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Oprah: What Hast Thou Become?

by Neena Louise

I used to like Oprah Winfrey. I liked her show and her open, honest approach to her topics. I was also impressed with how down-to-earth and in-touch she was with her audience. She was a woman that most of middle America could relate to: growing up in poverty, struggling to control her weight and her feelings of insecurity. What happened to that woman? There's little trace of the old Oprah left.

I tried to watch her show recently. It made me gag. On this particular day, she had celebrity guests. She's the worst celebrity interviewer I've ever seen! These HUGE stars are sitting there, struggling to finish a sentence while Oprah constantly interrupts them, tries to finish their sentences for them, repeats every word they say, interjects irrelevant comments about her own life, then proceeds to mock their accents. It seems that Oprah's the only guest Oprah's interested in interviewing.

In the early days of her show, I thought how charming it was when Oprah was sharing a story about having difficulty choosing a carpet while shopping at K-Mart. Considering she was rich even then, I found it refreshing that she still shopped (or at least said she did) at K-Mart. Now? Now she extols the virtues of $70 PJs, $100 sheets, $150 toothbrushes and shopping at Barney's (an upscale department store) - out of the reach of (and probably of little interest to) her "average American" target audience.

I think Oprah is a beautiful woman - fat or thin - so her weight obsession is really becoming tiresome. First it was the diet discussions. She lost it. She gained it. Then it was the liquid diet. She lost it. She gained it. Then it was the exercise-obsession. She lost it - claimed she was "thin for life" - she gained it. At each point in Oprah's struggle to lose weight, she entices (I'd venture to say, even goads) her audience to do as she does. And all the sheep-like Oprahlites do just that, despite the fact that they can hardly afford a personal chef, a personal trainer to follow them around all day, nor a private gym. I wonder how many people have become weight-obsessed and have developed a negative body image and poor (perhaps dangerous) eating habits because of Oprah? Considering Oprah has not yet succeeded in a permanent weight loss despite her numerous attempts, people are fools if they try to do as she does. I recall seeing a show about obese children. A 12 year old girl - who seemed more plump than dangerously overweight - read a letter to her mother, tearfully begging to be accepted the way she was. Oprah proceeded to interrogate the girl about how much she exercised, then lectured her on how she wasn't exercising enough. Poor child. She just wanted to know she was cared about regardless of how she looked, and there's Oprah - a megastar - telling her she wasn't. It was a mean-spirited thing to do to anyone - especially to a child suffering from low self-esteem.

When Oprah began her Book Club, she insisted it was merely to make readers out of non-readers. A noble cause, to be sure, since there's nothing better than reading a book, and non-readers are shutting out a wonderful experience. Trouble is, I find her book recommendations stultifying dull. I'm ashamed to say I actually tried to read one of her selections. It was very poorly written and so boring that Moby Dick is a page-turner in comparison. That would be okay, since to each his own after all, but Oprah doesn't allow that attitude. It seems if you don't agree with Oprah, she classifies you as IQ-challenged and decrees that "you don't get it". An audience member once dared to disagree with the Great Oprah about her book preferences. The audience member stated, flat out, that she didn't agree with Oprah about who was the best writer in the world. This is a very, very subjective thing, but Oprah totally went off on her, practically shrieking at the woman that Oprah's choice was the one and only and demanded a staff member fetch her preferred book in order to prove it. It was a disgusting display and goes to show just how egomaniacal Oprah's become. I have to wonder how many people who haven't picked up a book in years try to read one of Oprah's boring recommendations, then decide reading is a chore and they never open another book?

And who can forget the cattle ranchers that tried to sue Oprah over her negative comments about the safety of beef? This country was founded on free speech and Oprah has every right to say whatever she wants. However, there are so many Oprahlites that live Life According to Oprah, her comments had a huge impact on the beef market. Surely, she knew this would happen. If she didn't, she certainly should have. When questioned, her response was, "It was only my opinion" and shrugged it off as nothing. I don't think Oprah should've been sued, but her comments were irresponsible, given her influence, and it seems she needs this be pointed out to her in boxcar letters since she seems oblivious to anyone but herself. Influence in one so irresponsible and with so many blind, devoted followers can be very dangerous, indeed.

I'm not sure how I feel about her "Angel Network" or "Spirit of whateveritis". I agree that hearing people doing good deeds may compel others to do the same, but I am of the belief that if you do a good turn, you do it because it's the right thing to do and it makes you feel good - not for the accolades. If you brag about your good deed, it doesn't count (in fact, it's a strike against you). But that's just me. Perhaps this is one (only?) positive thing about the "new Oprah".

Oprah's show has deteriorated into one very preachy hour. In a recent interview, when her incessant preaching was pointed out, Oprah stated that if you don't like it, watch Jerry Springer instead. Oh, I see. So if we don't like Pope Oprah and all of her holier-than-thou Oprahisms, all we're good for is watching trash like Jerry Springer? It seems Oprah has very little respect for her own audience and deems them garbage if they don't like and agree with her!

Change Your Life TV? Puleeze! If I felt my life needed changing, I sure wouldn't turn to the egomaniacal, weight-obsessed, holier-than-thou, hypocritical Oprah that we see today. I wouldn't want to change into THAT! I used to feel good when I watched the Oprah show. Now, with all her derogatory comments on just about every minor flaw every human has, "good" isn't a feeling I come away with from her show. She's completely lost touch with normal people and makes no apology for it. Obscene wealth does that, I suppose, but it's a shame in Oprah's case. 
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