May 26, 2011

Good-Bye Oprah...It's Been Nice

If you have been living under a rock over the past.....25 years (not that there's anything wrong with that) then you don't know that Oprah aired her last show recently. That's it. Done. I expect more than a few people in the world are going through major symptoms of withdrawal and will be short on words at the water cooler for a while.
I do believe there is a university course dedicated to the  "Oprah Effect" taught in the states. Brilliant idea!

Whether you love her or not, Oprah Winfrey made a huge dent in the world with her "ah-ha moments", "favorite things", and especially all the self-help gurus she made famous and rich like Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, and Dr. Oz.  I do believe that she was one of the first talk show hosts to move into the self help genre and supply those ready (and sometimes desperate) to hear it with  advice on how to live our lives. Many days do I remember sitting in front of the TV with a big bowl of hot buttered popcorn, a cat on my lap, candles burning around me and Oprah telling me to listen to my inner voice and be the best person I can be. Every book Oprah suggested I would read with the same passion as I had opening up a tub of rocky road ice cream after a bad date. Soon, I found myself saying things like, "Oprah said....", "light bulb moment", and my personal favorite, "I saw it last week on Oprah....". She was a powerful influence, that Oprah. Now she's gone and the question in my mind the hell is the world going to survive without her daily words of wisdom?

I have to admit, it is a little disturbing to me that one person could carry such an influence over the world as she does. She has become bigger than life to the point of changing lives and minds by making just one statement (remember the beef debacle). I would cringe when she came up with statements like "eating after 8 makes you gain weight" (knowing the phone would be ringing off the hook at work the next day) or suggested that doing a particular exercise would get rid of that unsightly panus (she didn't use panus, but I thought it was a nice touch). In my courses, participants would challenge the science of nutrition and weight loss because Oprah said it was so. That's power. When power is used ignorantly, it can cause problems.

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy watching Oprah (especially those human interest stories...I'm not one for her "look at all the famous people I know" stories or that one show on her "favorite things" that highlights the greed, over consumption, and materialism of people) and will miss her like everyone else. I just find her influence frustrating as I challenge Oprah's message with the odd Oprah-ite and am met with a cold comment and shut-down of mind.  Just read the comments on and you will see what I mean (although I believe they have probably shut this story down for comment...I don't know if you can still see this).  Many of Oprah's followers would shut down critical thought by simply suggesting the thinker was not enlightened and obviously didn't live their best that's influence!

I know this is suppose to make light of Oprah's influence, but it does raise some very interesting questions.
At any rate, Oprah is now focused on her TV network and we can look forward to many reality shows depicting celebrities working out their issues for the world to see.  Is this the ultimate form of narcissism or an important cultural experience that benefits the masses? There is no doubt, Oprah will be around for years to come. Which leaves me wondering who will fill her place on the talk show stage? 

.......thank God I cut cable.


P.S. I do want to acknowledge that Oprah has made some very positive contributions to our world. As much as I (constructively) criticize or challenge her influence, I would much rather see someone like her influence the world (with her positive messages...more or less) than the alternative (the violent and horrific messages we see in the news, the movies, and even prime time TV) least, that's my ah-ha moment for the day.

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