I’m serious. What will Oprah do?
She’s almost finished something like twenty-five years of having all of North America licking her patent-leather boots, and I worry that this woman will have a complete personality breakdown when she doesn’t fill a five-hour-per-week void in the hearts and minds of millions and millions of people.
But before I give you the wrong impression, let me be clear about something. I don’t like Oprah. Really, I hate her. I think she is a wart on the armpit of American culture. I think that she is a scheming, disingenuous, manipulative harpy with a God-complex that would make Zeus look like Mother Theresa. So when I question what she will do, it isn’t because I truly care about her well-being. It’s more like if I saw a poisonous spider on a cracker floating in a bowl of boiling water. I’d think to myself, “Isn’t that interesting. I wonder what that dangerous spider will do when the cracker finally melts away.” Never mind the fact that it would be quite remarkable to come across this scenario; that wouldn’t faze me at all. And I would obviously not attempt to help the spider, because it would try to kill me.
Consider, then, the fact that this woman is about to give up a quarter-century of having people hanging on her every word, even when those words are ignorant, small-minded, or wrong. Watch her feed off their adoration and hysteria:
Seriously? People crying and clutching each other like it’s the end of the bleeding world? Okay, it’s fun to get stuff, but I have a feeling that three-quarters of that audience would drink kerosene if Oprah told them to do it right then. This is a level of hysterical idolatry that you only get in Old Testament scriptures with plagues and pillars of salt and giant statues made of gold.
And the nerve of this woman to suggest that any of these things are her “favourites!” 3D TV is not one of Oprah’s favourite things. Do you know how I know?
BECAUSE 3D TV SUCKS!
But no one questions the Oprah. Nope, if she says she loves it, they all buy in. If she hates it (like supposedly Mad-Cow-compromised beef) they’ll burn it in piles while they chant songs about Gayle King’s limitless talent.
This is why I worry about Oprah. You can’t live in a world where your opinion – no matter how dumb – is always held as Truth by millions of people without your view of reality getting skewed to the breaking point. Watch her. Watch her turn to the audience whenever she makes a point, seeking their automatic approval, confident in her assumption that they will cheer when she is joyful and hiss when she is angry. Listen as the polished diction she uses with her guests slips to colloquial, southern drawl when she condescends to address her fans. She doesn’t even think about it anymore.
What will Oprah do when all of that is gone?
Twenty years from now, I am reading a story online. It talks about a former talk-show host and media mogul that stages elaborate plays in her decrepit mansion; she arrays china dolls and stuffed animals in banks of benches twenty deep, draws up a cracked leather chair before them, and proceeds to interview the cardboard cutouts of irrelevant and dead celebrities. (As is her way even then, her questions couldn’t be more leading if they came with a leash.) She gives away prizes of empty Kleenex boxes and gift certificates scrawled in mascara on scraps of craft paper. Sometimes when she speaks, single words are loudly declared and drawn out for as long as her wheezing breath will allow.
Forgive me. I do but dream.