POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Is Guy Fieri Terrible?

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It’s an important question I’ve wrestled with for quite some time now: Is Guy Fieri terrible, or just, like, ok? In an attempt to provide some therapeutic closure for myself, I’ll present both halves of the argument in my head below — please leave your verdicts and further explanations in the comments.

POINT: Guy Fieri Is Not Terrible

My friend Kevin summed up Guy Fieri’s existence pretty perfectly, saying, “You know how some novelty diners will have, like, an alligator in sunglasses inside a pink Cadillac that’s made to look like it’s crashed through the wall? Guy Fieri is that alligator come to life.” His existence is absurd, sure, but he’s generally harmless.

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is one of my favorite standby “throw it on whenever” shows, and I’ve never minded Guy Fieri as the host. A number of my friends rip on him constantly for several hard-to-dispute reasons, including the fact that DD&D probably wouldn’t be any worse with any other human hosting it, but I actually sympathize with Fieri’s deceptively tough position as the host; he’s basically just there to compliment the food of nice, neighborly people, and there’s really only so many ways a person can say “this is good!” without turning repetitive or sounding like an A-Hole thesaurus.

Granted, Fieri’s jokes on the show are super-PG sports-announcer-banter humor, but that’s about the limit for The Food Network. Can we really blame him for the occasional grandpa-caliber “Hey look over there! [Eats More Food]“? What’s he gonna do, randomly throw in a subversive Tim & Eric video in the middle of some Polish great aunt’s pierogi recipe?

The “what does Fieri even do?” criticism reminds me of the omnipresent Ryan Seacrest hate — sure, he doesn’t make or break American Idol, and his 90 obskillion dollar salary is absurd, but he’s just there to host the show, make a few comments here or there, and keep it moving along, and that’s what he does. Would we really actually prefer Seacrest to grab a mic and do 15 minutes of impromptu coked-up Robin Williams crowdwork?

Fieri just hosts some things, and he’s exactly as ok and standardly lame as so many hosts are by definition pigeonholed to be. DD&D is a solid show, Minute To Win It is whatever, but neither of these really paint a picture of Fieri that’s strongly anything – he’s just some guy who’s mostly harmless.

On the other hand…

COUNTERPOINT: Guy Fieri Is Terrible

I used to laugh it off when friends of mine made fun of Guy Fieri, mostly because I couldn’t believe anyone could have such a strong opinion of him either way, but my first inclination that they might’ve been on to something was this opening paragraph from the New York Times profile Guy Fieri, Chef-Dude, Is In The House:

AS the first chords of “Sweet Home Alabama” thrummed through the Circus Maximus at Caesars Atlantic City on July 31, the 1,600 people in the sold-out crowd were already on their feet. They howled for the star. When he emerged from the wings in flip-flops, mirrored sunglasses and a red chef’s coat with skull-shaped buttons, they howled louder.

Hrmmm. That is one paragraph densely packed with equal parts cliche and horrible. Blasting “Sweet Home Alabama” in a casino while wearing a coat with skull-shaped buttons? The profile sounds like it’s describing the “Bad Boy” coach character who helps turn Air Bud’s Rugby Team around in the Triple-G-rated Air Bud 7: Now He’s Playing RUFF-by. Is this actually a real human?

It hasn’t helped Fieri’s cause as anything resembling a legitimate culinary personality that in his short rise to ubiquity, he’s already starred in ad campaigns for TGI Friday’s, Ritz crackers, and…Aflac? It’s not like he’s the first human to enjoy money, but when he’s already not contributing to his most prominent shows beyond just being there and being kind of acceptable, the universe’s sudden overwhelming desire to recruit Fieri for everything is simultaneously irksome and baffling.

The primary case for Fieri’s terribleness isn’t his decision to accept every project hurled at him, but rather, the implication of what it means for Fieri to be so in demand — he is the absolutely perfect noncontroversial and nonthreatening personality who seems like he’s vaguely controversial and threatening, offering something that seems cosmetically distinct (a bad boy with frosted tips and weird shirts and a convertible) when in reality, he offers little distinct personality at all beyond calling a marinara sauce “killer” instead of “good.” He’s Ryan Seacrest, just with more food knowledge and skullier shirt buttons; he’s not going out at the end of the day and curbing rival biker gangs.

I also have hard time defending Fieri when EVERY picture of him this this:

So, that’s my dilemma. Guy Fieri: Fine or terrible? Feel free to debate away in the comments.

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