24 August 2008

Dichotomy of Oprah

I have been an Oprah watcher since 1987. I remember tuning into her show in my bedroom but finding the time slot to be a bit difficult for viewing. So I would watch her off and on, catching whatever I could. Then in 1994 I had my first son and because I wasn't working I was able to fit Oprah in every day. Soon after that she began her "Remembering Your Spirit" segment which I found would bring me back day after day. Although that segment was a bit sappy or hokey, I really did enjoy watching how other people would fit in time for themselves in order to keep from being overwhelmed. This was especially interesting because I had two small children and felt overwhelmed a lot.

So since then I've been an avid Oprah sheep..er...viewer and have watched pretty much every show regardless of topic just because it was Oprah. She dispensed a lot of good advice over the years and I really enjoyed watching her interaction with guests and audience members. She would talk to the television audience as if we were sitting right in front of her and actually a part of the conversation. Then something changed. She started interrupting her guests more than listening to them. There were entire episodes where the guest never did finish a sentence. And lately she seems to be very disconnected from her audience. From my viewing standpoint it seems like she is completing each show as merely an obligation to be fulfilled, not with the interest and vigor she once had.

Where does the dichotomy come in? The last two seasons especially, possibly a bit before that. She touts getting in shape with fitness trainer Bob Greene and then has a show on Coldstone Creamery the next day. A show on the masses of Americans living below the poverty level and then a show on Jimmy Choo shoes. Promoting Tolle's book by saying you need to live without ego and attachment to things, then talking about all the 'must-haves' of the fashion season. Be your own self but don't dress as a shlumpadinka, get out of debt but buy these electronic devices, lose weight but eat the best burger/pizza/ice cream in America. Who is advising her to do these shows? When did she stop directing her producers to come up with topics that were inspiring to her?

I remember Oprah saying years ago that she was disgusted by the sensationalist topics on the show. She wanted to do a show with a positive impact on viewers, something to encourage her viewers to live their best lives. And she did that. No more Jerry Springer-type shows. It became a good mixture of fluff and substance.

Then she created her magazine, seemingly as a tangible link to her shows on living better. Now you could have a workbook of sorts to aid you in attaining enlightenment. O Magazine has only been around eight years and is already suffering a down turn. No more Oprah Interviews, Breathing Space pages or Questions to Think About, and when was the last time her eyes were smiling on the cover? Her magazine has become indistinguishable from many of the other women's magazines out there. Jam-packed with beauty ads and the articles are mostly just advice on how to live your life. No more thinking necessary, just follow Simple Plan A or B. No need to get deep into your psyche, just follow what the 'experts' say and you too can be happy!

Now she has a network on the horizon. Will this network have shows with a cumulative effect or flash-in-the-pan easy-step fads? Is she spreading herself too thin by having the radio, magazine and tv? She mentioned in an interview that she will have editorial control over the network so it can reflect her voice and vision. This is similar to what she said when the Oprah Show began, and it turned out well for many years. But how will the network impact her contract to continue the Oprah Show until 2010? Will her daily show become hour-long advertisements for her network? I am anxious for the new season to start. Will there be more consistency in the themes of her shows? Will there be more follow-up with issues instead of one-time-only discussion? Will she continue plugging whatever movie/celebrity she's told to?

Many of these questions are thanks to Living Oprah, a blog I stumbled on one day. LO is running an experiment to do everything Oprah advises. In the course of doing this, she raises many questions about the show and it's content. I had been questioning much of Oprah recently, but this blog put things into sharp focus for me. The vague dissatisfaction I've been having with Oprah has become actual points to ponder.


The Hyperlexian Aspie said...

Soooooo... I got to thinking about what you were saying on this post, about how Oprah changed and stuff... And I was thinking that Oprah seemed to change, in my opinion, somewhere around 1996 or so.

I guess it kinda depends on when you think she stopped making sense from your own point of view. For you, she started to be jarring around 2 years ago. For me, it was about 12 years ago, because her message spoke one way, and her actions spoke another way.

But anyway, I do agree that she has a strangely schizophrenic message.


GRACE said...

My pastor at church calls her the "church of Oprah". I think he feels she's the Antichrist. Me I just take the good with the bad. I wonder what it would be like to have that much power. Maybe she should start do some activism for mental illness as people tend to listen to what she has to say.