Oprah Prepares to Say Goodbye

Ms. Oprah Winfrey

In my lifetime, there has never been a time in my memory when Oprah Winfrey has not been on television – shaping the culture around me, sharing her unique wisdom and experiences. So, I feel a certain sadness that she won’t be there, at 4 p.m. each afternoon telling us all how to live a better life. That’s not to imply, however, that I don’t have a rather complicated televisual relationship with Ms. Winfrey.

To the contrary, I have a quite complicated relationship with Oprah: I admire her tenacity, her success, the fact that she single-handedly doubled the number of Black people on a magazine cover by launching her own magazine, that she has fundamentally changed U.S. (and I might argue certain international) culture(s). By all accounts, Oprah is a success – and I  by no means begrudge her the success, hard work, and brilliance that it takes to do what she has done.

That said, I’ve been thinking lately, as I watch the last week of her show, of the things, I will emphatically not miss about Oprah:
1. Whenever she interviews anyone with an accent, she mirrors the accent – for no particular reason. It’s really distracting – because, you know, she can’t mirror Sarah Ferguson’s, Catherine Zeta-Jones’, Cate Blanchett or Kate Winslet’s accents. So what exactly is she doing?
Is it that Oprah has to mimic and become each person she interviews in order to draw us in? Does Oprah not realize what she is doing? In those moments are we witnessing Oprah feeling excluded from the elitism she connects to having an accent? Or is Oprah sometimes just a little silly?
2. The fatphobia. Oprah has long shared (ad naseum) her struggles with weight and body image – often without interrogating a society that places such unreasonable expectations on the bodies of womyn. I will not miss the episodes where Oprah at turns exhibits jealousy, envy, dismay, and/or triumph around the body – hers, her friends, the guest she has on the show, the body you might have after you take all of her advice.
3. Oprah’s amazing ability to make it all about her. You were pregnant with twins, after you broke your foot, and found out your husband was cheating with your best friend, how does it feel at that moment, because this is how she would feel – fill in the blank. It was just like the time, fill in the blank, happened to her. Anything. It all comes back for Oprah to decipher and tell us how she would feel, what her “aha!” moment was. I will not miss the unintended narcissism.
4. I will not miss the pressure to be perfect which the Oprah team hustles. I will revel in not knowing how to do things “just right,” having heard it from one of Oprah’s many experts. I will be messy and not bother to berate myself for not having time to: eat organic, shop organic, redesign my home, meditate, journal, and do everything on purpose. I will miss feeling bullied to be perfect.
I especially feel no guilt about not missing the bullying because I’ve been watching Season 25 on the OWN Network, and it has provided me with one highly important tool: perspective. I’m not going to lie, I imagined the O headquarters were like a real-life Willy Wonka land, where all the producers and staff, having taken Oprah’s advice for a 25 years would be calm, collected, slim, and always journaling, while in their purpose. No, they are harried, ego-driven workers, frightened of their boss.
Perhaps, I shouldn’t be surprised that the O team has been schilling a way of living, very few of them are practicing.
5. I will not miss Oprah’s transphobia and homophobia, which usually reveals itself in shows about “men on the down low” and how it can happen to you – and how she speaks to people in deep pain as if her pain is their same pain.
6. Her incessant hustling of “the best things,” which half the time you can’t afford and besides, they don’t  fit in with the mantra she just got you addicted to of “living with less.” I also won’t miss people going bat sh*t crazy on her give away shows.
7. Oprah’s “accidental victim blaming. As in “couldn’t you tell something wasn’t right?”
8. The class dynamics and the constant aspirational striving of her show – telling you, you must have x and y, then castigating viewers for living beyond their means.

One Response to “Oprah Prepares to Say Goodbye”

  1. Jeanette Says:

    This is so very right on, and mirrors a lot of how I feel. I would include her own support of sexism in her choice of experts (often white men) and in her lack of female authors in her book club (another ‘best of’ shtick) since ’04, and not many in general. Complicated relationship is so right!

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