Monday, November 5, 2007

Alas, poor Oprah

It's going to be a bit of a winding road here at the start. Stay with me.

One of my profs, of all people, pointed me towards the NY Times article on Jessica Seinfeld, who apparently was always a little hated by those in the know, was recently accused of plagiarizing her cookbook, and thanked Oprah by sending her somewhere from $10,000-$20,000 in designer shoes as a thanks for appearing on Oprah's show.

Blog commentary on that last groused about Oprah's shameless delight in this ridiculous extravagance, the same kind of consumer delight that makes millions of women feel that they have to rush out and consume in order to feel as powerful as Oprah. I haven't seen anything positing it against two of Oprah's more recent big events, though.

When popping over to YouTube to watch a little more of Hugh Jackman hosting the Tonys (I am really that girl in your college hallway who listened to the same song all the time), I saw some new feature about Oprah on YouTube, something about her favorites or... I don't know, I couldn't be bothered to look. On the other hand, you also can't get away from coverage of this sexual abuse case in Oprah's South African school for girls. I don't know what the general opinion of this is, but I've seen Oprah as quoted from saying everything from 'responsibility rests with me' to 'I didn't do anything wrong.' No doubt Oprah's faithful will rally to her, fueled by reports that she wept for a whole half hour (poor thing) when she heard about the charges. No doubt they will also want her shoes and watch her uploaded videos.

I don't know what to make of Oprah, to be honest. I never quite have. On the one hand, her rise has been astronomically impressive. She does good things -- lots of charity, lots of healthy living shows, lots of nice books. I enjoy the show. Dr. Oz has taught me a lot. But her aim square at a certain segment of the population with huge aspirations towards more material comfort seems by bypass those who can't possibly afford Christian Louboutin shoes, and those are the ones she affects to love the best.

Of course, as a literary critic, I also found her involvement in the James Frey case rather odd;
most critics I know didn't much care about the whole fiction vs. memoir vs. autobiography controversy, except for the truth in advertising principle, because we know that autobiography and history are always-already (sorry) so convoluted and fictionalized. But there's another case where Oprah swung wildly from 'I don't care' to 'you liar,' and that one was distinctly a case of caving to a media frenzy that she could not control.

Sorry, no big payoff to this set of musings. She is a triumphant bundle of contradictions. But it did cross my mind that I just can't imagine what is going to happen to Oprah's empire of taste as she gets older and slower, let alone when she passes on. I think it'll take me until the void appears to really judge her legacy.

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