dining opportunities), they all want to be successful and generally do a good job. How they define that job, for themselves, is vastly different.
Here’s how analyzing real people can help in creating a scripted drama or an unscripted reality show. The Character Types are the same whether applied to celebrity personalities or fictional characters.
Here is how the Character Types line up and my observations on each kind of real life Food Personality:
POWER OF CONSCIENCE
Jamie Oliver is a Power of Conscience character. He is a food crusader, his mission is to teach people the right things to eat and the proper, healthy approach to planning and cooking meals. The name of his show is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: Campaign for Healthy Eating. Here is what his American website has to say:
This food revolution is about saving America’s health by changing the way you eat. It’s not just a TV show, it’s a movement for you, your family and your community.
Oliver’s UK website is sub-headed “The Ministry of Food”. He is not afraid to impose his views on others and has ignited a real controversy over the food served in schools in the UK. Some mothers have reacted in protest.
Two angry mums are mocking Jamie Oliver’s healthy eating campaign by running a junk food service for school children.
Julie Critchlow and Sam Walker say youngsters are snubbing overpriced “low fat rubbish” dished up at school lunchtime.
So, using an old supermarket trolley, they are running daily deliveries of fish and chip lunches, pies, burgers and fizzy drinks, passing the food through a gap in a fence…
…(A)s environmental health officials and council chiefs were called in a bid to ban the mums Sam, 41, hit back: “This is all down to Jamie. I just don’t like him and what he stands for. He’s forcing our kids to become more picky about their food.
“Who does he think he is, all high and mighty? He can feed whatever he wants to his children but he should realise that other parents think differently.” - The Daily Mirror
Power of Conscience characters believe they know instinctively if something is wrong, unjust, unfair, improper, corrupt, bad judgement, or out of line. Their opinion and response is swift and immutable. They are propelled forward by personal outrage and moral indignation, usually on another’s behalf.
These characters believe they are their brother’s keeper. They feel responsible for the greater good and for doing good. Jamie Oliver is believes food choices have serious moral implications for health and social responsibility. When he is criticized, it is for a too strident, judgmental or preachy attitude.
Read the full story »
Nigella Lawson and her Recent Troubles
Nigella Lawson’s admission she used cocaine in a fraud trial of two sisters who were her personal assistants has caused a sensation in the British press. The intimate details about her relationship with her husband, multi-millionaire Charles Saachi, was further fuel for scandalous gossip.
The story reminded me to look back on an article I wrote about celebrity chefs and their Character Types. (The full article is here http://www.etbscreenwriting.com/celebrity-chefs-character-types/)
Below is my analysis of Nigella at the time:
POWER OF LOVE
Nigella Lawson is a Power of Love character. She is a food seducer. Cooking is a sensual pleasure and the opportunity to nurture. She is often described as being “sexy and flirty” while working with or presenting food. She celebrates her own voluptuous curves and says she takes her greatest joy in “feeding others”. Here is how she describes her philosophy in one of her books:
The trouble with much modern cooking is not that the food it produces is not good, but that the mood it induces in the cook is one of skin-of-the-teeth efficiency, all briskness and little pleasure. Sometimes that’s the best we can manage, but to others we want to feel not like a postmodern, post feminist, overstretched modern woman but, rather, a domestic goddess, trailing nutmeggy fumes of baking pie in our languorous wake. So what I’m talking about is not being a domestic goddess, exactly, but feeling like one. – Domestic Goddess
Lawson’s culinary efforts have been described as decadent, succulent, passionate, luscious, and lavish.
Lawson’s sexy roundness mixed with her speed-demon technique makes cooking dinner with Nigella look like a prelude to an orgy. - The New York TImes
Her appeal is further described here:
Women like her, she says, “because I’m not thin”, while men who lack the domestic skills to unwrap a chip supper can watch her licking a fingerful of her signature Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly and wonder what they have been missing. - The Telegraph
Power of Love characters, regardless of what they look like are innately sensual and sexy. They are Earth Mothers or Nurturers regardless of their gender. In her many television shows like Nigella Bites and Forever Summer with Nigella, Lawson presents food as a comfort, a pleasure and the abiding warmth of true sustenance. Cooking is her way of giving pleasure to others. When she is criticized it is for creating a kind of “Food Porn” that is a too voluptuous or too much the over-stuffed sensory feast.
POWER OF LOVE AND POWER OF WILL
Earlier in the year, her husband, Charles Saachi, famously grabbed Nigella by the throat in the outdoor patio of a London restaurant. She testified she saw a young woman with a “sweet looking” baby and said she “was so looking forward to having grandchildren”.
She says her husband then grabbed her by the throat and told her he was the only person she should be concerned with and that he should be the only person giving her pleasure. Saachi contended in the press that he grabbed his wife by the throat with one and then two hands in order to make her focus on the conversation they were having (and presumably on him).
After photos of the incident were published Saachi was cautioned by the police for assault. A police caution is a serious formal warning but stops short of actual prosecution. Very soon after publication of the photos Nigella filed for divorce.
She says her husband has been continually emotionally abusive. Why didn’t she leave him before then? Power of Love characters tend to be very forgiving in their relationship with Power of Will men. It’s typical of a Power of Love character to believe if she just loves her man enough, or in exactly the right way, he will have to love her back.
Power of Will men are controlling, often have anger and temper issues, are extremely jealous, and are very physical. They see their partner as belonging to them and them alone. In a strange way, this possessiveness and aggressive behavior can “feel” a bit like love to Power of Love characters. He may not be treating her kindly but he has a powerful connection to her and she had a big emotional impact on him.
Saachi insists he still deeply loves Nigella and is “devastated” by the divorce. He said in court, “I adore Nigella, and I’m absolutely brokenhearted to have lost her”.
As this sordid saga plays out in court and in the press, I’m sure we’ll see other testimony that supports and further defines this battling couples’ Character Types.