2/16/2006

The Deification of Oprah

Am I the only one who just doesn't get it? It would seem that even the cynical and wry David Letterman has fallen prey to the social inertia that is steadily moving Oprah Winfrey towards sainthood. And I'm not talking our kind of Saint. First, I must openly admit, I do not watch the Oprah program anymore. There are many reasons I stopped tuning in, not the least of which is a busy life full of children and family things in the late afternoon. But that isn't the only reason- even if I sat around doing nothing all day (ha ha ha!), I still would not be interested in most of her programs. See, I just cannot relate, and don't believe a career woman, who has never been married, has no children, and enough money to support the GNP of a small nation, can relate to me. She might be able to read about me, to nod empathetically, to bring on some expert on "stay at home moms", but all this does is turn me into a caricature, a shadow of myself. And really, it's not her job to represent me- she is an entertainer; and herein lies my problem. I think Oprah believes her own press- and tries to be every woman. She is not- and never will be. The philanthropic work is great, the charity work is great, the donations and school-building in Afghanistan are great. But every time I think I will give her another shot, maybe tune in, maybe read an article out of Her magazine, the same thing happens. Every show is a celebration of Her, what is happening in Her life, what is on Her bookshelf, and what she is wearing on the cover of Her magazine this month. And it just turns me off. I can't go for the Rah-Rah, pseudo feminism and celebration of Her Oprahness. Women like me don't have personal trainers, personal chefs, a make-up artist, a hair stylist, and the finances to support and carry the careers of my nearest and dearest. Women like me don't go out and buy the fabulous new Prada diaper bag and the 4" heels to match- nor would most of us, even if we could. When I watch, which is seldom, what I see is pop-psychology, a propensity toward over-consumption, a misunderstanding of traditional families and an overabundance of dysfunctional families, subtle and ever-so-slight reverse racism, discontent, and tiny undercurrent of hostility towards men who are not exactly John Travolta or Dr. Phil. So I simply cannot understand why so many women seem to rabidly love her. And David Letterman gave new meaning to "Obsequious Toad" during his at-long-last recent interview with her. I cringe just thinking about it. What am I missing?

42 Comments:

Blogger Ana said...

Amen and amen.

I love (not) how lighting a candle and putting on lotion is spiritual, according to Oprahism. Give me a freaking break!

2/17/2006 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

And Amen again. And thank you for saying it.

2/17/2006 12:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Sue said...

I also agree. I don't watch. I occasionally read the magazine, I blush to admit. I think she has good motives, but I also agree that she very much believes her own press. The whole James Frey thing was painful to hear about.

Oprah, Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil - I don't get the hero worship.

2/17/2006 01:36:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

A lady who I visit teach came up to me at the visiting teaching convention and said there is this wonderful book, I bet you'd like. It's called A Million Little Pieces. I said, "I have it. I've read it. I've dog-eared it, and underlined it, and I don't give a shit what Oprah thinks."

I don't even care if it's totally fiction. Oprah takes herself way too seriously.

I just remembered I was going to try to e-mail that guy and chastise him for groveling on Oprah. I'm so sure Frank McCourt got every fact in Angela's Ashes correct. Hell, he got the Pulitzer.

It's late, guys, sorry. Off to stalk James Frey.

2/17/2006 02:07:00 AM  
Blogger dede said...

I rarely watch her show as well because as a SAHM I don't get a lot of TV time in the afternoon (and if I do, I am watching Blue's Clue's or Toy Story with my handsome 3 yr old companion).

I will admit that I LOVED her magazine for a while though. I had a subscription, that is how much I liked it. I found it inspiring. It reminded me to take time for me, but still remember to do good things for others.

But things have changed. It now seems that it is all about taking time for me and buying stuff for me. I am not seeing as much representation to serving others.

And so, I have let my subscription end. Last month was the first one that I haven't read in years, and guess what? I don't miss it. I can get the same inspiration while planning my primary sharing times.

2/17/2006 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Thank you for mentioning Dr. Laura and Dr. Phil in there, too...

These people are good people and they are trying to help people --but at the same time, what have I learned from them that has helped me more than what I learn in Sacrament Meeting? Or the Ensign? Or from my neighbor who has been married for 60 years and was a SAHM all her life and has served 2 missions with her dh? Or my own mom?

NOTHING.

Thanks for the post...

2/17/2006 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger ubercyl said...

Adding my own Amen.

Never understood the Oprah love. Glad she does the charity work, though.

2/17/2006 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

I haven't watched Oprah in years, so I don't know if what you're saying is the case, but I'll take your word for it. I do hate how she's on the cover of every single issue of her magazine. What's the deal with that?

But let me say something. Once last year I turned on the tv and caught the last ten minutes of an Oprah episode. A woman was on who had lost all her kids. She'd gone out for her normal 15 minute early-morning walk with a neighbor friend before her kids, all teenagers, were still asleep. And while she was out, her ex-husband (the kids' step dad) went into the house, shot and killed all her kids, and then killed himself.

She was one of a few moms on the episode who had all lost kids in horrible ways. She didn't know why she should continue living. She wasn't young enough to start a new family. Her world was gone.

Oprah said something close to the following to her: "I can tell you that there are people watching this show today who are considering suicide. And when they hear your story, they'll realize that if you can live through what you have, then they can make it through as well."

Then a couple months later, I happened to be flipping channels and the same woman was on again. I caught the last few minutes of the show. There were other women on the show who had been considering suicide, because they'd lost a child, and they saw that woman tell her story and decided not to.

Oprah is an incredibly powerful woman. There's a lot to admire about her. I doubt that if I were in her position, with that kind of popularity, income, and cowtowing, that I'd be able to keep my head on straight.

2/17/2006 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous suelunt said...

Thank you. I was starting to feel a little guilty and embarrassed about my "anti-Oprah" feelings. It's good to know I'm not alone.

2/17/2006 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Oprah drives me crazy, but I will admit to loving Dr. Phil. However, ever since he got his own show, his ego is out of control, and he's pretty sure he knows everything. Which, of course, he does not.

So I don't watch either show anymore, because all the talk of 'keeping it real' makes me want to vomit. He used to have real people with normal problems on. Now he finds the strangest people possible, just like every other talk show host. But I still think Dr. Phil has a lot of good things to say, even if the way he says them are obnoxious and overbearing.

Oprah -- well, she got people to read?? And what was the controversy over A Million Little Pieces? It was a book club choice, and then turned out it was fiction? Is that right? Was it billed as non-fiction or something?

2/17/2006 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a biography on Oprah several years ago and was very impressed by how far she'd come. She seemed like such a positive role model for anyone, black, white, female or male.

I had a lot of time on my hands a while ago and spent some time watching her show. One episode stuck out in my mind. There was a woman with nine kids in a three-bedroom apartment. Oprah took them to Toys'R'US, gave them a few minutes to familiarize themselves with the store and then gave them 15 minutes to run around and grab anything and everything they wanted. "Yay for the kids" I thought, "but where are they going to PUT all of that?" Oprah then asked that question herself and told the stunned woman that she was going to buy them an actual, honest-to-God home AND furnish it. I was so impressed. I thought "Here's someone who is doing with her money what I'd do if I had that kind of cash."

Then more recently I tuned in again on a whim. It was like she'd developed Multiple Personality Disorder. The entire episode was devoted to showing off her lavishly decorated guest house. GUEST HOUSE. She was chirping brightly about how much she loved this or that deocrative detail and about how she'd included this nice little room for the Governor's kids when the family dropped by and had a big-screen TV in this cupboard in the bedroom for the Governor when the family dropped by...

It was appalling. She'd gone from a sensible, caring person to an ostentatious name-dropper. And the WASTE represented by that guest house just makes me grind my teeth. A lot of the people who watch her show are like the woman in that episode I mentioned above -- barely getting by, squeezed into as much space as they can afford. And here she was, parading her expensive, redundant extra home in front of them. It was cruel and thoughtless.

More recently I've heard that she's gotten around the one-pet-per-condo law in her building buy buying five condos -- one for each dog.

I think she still can be a force for good. I think she still wants to be. But I think she has lost touch and needs to do some serious re-evaluating.

--harpingheather

2/17/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous sue said...

Oprah gives away a tremendous amount of money - something like $50 million in 2004 and I believe it was even more in 2005. So I don't care how many guest houses she owns, and I guess if her audience want to see it, then...

The woman IS a truly charitable person. She still bugs me though. I don't know if I'm bugged by her, or by the unceasing adoration of her that I see around me. Probably the latter.

2/17/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

susan m, the woman you saw who lost her four children lives in my town. She is just incredible. What she does for others goes so far beyond appearing on Oprah, and yet I know her appearances on Oprah have given her the exposure that has fed her foundation. It's an interesting phenomenon.

2/17/2006 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Let me just clarify: Oprah does a lot of good things- I mentioned her charity and philanthropic work, and she does help people on her shows occasionally, like the woman who had so many children and the woman who lost her children.

That said, that wasn't my point. What I was pondering was why the societal trend is to hold her so high upon a pedestal; everyone under the sun praises her ad nauseum. She is a entertainer! She has a talk show and a bizarre magazine that I cannot find reflections of a life I understand, and she is ALWAYS on the cover. Odd.

In my opinion, someone with the resouces she has has the moral responsibility to help others. Just to play the devil's advocate, do you suppose what she contributes to others comes anywhere close to 10%? I wonder. It's all relative, but speculate being charitable with 10% when you only make $2K a month is a bigger leap of faith than when you make $2K a minute.

(And I know she is not of our faith, and thus has not obligation to contribute 10% to anything, but I am using the relativity of the number to try and make a point. What is generous if you are worth a billion (yes, with a "B") dollars? Builing a house? A school? I think the positive press she gets for doing these relatively small things far outweight the sacrafice.) Rant over.

2/17/2006 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

And I agree, it is adulation that confuses and bugs me, rather than Oprah herself.

2/17/2006 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you realize Letterman is making FUN of the Oprah adulation? He has been for years. He honestly looked like he didn't have a clue what to actually say to her when she came on the show. But I for one, think his parody of Oprah-love is hilarious.

2/17/2006 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

The Oprah-Uma thing has been going on for years, yup. But that interview was NOT a parody. Not one crack or off-color remark, not one witty snark or toungue-in-cheek comment, not one zinger that I have come to love and appreciate from Dave. I was greatly disappointed- it appeared that he read her press and believed it too.

I stand by my Obsequious Toad observation.

2/17/2006 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that Oprah has done many great things for many people.

Many years ago I was watching a type of biography thing about her and learned that she has lived with her male counterpart for years and that she does not believe in marriage because it turns the woman into a slave and she's against the whole taking his name, etc. etc. etc....

I just can't support a woman with values like that.

2/17/2006 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oprah the Omnipotent explained.

2/17/2006 04:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

The above link- BRILLIANT! It's long, but absolute genius- and funny too. Don't know who provided it, but thanks!

2/17/2006 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

You know how people say that there are intelligent people who still manage to vote Republican? That's how I feel about my best friend who watches Oprah. I know she is bright, so I don't get how she can watch it. This is tongue-in-cheek, btw.

What bugs me about Oprah is her therapizing way she has about her. (Dr. Phil at least has some credibility in the analysis department, although I don't know that his license shouldn't be pulled for a variety of ethics violations. )

When the whole Million Little Pieces thing happened, I was laughing pretty hard, and not with Oprah, but at her. I know. I'm going to he--.

2/17/2006 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing that gets me about Oprah and Dr. Phil is that they actually seem believe they are helping the people they have on their shows. Occasionally they might, but I can't believe that someone with a lifelong strained relationship with their mother/child/ husband/etc comes on the show, gets lectured to by Phil for 20 minutes, and goes away in any way better off than before. I personally think that most people who watch these programs (esp. Dr. Phil) watch them and by seeing somebody else in trouble somehow feel better about their own problems. It's entertainment, nothing else, at least Jerry Springer is honest about it.

2/17/2006 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Lei said...

Hello! First time visitor here! Love this post! I couldn't agree more; I have been turned off by her as of late. What happened to the Remembering Your Spirit days?

2/17/2006 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

"Many years ago I was watching a type of biography thing about her and learned that she has lived with her male counterpart for years and that she does not believe in marriage because it turns the woman into a slave and she's against the whole taking his name, etc. etc. etc....

I just can't support a woman with values like that. "

Amen, sister. I stopped watching the show when I tuned in one day and she was talking about the benefits of threesomes and swing clubs. She was talking about how wonderful it was that we had 'evolved' to the point where married couples could do nasty things with other married couples. Evolved? EVOLVED?

I say we've degenerated severely when swinging gets a good name.

2/17/2006 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Beanie said...

My SIL sent me a link to something pretty funny.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DHsLrlEIto

This video clip if titled "Tom Cruise Kills Oprah"

She actually sent me a link for the previous video, titled "Tom Cruise on Oprah, As it Should Have Been" It's a mixing of the Tom Cruise & James Frey interviews. But I thought the first one was HILARIOUS!

Thought I would share!

2/17/2006 06:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Beanie said...

Oh... if you want to see the clip, copy and paste the link.

2/17/2006 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Of course Oprah is an entertainer. So why the shock that she doesn't share traditional family values? Can you name a single entertainer who does? I can't think of a single movie star who has given birth lately who has fallen off the planet by saying, "I'm at home with my kids." I did hear Sharon Stone say once, "I was at home with my son for 18 months, but he's ok now, and I'm ready to work." Like an 18 month old doesn't need his mother anymore? So I'm not all that shocked that Oprah doesn't share my same values.

That said, she did give something like $10 million to Hurricane Relief victims. That speaks very well of her.

She's also a role model not for her family values, but for her work ethic, and what she has accomplished. And I do think she has tried to give back some of what she has--through her Angel network, her charity work, etc. And hey, hats off to her for making America read again!

Oh, and she is NOT on the cover of her magazine this month. I noticed it this week at the grocery store. Some guy is on it. I didn't bother to find out who this guy is and why he deserves to knock Oprah off her own magazine, but there you go.

I don't know that she deserves sainthood, but I'm not sure she deserves to be villified, either. She's a product of Hollywood, and often she's the one making Hollywood. An environment like that doesn't exactly breed humility and wholesomeness, and Oprah is who she is.

Ditto on Dr. Phil, though. I used to like him, but the shows I've seen lately (You know, like last year!) make me think he's WAY out of his league, psychologically speaking. I mean, he's trained for EVERYTHING? Doubtful. Also, I find that he also tries to go for shock value, and I'm just as happy, if not happier, to hear him counsel parents on discipline and married couples on happiness. That's just me, though.

2/17/2006 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Reese Witherspoon.

2/17/2006 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Mo Mommy said...

Tracy, this is TO weird, I was going to write Reese Witherspoon!!! She and her jusband never work at the same time time so that one of them is ALWAYS with their kids. They don't employ a nanny and she recently confessed that she loves staying at home to be a mom, and knitting, which is interesting. Plus I'm ,like, a super gynormo fan, that doesn't hurt.
I have always been afraid to mention at large gatherings that I don't care for Oprah so it's good to know that others, a lot of others, feel the same way. Dr.Laura, HA! She thinks God is out of the office and left her in charge!

2/17/2006 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jamie J said...

Ditto, Oprah is WAY over done in my opinion. It seems every time I'm with a bunch of ladies, one of them asks someone else if they saw Oprah the other day. I don't care for her and think other's put too much weight in what she says and her opinion.

2/17/2006 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Heather-

I didn't mean to villify her, and my writing missed the mark if that is how I came across. I was trying to point out that to the legions of (mostly)women who follow her, she is NOT just an entertainer- she is esteemed as something far greater, and this is where I have the disconnect.

As far as Dr. Phil, I actually own one of his books, and find some real gems hidden among the pages. I do agree, however, that deep, real problems cannot be solved in a 20 minute session on tv. (and I know he often provides follow-up council too)

2/17/2006 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger brneyedwahine said...

I completely agree with the commentary regarding the Oprah, Dr. Laura and Dr. Phil type of shows. Although some topics might be intriguing at times; for the most part I feel that all three have become self-serving entities in that they feel the need to not only cover certain topics but also need to self-promote by advertising their magazine, self-help books etc. Ultimately they are in it for themselves and it comes down to being a business in the guise of t.v. therapy. Is it exploitive? Perhaps? A bit voyeristic,perhaps? Ultimately, it is our choice to not watch or listen to the shows. There have been days, weeks, months, where neither of the above mentioned individuals have not been in my repetoire of entertainment....and to be honest, I did not miss them one bit! Of course, that does not mean I can be distracted by the likes of the Food Network, Extreme Make-over, or a myriad of other t.v. temptations....I think I will go with my husband's thought on this....read a book!

2/18/2006 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger nestle said...

OK, looooove Reese (sweet home alabama my all time favorite movie). Respect her. Another... not woman but actor... NOah Wylie. He actually quit ER to spend quality time with his kids. He said that these were valuable times and by far more important than acting. YEA!!!! Love them both.

As for Oprah. I usually can't watch her. I've seen too many women believe everything she says and want to be like her in everything. These women who are usually of humble circumstance are trying to save up to buy the $200 dollar jeans that oprah endorses or they want the same whatever. Many of these women don't care to realize that Oprah has mucho money and they don't. She creates this false ideal of life which traps many women into not being happy with what they have.

2/18/2006 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

DItto on the wierdness of putting herself on the cover of all her magazines. I am sure that is purely a business decisions. She is a brand and anything that has her "brand" attached to it will sell.

2/18/2006 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger mindy said...

Okay, I think we have to form a Reese Fan Club. :o)

I used to subscribe to Oprah's magazine, and I enoyed it. I felt like I got some good things out of it, and it was a nice diversion. But I, too, got tired of the BUY BUY BUY mentality that seemed so prevalent. I don't watch the show, though I have before, in part because it is often not rated "G" and I don't want the kids to ask questions, and also it isn't worth trying to keep track of what's on which day, when 90% of the time it's just junk.

Dr. Phil I have NEVER liked. YUCK! I think he is so full of garbage. Plus, he's just ANNOYING. And his "fitness" plan? What really bothers me is how a "celebrity" thinks that they have expertise in so many areas just because they have a following. Crikey.

Dr. Laura is another one I can't stand. My mom likes her, because she "tells it like it is." I think they are all media constructs, popular because there is a country full of excessive angst and desperate for direction, any direction.

2/18/2006 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

Ana, how is that lady doing? I actually saw something about her, I think, but I don't know if it was Oprah.

Dr. Laura writes better than she speaks. I've agreed with all her books, her latest, is exceptionally on point, called Bad Childhood, Good Life, I think.

But she's terribly rude to people who call and I wonder how much damage is done when she is so unkind.

I got my former DIL a subscription to Oprah's magazine. It's like Embraced by the Light, it can lift you if you're in that place, but not if you're beyond it.

The thing that scares me most is that I could become like these people and think I know everything and be unaware of my own faults. That pride thing, you know.

Ana, if you can, would you e-mail me about that woman? I'd like to write her. gardnera@netutah.com

2/18/2006 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

I really haven't watched her for years, I can't stand the celebrity worship shows, they drive me nuts! I saw one last year that drove me nuts too because I live in much the same situation. I'm responsible for doing the finances, I mean I do everything, and I'm not doing it well. A financail counselor on a show with a woman in that situation that really had the household in debt, told the husband that he needed to apologize to the wife for putting her in that position of doing it all on her own. She Actually got mad at him for thinking the husband had to apologize to the wife, when it was the wife putting them in that situation, but she was doing it alone. He wasn't helping her manage at all. I thought the counselor was right on the money, I wish all the time my darling husband would show more interest, and help in balancing the checkbook, paying bills, taxes, organizing things, because the pressure is often way too much for me. I would control what we spend better if he would take more interest and we could do it together. Perhaps off topic, but why does she have a professional on, if she is just going to argue with them on what they KNOW!

2/19/2006 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous ala said...

i have to admit, i may be one of *those women* who love oprah. now, i don't worship the woman but i find her fascinating.

first of all, the woman is *s_m_a_r_t* and saavy. i'd love her as a mentor. she has maneuvered through the entertainment industry skillfully and like any successful person, has surrounded herself with intelligent and interesting people.

also, i feel like her intent is truly to help people and more importantly, to open people's eyes to their own potential. sure, she is promoting company's products, but you know, alongside all the plugs for products, comes a lot of good information. i've gotten a lot of good advice from watching her show.

yes, even i'd agree that she is sometimes unrealistic as to the reality of the average homemaker's life, but i'd don't see it as a personal flaw so much as a reflection of working within an insular grouping of affluent people.

the only thing that thing that has always baffled me though, is her support of dr. phil.....that guy, from the very beginning, has struck me as pompous. i've only seen one episode where he gave some good advice. other than that he attitude just puts me off. i've never seen his show and haven't watched oprah in over a year--i go online.

so, why do people worship her? perhaps because it is so rare to find someone in her position (she could walk away after all) that is trying to better the world.

2/19/2006 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

Amen, Tracy. I actually tried for a while to watch Oprah, since what was on her show came up *every single time* I got together with more than two other women. But I just couldn't make myself pay attention. I began to suspect I had ADD (which I might -- but it doesn't seem to bother me when I'm watching Lost or Veronica Mars).

Something about the show makes me feel fidgety, and I think it's a combination of the "you-go-girl" backslapping and "isn't-it-so-so-sad" topics and whoo-hooing all-female audience. I just can't relate. I like Nate Berkus, I admire Oprah for being a self-made woman, and I'm sure there are a lot of important issues that get more attention because of her shows, but altogether, it bugs me and makes me feel irritable.

2/19/2006 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

Hi all, total newbie here. A couple comments:

The last famous person who loved himself as much as Oprah loves herself ... was Michael Jackson. A little worrisome.

What I find amazing about Dr. Phil is that he and Oprah are completely oblivious about the time of day their programs air. Swinging? Oral sex? Murder? Infidelity? At 3:00 PM when my kids come home from school? That's why I don't watch either of their shows - that, and Oprah's blatant celebrity butt-kissing. She can't possibly be in love with all of these people. :)

2/21/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Just out of curiosity--I'm interested in how y'all would compare Oprah and Martha Stewart. After all, Martha is the only human ever featured on her covers; she's pretty bossy about how people ought to live; her personal life is (ahem) far from admirable; she's at least as out of touch with actual people as Oprah, and yet I suspect a lot of Mormon women like and respect her. My hunch is that she is OK because she has (publicly, anyway) confined her preaching to an area in which Mormon women find it acceptable to excel, whereas Oprah has rejected those boundaries.

(A disclaimer: I have no dog in this fight--don't own a TV, have only seen one episode of Oprah ever. I find her magazine more distracting than Vogue when I'm huffing through that last 20 minutes on the Stairmaster, but haven't ever subscribed. My involvement with Martha Stewart is limited to having once made a squash soup for Thanksgiving using a recipe someone clipped from her magazine for me.)

2/22/2006 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Kristine,

Hmmm, interesting idea. Anyone want to tackle that one?

2/22/2006 02:28:00 PM  

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