I’m not a fan. Yes, I said it.
Hear me out.
I always admired her ability to overcome her hardscrabble life. Oprah was not born into a privileged world. She overcame a lot of personal and private pain. She endured racism and sexism. She rose above it all despite the odds. She is a truly an underdog story. Then something happened.
I was a full fledged koolaid drinker of the O cult. I wanted cashmere panty liners and dark chocolate bon bons made with free range eggs and cocoa gathered by an elf in the Peruvian jungle because she told me it was one of her apparently many favorite things. She taught me to diet, and then not. She exposed Tom Cruise for the alien being he is. She built a school in Africa for young women because she’s the gentlest most generous heartest individual this side of Mother Theresa. Then I opened up a magazine and read about her 40 million dollar private jet.
Now, I’m not anti-capitalism. If you can, and do, make your billions, you are not contractually obligated to save one living soul with a dollar of your money. Maybe morally you are, but even that’s in question by atheists. The truth is we should help people not because of some heavenly obligation, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. No, I’m not a commie. I just learned the art of giving on Sesame Street. I admired Oprah for her philanthropy and thought it was wonderful for a woman who came from nothing had a 50 million dollar mansion and a cadre of people to attend to her every whim.
Then the plane burst my bubble.
This is not to say I think Oprah should fly the overly friendly skies with her fans. The woman would not get one moment of peace even in first class. She is not just an actress, etc., she is an icon. If only for brief respite from the public eye, she should have her private plane. I get it. I know! I would probably have a private plane too if I had her fan base. But I think I could get by with a 10 million dollar private plane. I’m not ostentatious.
The lightning bolt that woke me from my Oprah stupor was the realization that her fans, the women (and men!) who love and adore her, paid for that 40 million dollar plane. Now, I know Julia Roberts could have a 40 million dollar plane and that would have likewise been paid for by the fans who see her movies. But Julia is selling me entertainment, even if she made that god awful movie with Tom Hanks. Oprah is just selling.
Allow me to elaborate!
Oprah is one long info-mercial. She is selling us people and products. There are hand lotions made of baby goats milk and cashmere capes with fake fur collars. Along with her absolute most favorite books that somehow touched her life and her soul, she will parade handsome doctors on stage who will tell us the things we need to do and to buy to be better selves. Here is a gold-plated pen that changed her life. There is a flower arrangement that costs more than a car payment, but it’s just divine. She sells us movies and music and perfume. Her magazine is one giant ad with our favorite saleswoman on the cover with a big ole grin. Buy these things, she whispers in our ears. You’ll be more like me.
So I know Martha and Rachel likewise have their magazines. But Martha and Rachel “do” something. Martha can make a centerpiece arrangement out of molted pigeon feathers and crab apples. She can show you there is an actual use for a mortar and pestle. Rachel can make you a three course meal in under 30 minutes and stay cheerful the entire time. Oprah cannot make you a Thanksgiving dinner. But she can sell you the products you need to make it yourself. She sells. That what she does. She sells lifestyle, people and products.
You only have to go back and look at the rabid fever of her Oprah Favorite Things episodes to see what she really is. She is an evangelist of capitalism. The Billy Mayes of lifestyle. Buy! Buy! Buy! You can’t live without things. Scream and shout and hug your neighbor because you’re getting an IPad! And there’s a car for you and for you and for you. Of course Oprah hand-picked and purchased every single item she’s giving away. Oh wait, you were watching from the comfort of your living room and now you just have to have that Kindle loaded with all Oprah’s picks because all those people were fortunate enough to just get one.
And then she flew away on her 40 million dollar jet. She started her Own network and implored you to watch. You only have to go as far as her website, which I will not link to here, to see she has built her Crystal Cathedral of materialism meant to snake oil us all into believing we can be our best selves if we wear this, and read that, watch this and eat that. Here’s these great buys I promise you will love. If you for one minute do not believe these products are placed there like a Coke can on a table in front of your favorite actor, then you are delusional.
My problem is that Oprah has made millions (billions) off telling us we need what she has. We can be successful like her. We can smell like her. We can eat what she does. We can read the books she curls up with at night. And that’s fine and good. She is a lifestyle brand. Her product is her. She is not for one minute obligated to share any money that she does with anyone.
Except think about how many lives 40 million dollars worth of clean water could have saved. Instead of telling us what lipstick to wear, how about how simple it is to donate to Heifer.org or to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. I know, I know. I’ve raised your ire. She gives back, you say. She donates time and money. She doesn’t have to, but she does.
She also sits in her 50 million dollar mansion and flies out on her 40 million dollar private plane and tells you your life will not be complete unless you have a hundred-dollar leather wrap around bracelet. I don’t begrudge her the success she has achieved or the wealth she has accumulated. She has just done it by telling us all we can be better people because of the things we possess. Don’t believe me? Pick up her magazine. There on every page is a transaction being enticed.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t love Oprah. I’m not saying she’s a horrible person. I’m sure she’s quite lovely and giving and generous.
I’m just not buying what she’s selling.