WD Fyfe

A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society

O: the ever-expanding universe

At high noon, January 1st, 2011, the Evil Queen of Daytime TV took one more step toward total world domination when she launched the Oprah Winfrey Network.  This will not be her last territorial demand.  In the last 25 years, Oprah has single-handedly done more damage to the equality of the sexes than Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton combined.   Her brand of Jell-o Journalism has overflowed its mid-western bowl and slopped squishy, sweet goo and celebrity worship over every aspect of society.  And her abnormal obsession with the cult of her own personality has enlisted millions of followers who delight in publically stroking their own egos.  In short, Oprah Winfrey isn’t the Anti-Christ, but I can’t tell the difference.

Phil Donahue invented Jell-o Journalism in the 1970s. What he did was take regular news items and real public issues and tone them down, broaden them out and smooth off the hard edges.  He manipulated the questions to produce an emotion rather than an answer and carefully presented the information to elicit a strong response.  His show pretended to be about hard news and bold discussion.  However, in actuality, it was merely entertainment built on simplistic, preconceived conclusions that seemed to come from his own strong emotional attachment to the subject at hand.   Although he invented the genre, Phil was never very good at it.  He couldn’t produce the single tear for the whimpering puppy — or the spontaneous outrage at the abusive husband.  He just didn’t have it.  He was kind of a Fisher-Price version of Dr. Phil and Sally Jesse Raphael.  So, when Oprah challenged his reign on tabloid TV, he didn’t stand a chance.  She could weep on command and giggle like a schoolgirl.  She had just the right combination of concern and anger, and her indignation was something to behold.   As a result, in the Chi-town Media Grudge Match, held about 25 years ago, Oprah Winfrey kicked Donahue’s ass so badly he had to unbuckle his belt to burp.  Phil’s mistake was that he failed to recognize the ruthlessness of his opponent.  Oprah Winfrey syndicated her TV show nationally, and the Oprah Universe was born.

In the Oprah Universe, Oprah is everywhere.  If she were a South American dictator, the State Department would be concerned about her cult of personality.  She’s on cable TV, 4 and 5 times a day, depending on your time zone.  She’s on Satellite Radio. She’s online anytime you want her.  She has been on the cover of every single issue of her magazine for 10 years.  She has only shared it twice — once with Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States, and once with Ellen Degeneres, perpetual sycophant.  Even Stalin took a day off every once in a while.  Oprah Winfrey has become “Oprah” the one word solution to every problem.  And how did she get there?  By doing what Phil wouldn’t do: selling out a whole generation of women for television ratings.

Oprah’s media presence is based on one simple premise — self help — the ability to change your life.  Of course, the un-named assumption is that women (the majority of Oprah’s audience) are all screwed up in the first place.  She has built her empire on the insecurities of middle-class women and made hundreds of millions of dollars doing it.  The Oprah Winfrey Show follows a very simple pattern: the question is posed and the solution is given.  In her time on TV, Oprah has championed everything from diets to angels, and exercise to something called The Secret which apparently radiates good vibrations from positive thoughts.  And these get-fixed-quick schemes are all in the name of the inadequacies of women. 

Here are some headlines from just one O Magazine, March 2007.

“Too Tall, Too Small, Too big all over?”
“5 Wildly Unexpected Ways to Get Happier”
“Will the Real You Please Stand Up!  How to know what you actually want, think, love”

The entire magazine is devoted to readers who, first of all, don’t like their body image; secondly, are unhappy; and finally, quite frankly don’t even know what they wanted to begin with.  What an incredibly sexist view of women!  And this is just one issue of the magazine.  They’re all the same — every month.  For an entire generation, Oprah and her minions have been pounding away at these same themes — under the nicey-nicey guise of “empowering” women to change their lives.  Meanwhile, Oprah’s Universe has established beyond any doubt that day after day, month after month, women need to be repaired and the wonderful thing is Oprah herself, is going to help them do it – pop psychology DIY.

If you were an alien and watched Oprah for any length of time, you would naturally assume that the females of our species are all fat, dumb and unhappy, not to mention stressed out at every opportunity.  According to Oprah, everything from dinner parties to getting up in the morning is a minefield that women must first diligently navigate and then hopelessly recover from.

What do girls born into this mess think?   Do they believe their lives are going to be nothing more than a relentless war against body fat followed by the daily wardrobe crisis?   If this is help, let me outta here?  But Oprah won’t let you out.  She’s gone wall-to-wall – 25/8 – on an entire television network — soft core promo for the Ubiquitous Oprah.

 We can only pray that her next stop won’t be politics.

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7 comments on “O: the ever-expanding universe

  1. oldhoncho
    January 5, 2011

    I have always been amazed how the same evidence can be perceived so differently by those that care to look. The Opra phenomina is no different than POP music; people will buy what they like to see & hear. Personally I didn’t like the Beetles, tho to give credit where credit is due, some of the messages have merit & I think the same goes for Opra

    • wdfyfe
      January 5, 2011

      The problem is that some “pop” culture is actually destructive. Oprah is marketing a quick fix to a problem that doesn’t exist.

      WD wdfyfe.wordpress.com

  2. B.J. Vandale
    January 5, 2011

    I’ve never been much of a fan of Day Time TV, but I must admit Oprah is everywhere. You can’t get away from it. There is someone in every one’s life who lives by Oprah philosophy. Personally, to believe in what you are handed out on Day time TV is pretty pathetic. To fat, thin, depressed, out of control in general watch Oprah, Dr. Phil or any of the rest of them and they will fix your problems (issues) in a hour. It’s just another Personality that has come into our lives via the TV to tell us how to fix something that half the time isn’t broken. If I have a REAL problem with something in my life, I certainly would not turn to the talk show programs on TV for a solution. There are people and especially woman who live by these TV programs and would not think of ever missing one. Well, good for you, everyone needs some entertainment in their lives. For those of us who actually have a brain in our heads and are ever subjected to watching Day time talk show, it’s pure entertainment to make the money and the TV ratings go up. I suppose everyone needs a hero but Oprah, Dr. Phil or any of the rest of Day time personality would not be mine.

  3. N Watt
    January 5, 2011

    Has anyone noticed that no one every admits to watching Oprah, Dr. Phil or any of those other gurus, but there they are and I don’t think they would be on TV if no one was watching. It is just like politics no one will admit to voting for the winning party, but there they are ruling the country/province. Is it a case of “we love to hate”, or is it just that people are so screwed up that they are grasping at any straw to see if they can save themselves for the “demons” that Oprah and her gang have planned in their heads.

  4. B.J. Vandale
    January 5, 2011

    No one has to admit to watching all the gurus, they are everywhere. You watch prime time TV and you hear what the Day time TV hosts are doing or not doing. No I don’t think people are screwed up at all but the power to think for ourselves is slowly been taken away from all of us. I have to agree talk show hosts want to give you a quick fix to a better you. What was wrong with the old you? Things will be just rosy if you get in touch with your inner self, read this book, empower yourself etc. Over the years, haven’t women, people in general, been doing just that without the help of the TV talk show hosts.

  5. amoriarty
    January 5, 2011

    I stopped watching Oprah when she declared that she doesn’t believe in luck. I, too, think that the Oprah/Dr.Phil self-help fenzy over the past few decades has done some harm (to me, at least). I call it “therapizing your way right out of the human race” but, in all fairness, I got what I wanted from it and moved on (such as I did, anyway). It might be a bit hypocritical of me to be too critical of an important “stage” in self-discovery (sorry).
    Again, Bill—-interesting perspective.

  6. B.J. Vandale
    January 6, 2011

    I have to agree, it is an important stage, but don’t you think Self-help TV, books etc have gone just a little to far. There are still a lot of people out there that think they can get a quick fix in one hour, 250 pages or whatever other vehicle they maybe using. It don’t work like that and in reality it can do more harm than good.

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This entry was posted on January 5, 2011 by in Social Comment and tagged , , , .
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