Monday, June 27, 2005

Oprah -- What the Hell?

Watched the rerun of Tom Cruise's wack-o appearance on Oprah last week. Pretty disgusting. Just like Katie, Tom couldn't offer up a plausible story about how they actually met (where are the PR people here? I'll write you a plausible story, for God's sake). He posed, smiled, and yukked it up with Oprah during the hour-long commercial for War of the Worlds.

Most disturbing, though, was the fawning and pawing between Tom and Oprah. They reminisced about he "Legends Dinner", where she honored black women who have made achievements in culture (Mariah Carey? What? Was Cecily Tyson booked?). Oprah kept reminding us how long she has known Tom and that she has never "seen him like this." The capper came when she informed us that Tina Turner spent the night at her house. This is just the most recent show that prominently featured Oprah's great life, famous friends, and big money. We all saw the lavish 50th birthday parties. Recently, we've learned she has a mile-long driveway, she hosted the lavish wedding of her trainer, Bob, and her Santa Barbara mansion has had a $50 million renovation. Substance has taken a back seat to Oprah's fame and fortune (and sensationalism). Is this really what she wants her show to become?

A few years ago, I heard a graduate student quote writer bell hooks as saying Oprah Winfrey is evidence that "black people get to the top and stay on top only by sucking the dicks of white culture." Not Oprah!, I thought. She's not afraid to tell us the truth about tough issues (her reunion of the Little Rock Five with their tormentors was a classic -- I used it in my American History class for years), she introduces us to new writers and good books, she raises money (and gives plenty of her own) to great causes. Oprah, I thought, is being true to herself helping us all to be the best we can be. She may have a fun show every once in a while, but she is not pandering to whites or anyone else.

Oh, what I fool I've been. My disgust began with the magazine, which I subscribed to and quickly dropped when every featured product started at at $100. Then came the "Oprah's Favorite Things" episodes -- an obscene orgy of female consumerism made no less vile when it featured an audience full of teachers ("people who really deserve this"). The car show? Oye! Episodes are more likely to feature Amy Fisher than Condoleeza Rice or John Travolta over Dolores Huerta (she's been a Farm Workers advocate since she was in her early 20s, she raised a passel of successful kids, started out as a teacher and learned to be a labor organizer and negotiator...pretty interesting, huh? Might make a good show!).

Look, Oprah, I know the failure of the film Beloved was a disappointment and I honor you for getting fit and healthy, and the author who screwed up the Book Club was an idiot for dissing your imprint. But don't forget what made you so precious to your early viewers. You raised our consciousnesses. You showed us what we were like, what we were thinking, what we should be ashamed of, what we should know. Ms. hooks accused you of only being successful when you were pleasing white culture, but it feels like your show has focused on pleasing (and ONLY pleasing) everybody. What about challenging us? Informing us? Enlightening us?

I don't mind an occasional show on wrinkle treatments, but how about if you stop celebrating the art of shopping? I know you have cool life, but if I want to know how to get it, I could read a feature in Architectural Digest or In Style or even your own magazine. Use your show to help us become more interesting people. A whole hour with Valentino? No. An episode where you auction off your old evening gowns? Uh uh. If you keep treating your viewers like greedy, empty-headed gossips who only want to know about the private lives of celebrities, how to get rich, or how to live like you (as IF), that's exactly the kind of viewers you will create.

Oprah has frequently been quoted as saying she doesn't watch television because it "promotes false values." Lately, she and her producers have fulfilled that prophecy. It's time for them to take a long hard look at themselves and get back to using her show for good. Come on...there's no competition. Rosie's gone. Wayne's cancelled. Jane Pauley didn't stand a chance. Dr. Phil won't compete. Oprah has a bully pulpit. she should use it to create a legacy to be proud of, not one that will make her want to wash her hands on her way out of the studio.


At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have to tell you I LOVE OPRAH! :) But Im sure I am not alone. On the off chance that I do get to watch her show on a regular basis I do find that she often has the "average joe" on to talk about a variety of topics. The last week long run I watched included not just a fun show with celebrity guest Lisa Marie Presley, but also a woman escaping DV and a couple who is swinging in the suburbs, a family torn apart by obesity. Oprah does do some really great shows that do try to open our eyes to what is going on in the world. And those that watch her show regularily dont want to be depressed and saddend by the gloom of the world everyday. Some of the less shopping celebrity shows are:
"How to Look 10 Years Younger Now!" (June 27), "This Show Could Save Your Life" (June 21)learning tactics about how to get out of really bad situations, survive rape, get out of a flash flood... or "Sexually Abused Women Come Forward" (June 17) these were ordinary people, not celebrities. "Atrocities Against Children" (June 15), "Molested by a Priest" (June 13), "Memoirs of an Unfit Mother" (June 10), "Is your Sex Life Normal?" (June 2) and "Parents out of Control" (June 1). In all fairness out of 18 shows that have aired this month 9 of them have been celebrity interviews or "favorite things" episodes.

That said, I still love Oprah. Television, especially talk shows are supposed to show some reality and A LOT of entertainment. If people want to know what is really going on in the world they read the paper or pick up a book. Reality doesnt exist on TV, just a portion of it does.

I dont think Oprah is sucking white America off by any means, but I do think she has played her cards quite well to arrive where she is today.

At 5:08 PM, Blogger Loganite said...

Watch for the Oprah bashing of designer Hermes. A news item reported that Ms. Winfrey arrived at the French store just after closing time and, despite the clerks knowing who she was, was denied admittance. They were closed. She said she just wanted to buy Tina Turner a watch for her birthday. That's sweet, but they were closed. Apparently, Oprah has cancelled a large order with Hermes and might tell her audience to avoid the store. Could it be the Texas beef lawsuit all over again?

Oprah is the richest non-royal woman in the world. The world! She is the lifestyle that people want to become, and now that Martha Stewart has a tarsnished star, people are turning to Oprah. She's not as pretentious as Martha anyway.

Oprah Winfrey started as a regular journalist and is still a good interviewer, but she is almost a parody of herself. I am beginning to wish she had dumped her show when she talkewd about it a few years ago. As for the magazine: What kind of megalomaniac puts herself on the cover of every issue? Oprah may have slimmed down, but her ego has only increased.

-- L.

At 12:18 AM, Blogger Loganite said...

Try this one for a laugh.

-- L.


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