Clash of the Titans LXX: Oprah

February 19, 2008, 1:00 pm; posted by
Filed under Debate, Josh J, Mike J  | 3 Comments

In this corner, arguing on the side of Oprah, is Mike!

And in this corner, arguing against her power, is Josh!

It’s easy to hate on Oprah. Oprah is generally blamed, perhaps rightly, for perpetuating a sort of pseudo-religion, a stand-in for the Gospel, if you will. She promotes self-help books like The Secret that promote un-Christian (and downright wacky) ideas, and darn it, she’s just more successful and has more money than the rest of us.

Yet amid all the derision, we often forget the remarkable good Oprah has done. I’m not simply talking about her new South African school or other big donations, important though those are. I’m talking about a far greater accomplishment.

I’m talking about the fact that I have been in many gatherings of white women, my grandmother’s age, talking about a black woman seriously. Some of these women are quite liberal, while some put the fun in fundamentalist, but none of them grew up in a culture where African-American women were accorded respect. And yet, here they are, talking about her last show, reminiscing about great interviews in the past, forming an emotional bond with a black woman. Astonishing.

Is the emotional bond with Oprah perfect and praiseworthy? Probably not. It’s arguably not even real; you could argue white people love to have pseudo-relationships with African-Americans who remain safely behind television screens and stereo speakers. But you have to admit that it is something, given where we have been as a nation, that ladies of privilege–young and old–dab their tears and share their smiles with a woman of color born into hard Mississippi poverty and raised in a ghetto.

Oprah’s not a messiah; but let’s celebrate the significant inroads she has helped to make in the racial arena.

Let me start by saying that I’m not the type to begrudge anyone the opportunity or ability to become rich, famous, and influential. So I’m not here to hate on Oprah just because she’s probably the most powerful woman (person?) in the world.

I also think it’s great that she’s so philanthropic, even if that is part of her shtick. For what it’s worth, I’m sure it’s mostly genuine, even if it is undeniably crucial to her own future success.

But when it comes to the hero worship of the big O, I just don’t get it. Other than going on several semi-successful diets and giving away more cars than Bob Barker, what has she done that’s all that impressive? I mean, besides all that charity work. More to the point, what has she done for me?

I guess what really bothers me isn’t so much that everyone else takes her so seriously, but that she does as well. A couple years ago, she rubber-stamped James Frey’s memoir as a best seller by recommending it to her lemmings via her all powerful book club. When it later came out that Frey was a fraud, he was summoned back to the show for a good whuppin’. How dare he lie to Oprah… er, I mean, to the people? He threatened her credibility… um, I mean, betrayed millions!

In the end, I simply find the Oprah entity to be vapid, but probably no more so than everything else on TV. Considering what she’s up against in the daytime lineup, I suppose it’s no wonder she’s emerged as the people’s champion.

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Comments

3 Comments to “Clash of the Titans LXX: Oprah”

  1. Steve on February 19th, 2008 1:15 pm

    If I had remembered that this would be Clash LXX, I would have had you guys argue about the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures!

    Ha ha! Septuagint humor!! It kills me!

  2. David on February 19th, 2008 5:23 pm

    I’m not touching the Oprah XXL joke made possible by your comment.

  3. Chloe on February 20th, 2008 8:56 am

    You guys are awful people. Oprah’s my hero. I want to be just like her when I grow up. Daytime TV, here I come!!

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