Monday, December 10, 2007
"O" Say Can You See...
I make no attempt to hide the fact that I hate Oprah Winfrey the way the French hate soap and water.
Since starting this little experiment of mine, I've devoted a pretty fair amount of copy to Quixotically attempting to alert the public to the true nature of this self-obsessed succubus.
In addition to the usual semi-subtle mockery (There's No "I" in Oprah/10.25.06), I've occasionally pulled no punches when it comes to my bitter loathe for Oprah and my belief that America needs to break free of the bizarre hypnotic spell she seems to have cast over it.
Back in January, I said this:
"Understanding that Oprah is not all that she appears to be is a little like being Rowdy Roddy Piper's character in the John Carpenter cult-classic They Live: you've got the glasses on and you seem to be the only one among the sleeping sheep who has any idea that there's a wolf in your midst, and of course when you try to warn others no one will believe you. Each year, this multi-media leviathan grows larger and more powerful, threatening to eventually become a black hole which will consume all culture as we know it -- absorbing and assimilating it like the Borg then spitting it back out in a fresh, new package of Oprah-approved, soccer-mom-ready banality. What makes Oprah (awful) however isn't so much her homogenous appeal to the lowest common denominator -- or the fact that she seems to drag every bit of authentically vital art down with her; it's the simple fact that she is quite possibly self-obsession and solipsism incarnate -- no matter how hard she works to make people believe otherwise. Last year alone, she berated James Frey not because he lied to America but because he lied to her; she held a "Legends Ball" in which she supposedly paid homage to black female pioneers and trendsetters just like her; she prepared to open an unnecessarily expensive school for young girls in Africa, making sure the cameras were always there to get pictures of her (wearing long, false eye-lashes and heavy make-up no less) as she came riding in to the rescue in her learjet; and of course, her face once again adorned the cover of every single issue of her magazine throughout the year. There's nothing genuine, uncalculated or purely altruistic about Oprah."
Now, this monster promotional machine on two trunk-like legs wants your vote.
Not for her -- well, not technically anyway -- but for Barack Obama. In case you've been trapped under something heavy and have therefore been unable to get near any media outlet whatsoever in the past few days, Oprah's latest incarnation is that of a political Svengali -- taking her hand-picked candidate out on the road for a series of sold-out campaign rallies. So far, all of the events have been held in the kinds of venues typically reserved for Ozzfests and monster truck shows; the crowd at South Carolina's Williams-Brice stadium alone topped out at just over 30,000.
As always, when Oprah talks, stupid people listen -- and "Oprahpalooza" may as well be the equivalent of an obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca for every middle-class housewife within a 100-mile radius of wherever it sets up shop.
Please understand, I'm fortunate enough to have met Barack Obama, and while I haven't yet made a decision as to who I'll be voting for in next year's presidential election, there's no denying that Obama is both sharp and incredibly personable; he has "The 'It' Factor" in excess. I have no doubt that he's at least as worthwhile a candidate as any of the other dolts vying for the same prize, if not much moreso. The problem isn't Obama himself, nor his qualifications -- or even a possible lack thereof -- to be President of the United States; the problem is the danger inherent in applying the time-tested "Oprah Effect" to something as vitally important (theoretically anyway) as a national election. It's one thing for the Queen of the Television Talk Show to rouse her zombified minions from their suburban slumber and rally them behind whatever crap book she happens to have read recently; it's another thing entirely for her to willfully encourage that same army of the walking brain-dead to have not so much a say in the future of the entire country as to have her say. From what I've seen, Oprah's acolytes don't generally comparative shop when their cultural matriarch issues a decree; when Miss O' says jump, they not only say "How high?" but "In which direction?" "How many times?" and "Can I get you a Twinkie when I'm done?"
The idea of celebrities endorsing political candidates or causes has always made me slightly wary, not because their opinions aren't valid or because they somehow shouldn't benefit from the same liberties as the rest of the unwashed masses, but because there are so many people out there who, for God-knows-what reason, take their word as gospel. I don't care whether you're Charlton Heston supporting both concealed weapons permits for six-year-olds and any candidate who believes likewise, or the idiots in Rage Against the Machine, screaming at their overly-impressionable audience that the system is fucking them and therefore must be destroyed; if the overall message isn't "Don't just listen to me -- think for yourself," then it's a message that should be taken with a grain of salt for the good of us all, no matter who it's coming from.
It remains to be seen of course whether Oprah's opinion as to who should be the next president carries as much weight as, say, her shoes (and in the meantime Barack Obama isn't likely to spit in the face of her promotional largesse) but I'd hate to think that, in the end, a smart and savvy candidate didn't ascend to the highest office in the land because he inspired a country so much as because he inspired a TV mogul who's strangely been allowed to become an avatar for each and every person in that country, and the arbiter of so much of that country's culture.
I'm not big on Oprah shoving her tastes down our collective throat as it is, but Lord knows a lot of us have already given her the authority to do just that.
Now imagine an Oprah-Approved President, one who considers himself indebted to her.
Me -- I'm waiting to see who Maury Povich gets behind.