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Why I Hate Oprah

January 6, 2011

I’m not the kind of person to begrudge people money, success, or comfort. Money seems to allude me and success laughs at me like the girl I asked to homecoming my freshman year of high school – but I understand comfort. I like comfort. A good espresso, a decent scotch, a nice cigar, my chair, my Mexican blanket – these are comfortable things. Comfortable things are comforting things; like a nice pair of fuzzy lined slippers, they make cold days less cold and nice days a little nicer. When I have money to throw around – which isn’t often – I like to throw it around like I have more where that came from, because I understand that comfort, like all good things, is a fleeting thing and should be appreciated when it’s available.

My problem with Oprah – and here I’m talking about Oprah the media monster, the icon of American nouveau stinking riche guilt, not the personage of Oprah Winfrey, who I do know, have not met, have not even seen on the street, and probably never will – actually has nothing to do with her money, how she spends it, whether she’s married, how fat or thin she is, whether she’s Gayle’s Lesbian Lover, or with her race. As someone who success has ignored like every bimbette sorority girl I ever met in college, I applaud her hard work, dedication, and luck (And YES, luck has as much to do with success in America as dedication, and infinitely MORE to do with it than hard work…) in all that she has achieved since she graduated from regional news to syndicated talk show sleaze that competed with Sally Jesse Raphael for the hearts and mind of under-employed barely literate women everywhere.

People forgave her the early years, of course, because she was still under the the thumb of The Man. She managed solidified herself in the hearts and minds of more or less literate people everywhere for her laudable depiction of Sofia in The Color Purple. (That it was directed by Steven Spielberg didn’t hurt, I’m sure.) And then, of course, her Sethe in Beloved (directed by Jonathan Demme and bankrolled, in part, by Harpo Productions) placed her firmly in the American cultural consciousness.

To be honest, I never paid her much attention. Daytime TV was never my prime television watching time. I had no real opinion of her one way or the other, since I’ve never been one to really give a shit about celebrities or famous people. I watch movies and TV shows I like, read books and listen to music that interest me – but I don’t pretend that any of that means I should care about where they live, who they live with, how and who and if they fuck, or what they eat for breakfast.

And then, in 1996, she started The Oprah Book Club. And thus began my steadily growing hatred of the media monster that, like Madonna, Cher, and Bono, only needs one name.

I didn’t even mind her early picks. Alice Walker and Toni Morrison are amazing American authors, whose work should be read and discussed. Of course, she had to and pick a nag like Nicholas Sparks, who’s been writing the same book over and over again since The Notebook, and has gotten rich for what amounts to pseudo- literary stuttering. But people can read whatever they want to read, and Oprah, like everyone else, naturally gravitates towards literature and music that appeals to her sensibilities. Fine. But that fucking Oprah Book Club stamp became, for main stream American authors, more sought out than agent representation and more important that quality work.

At one point, she put a stop to the non-stop train that was The Oprah Book Club because she had done sufficient damage to the American reading public and even more damage to American writing than either MFA programs since the early 90’s and one particularly annoying cunt of an ex-girlfriend who told me no one would ever read my work because I didn’t write about interesting things like werewolves and vampires and halfling warriors. (Really. That she was , I found out later, the easiest piece of ass at every SCA event in five surrounding states and one foreign country gave her, in her opinion, an appropriate point of view on what was worth reading; though how she ever found the time to open a book was beyond me.)

And then, she did it again. In 2003 she picked Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Steinbeck is one of those writers whose work I hold in high regard. He’s one of those writers that America likes to forget about because 1. he wasn’t from New York, and 2. he was accused of being a communist sympathizer and misogynist. Some of his work is difficult to take, and much of it is obscured by the chronic American short memory for all things historical. He borrowed heavily from Grail legend and The Bible. But he wasn’t the first writer to do either of those things, and he certainly wasn’t the last.

But then I walked into a grocery store and saw a stack of cheaply produced copies of East of Eden with – you guessed it the goddamn fucking Oprah Book Club stamp on the cover. As if invading book store shelves wasn’t offensive enough. That stamp, maybe more than Amazon.com, tells people in this country what they ought to read. The American Literary Scene has been Oprahficated.

Fuck me.

She got hers, though. In September 2005, she chose James Frey’s tear jerking “memoir” about surviving child abuse, A Million Little Pieces for her Oprah Book of the Month Club Altar of Deification. And, like every other book on the list, it sold millions of copies, netted Frey a nice chunk of change, and his agent and publisher even bigger chunks of change.

And then the allegations that the book was not a memoir at all. He’d made the whole thing up. Damn his eyes! How dare he? How dare a writer do something like… MAKE SHIT UP?

So Oprah, the Fully Awakened Media Monster, more dangerous than South Park’s Mecha-Streisand or Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, brought James Frey and his agent onto her stage and, before a world-wide audience (Look up how many countries she’s syndicated in… she’s bigger than the Hell’s Angels or MacDonalds.) she berated him like a naughty three year old.

Now: I haven’t read Frey’s book. I don’t plan on it. I wouldn’t have read it anyway, because it’s not the kind of thing I’m into. If I want to see and hear about childhood abuse, all I have to do is find a busy bar on a Saturday night … because that’s where all those patterns of abuse get played out over multiple shots and promises of love, fealty, and large penises that correspond to large pick-up trucks in the parking lot. But here’s the thing: WHY did he apologize? He wrote a book – decide for yourself if it’s a good book or not – and managed to get that Oprahficated Stamp of Approval. That, in and of itself, might just make it good fiction. Maybe.

And here, dear readers (if there’s any left) is why I hate Oprah. The king top of all reasons. I could care less about her new cable network… though if she can get one, then everyone should. As a matter of fact, why don’t we do away with a struggling station… say, PBS… and give it to Jerry Springer? It could be a permanent home for the Springer Show, Maury Povich, and Steve Wilco. All inbred. All day. Why not? The conservative junta doesn’t like public supported television. But they do love ratings. And Jerry, whatever you think of the guy, still gets ratings, still has boatloads of money… maybe not as much as Oprah, but I think only Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have her beat on that front … and he knows how to laugh at himself. If he found out that Frey lied to him, he wouldn’t dress the kid down on national television; he’d probably back the next book and give Frey his own show on The Springer Channel. Oprah herself has become a victim of the Oprahfication she unleashed on the American Cultural Psyche. She takes herself and her opinions entirely too seriously. So seriously, in fact, that she’s taken over what used to be The Discovery Health Channel and put her name on it so people can watch marathons of backstage bullshit from the 25th season of The Oprah Show. Bleck.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. mmcginty permalink
    January 6, 2011 3:31 pm

    Well said, sir. Very well said.

  2. January 6, 2011 7:26 pm

    Thanks, Mark. And thanks for reading.

  3. mike permalink
    January 8, 2011 12:59 am

    funny as hell, i hate oprahs book club so bad, Dickens for the holidays, these fucking stooges act like they needed her to tell them who he was fucking drones

  4. January 8, 2011 11:37 am

    What’s sad and pathetic, Mike, is that they probably DO need her to tell them who Dickens was. All they know are bad made for tv movie versions of Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol. Of course, once they read it and realize that Dickens actually had a social conscious…. it’s ruined for them. Thanks for reading.

  5. January 14, 2011 2:16 pm

    Bravo Mick! I too have a love hate relationship with Oprah. One the one hand, I do agree that personally she is probably a very loving caring person. She has done a lot for people over the years and I could give a hot damn about her personal life. I agree though, the media monster is one ugly SOB. I have purchased her magazine once in a while and there are more ads than there are articles. As for the book club, you said it all, what a freaking joke and an insult to great literature. Amen to that brother!

    • January 14, 2011 2:41 pm

      @ Michelle: I think we ought to splice public people from their image. Not only would it be massive fun, but we’d probably learn something as a society. I don’ t pretend to know Oprah… but I do know her impact on culture. And that’s where I take issue. Thanks for reading and commenting….

      Mick

  6. Michele Silloway permalink
    June 15, 2011 6:48 pm

    Thank you! For some reason, though I aspire to think the best of people, “O” leaves me with an uneasy feeling. But I watch it to confirm what I already have observed – She believes she is the only one who has life all figured out with her two-bit philosophies. I can recall some episodes when she was so excited she learned something new! Well, some of these facts and schools of thought are known to a majority of her listeners. One of the things I learned in high school health 50 years ago, The other trait that is extremely unbecoming is how she demands attention on and off the set. Did you ever notice how she always turns the conversation back to herself? It is difficult to imagine that she cannot sense that she is in love with herself and continues to seek an inordinate amount of positive feedback (from her staff and everyone!). Phoenix, AZ

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