In an effort to come to the truth of the matter about important issues, and engage in our favorite pastime (arguing), we will from time to time engage in an e-mail version of a barroom debate. These will always be honest disagreements, not ESPN-style verbal fake wrestling. Join us after the jump as we debate the cultural force known as Oprah.
Oprah Winfrey’s final show on network television airs this week, so what better time to examine her legacy? Since David Simon Cowell is in Ecuador, and we never know from one minute to the next if he’s still alive or is being held for ransom by a drug cartel (that’s an Ecuador thing, right?), we have a guest debater this week to take his place.
I will be taking the anti-Oprah position of the debate. Obviously. My worthy opponent is none other than Stedman Graham, Oprah’s longtime companion. Welcome, Stedman!
Stedman: Thank you, Dilemma! It’s great to be here. I’m a longtime reader of Pop Culture Has AIDS, and I appreciate the work that you gentlemen do. Oprah and I often read your work together in the evening, and we enjoy your caustic wit and refreshing honesty. Because you are so adept a cultural critic, I must admit I’m surprised that you are not supportive of Oprah and everything she represents. For an African-American woman to be as successful and impactful as she has in today’s America is an accomplishment that cannot be diminished. Oprah has crossed racial and gender barriers, and overthrown the yoke of the white male gaze, en route to becoming the single most celebrated and beloved icon in entertainment history. She should be judged not alongside Phil Donahue and Sally Jesse Raphael, but alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Clara Barton.
Moreover, my Oprah has given girls all over the world a role model to which they can aspire, and she’s done so as a consistent and persuasive force for good in this foreboding and sometimes pernicious world. And Oprah’s done it all on her own, with help from no benefactor or power-broker. She’s a self-made woman, and I am immeasurably proud of her.
The Dilemma: Oprah’s a c-word.
Stedman: I respect your passion, good sir, but I would kindly ask you to elaborate so that I may better rebut your arguments within the confines of this intellectual dialogue.
The Dilemma: Oprah’s a fat fucking c-word.
Stedman: Hmm. Well, yes, I see. Perhaps the problem is that you are so ingrained in your assigned gender role that you feel you must be opposed to Oprah. You are so imprisoned within your very maleness that you feel a cultural obligation to disparage her. It’s really not even your fault; you’ve been conditioned by television and magazines and politicians to believe that women can only hold so much power before they become threatening.
But imagine how much Oprah has meant to little girls growing up who have now seen firsthand that success can be achieved on their own terms. Are you anti-feminist? Are you married to ancient conservative ideals about relationship politics? For that’s the only explanation why you would engage in such primitive discourse.
The Dilemma: I fucking hate fucking Oprah.
Stedman: Let me endeavor to put this in terms you can comprehend, friend. Oprah is a rallying point for all women. They can all agree on and celebrate her greatness. She is a unique cultural touchstone in that she goes beyond mere water cooler chatter. She’s omnipresent, perhaps even omnipotent. There’s not a woman alive who doesn’t respect and love Oprah Winfrey for what she has meant to evolving societal roles. As a typical male, consider Oprah the female equivalent to The Three Stooges. All young boys grow up loving the Stooges and their delightful brand of slapstick comedy. It’s a conversation piece that all males can rely on, and a way that we men can related to one another. And that’s what Oprah is for womyn. Why, I myself must confess a particular weakness for Shemp’s patented screech…
The Dilemma: I fucking hate The Three Stooges. Almost as much as I hate that diseased cow Oprah.
Stedman: I must defend my beloved O from your fallacious and injurious attacks. Not only has Oprah been a wonderful and compassionate life companion (and kept me in the lifestyle to which I’ve grown accustomed), but she has helped a good many citizens of this world. Oprah is all about helping “the little people.” She’s not unlike a monarch who rules with empathy and grace rather than self-interest. In many ways, she’s the Confucian ideal of meritocracy writ large. Oprah loves her people and does right by them; in doing so, she earns their love in return and consolidates more power. Did you know
we she owns a 32,000 square foot villa on Maui that we’ve only visited once? And we’ll never go again. But she owns it because she can. Because she’s so Beloved (do you see what I did there?). It’s a living monument to how much good she’s done for her audience.
The Dilemma: Jesus fucking Christ, man. Do you really want to get into this?
Stedman: Of course, friend. Isn’t that why we’re here? For an engaging back-and-forth replete with ribald witticisms and delightful historical references?
The Dilemma: I was trying to be fucking nice about it, since I know you live very comfortably nestled in between two of Oprah’s lard rolls. They must keep you nice and warm.
Stedman: Well, I never!
The Dilemma: Oprah helps people? You can’t possibly fucking believe that, you cuckolded twat. You know who Oprah helps? Other millionaires and billionaires, and even then, only when it’s in her own goddamn self-interest. She helps douchebags like Nicholas Sparks sell more books, and freak shows like Tom Cruise sell more movie tickets. She helps massive conglomerates sell more products. Do you know who she doesn’t fucking help, you inert cocksucker? Normal fucking people, that’s who.
Oprah shows up on her set one day dragging a fucking wheelbarrow filled with fucking lard:
…and acts like she climbed fucking Mt. Everest or cured fucking cancer because she lost some goddamn weight. First, let it be noted that it’s not that fucking difficult to lose weight. Just don’t eat so damn much. But no, you fucking concubine, Oprah talked as if she had solved the mysteries of God and the universe because she shed some fucking pounds. And she used that as an excuse to sell her ignorant, sheep-like audience on some diet program. Oprah moves product. That’s what she does. That’s what she is. She’s the perfect fucking embodiment of American capitalism. She’s Marlo from The Wire. There’s just a used car commercial inside her where a soul should be.
Then, when she gets fat again (and she always gets fucking fat again), it’s too late for her audience. They’ve already bought the diet books and special fucking food or whatever. But Oprah doesn’t denounce her failed diet plan. She just ignores the fucking subject until she loses weight again, then sells a whole new slew of fucking diet books. Oprah acts if she’s some munificent fucking saint because she hides presents under her audiences’ seats or flies them to fucking Australia, but for every person she bestows an expensive gift upon there are five hundred thousand saps out significant fucking sums of money because Oprah sold them a pile of snake oil on television.
Can we talk about the fucking Secret for a minute?
The Dilemma: Shut the fuck up. Your time for talking is over. You are partially to blame for this reign of fucking terror we’ve had to endure lo these many goddamn years.
Oprah fucking Winfrey actually had some charlatan come on her show to sell her book, which is all about how you can get whatever you want if you just send a wish out into the universe, or some such fucking nonsense. The power of positive thinking! Setting aside that the so-called SECRET is not exactly a unique fucking concept, how can anyone go on television in good faith, purport to be objective, and tell people that they can get anything they want as long as they believe it? I suppose it’s easy when you have a billion fucking dollars and own a private jet made from gold bullion and elephant tusks.
This evil fucking bitch has a long, storied history of giving airtime to magical thinkers and con artists to sell products or influence her dumb fucking audience. She let that lunatic Jenny McCarthy give voice to her insane, ignorant fucking theories on vaccinations and autism. Listening to McCarthy expound on fucking medical science is like listening to George W. Bush tell us that climate change is fucking fuzzy math. But Oprah gives her a podium, winds her up and lets her go. Oprah also unleashed that foul fucking cocksucker Dr. Phil on an unsuspecting world — another “expert” with no foundation, no knowledge and no credibility except that Winfrey tells us they’re fucking great.
Oprah has helped create a culture in which we kowtow to famous people, worship at the altar of material possessions and do whatever our fucking television tells us to do. She’s never for one moment done anything to diminish her out-of-control, falsified reputation; to the contrary, she encourages it. Her monstrous ego knows no bounds. Look at the goddamn hullabaloo surrounding her final show. Not only did Oprah create a brand new TV series offering behind-the-scenes footage of her final season (which mostly portrayed her being a massive bitch to staffers and displaying zero fucking self-awareness), she’s throwing herself a celeb-filled coronation/Bacchanalia at the fucking United Center for her final shows. So people like Cruise and Madonna can show up and toast Oprah’s fucking greatness. Never before has such goddamn hubris been displayed so vainly for public consumption.
Of course, Oprah is only ending her show so she can start a new fucking show on her own goddamn channel! She’s not going away. There’s no justifiable reason for this tribute to herself. But Oprah’s never needed any fucking justification for anything beyond appetite and greed. The atmosphere of her final show, and really, her entire essence, are captured perfectly by James Poniewozik:
“Oprah’s Surprise Farewell wouldn’t have been possible without United, the airline of our farewell season,” we learned, before hearing about the luxury celeb guests “indulged in” at the Marriott.
Oprah is the original Gwyneth Paltrow, and I mean that in the worst possible way. She’s a fucking dilettante disguised as a talk show host. She’s a rich, famous freak who doesn’t understand why everyone in the world isn’t as fucking rich as her. There’s no substantive difference between Oprah and Paris Hilton, except that Oprah’s fat and better spoken. They both treat the world as their fucking playground and have lost all touch with the tiny fucking commoners who don’t summer in the Hamptons or drop by Robert Evans’s mansion for fucking appetizers.
If this were truly a farewell for Oprah, I’d be celebrating her fucking demise. But it’s not. She’ll never fucking leave us, just like Satan’s temptation never leaves our fucking hearts.