Martha Stewart: the old guard departs

Grant McCracken
8 min readApr 26, 2019

Time Magazine invited Martha Stewart and the stars of Fixer Upper, Joanna and Chip Gaines, to the TIME 100 gala early this week.

Chip says, “She didn’t have the faintest idea who we are, not a single clue.” How very sad. Martha was looking at her replacement.

I was at an Airbnb recently and I found this magazine on a side table.

“Oh,” I thought, “Chip and Joanna have a magazine!” I had seen Fixer Upper (a reality show from HGTV) and admired their retelling of the “men are from construction, women from interior design” story so beloved by Americans.

Adding a magazine to their TV show (itself in hiatus until Chip and Joanna launch their own network next year) signals that Chip and Joanna are edging out of the “construction + design” proposition into a media enterprise that fashions entire styles of life.

So much for design and construction. They are now ‘selling selfhood,’ as Syd Levy used to put it. It’s a bigger value proposition, to be sure.

Call it Fixer Upperer.

And I thought, “Hey, didn’t this used to be Martha Stewart’s job!”

I turned to Google Trends for an assessment of Stewart’s place in American culture.

It looks grim. Some will say, “Oh, this is easy. Stewart was investigated in 2002 and sent to serve her sentence in 2004.” Decline was inevitable.

On the other hand, maybe not. We could also argue, as Benjamin Wallace does, that prison turned out to be relatively kind to Stewart. While she was “inside,” Stewart stage-managed her incarceration with some cunning, her MSLO stock rose from $11 to $36, her personal net worth more than tripled, to over $1 billion, and she was named to the Forbes 400 list for the first time.

The decline came later. The trouble wasn’t prison, or only prison. It was that Stewart was now fighting cultural headwinds that have nothing to do…

Grant McCracken

I'm an anthropologist & author of Chief Culture Officer. You can reach me at