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FOOL ME ONCE...
29 January 2006
I have never been one of those who worship at the feet of Oprah, hanging on her every word. Were I to attend her show, I would not be one of those who act like a bobby soxer at a Frank Sinatra concert, or someone who looked like she'd just seen the Second Coming as the great Oprah makes her entrance each day.
But I have watched the show, off and on, for several years. It's part of my "television clock," the shows that are on daily in the background that let me know what time it is.
Lately, however, I have begun getting very tired of Ms. Oprah. She is at her best when she is espousing causes -- Lady Bountiful, helping to ease the plight of the less fortunate. I admire the number of people (myself included) to whom she has revealed the serious condition of, particularly, women and offered an opportunity to do something to help someone somewhere in the world.
Her trip to Africa brought a tear to my eye. I don't care if she brought along a huge camera crew. She brought money and gifts and those kids don't get that too often.
I like it when she goes back to being an investigative reporter, how she began. I'm less impressed when she becomes an unlicensed psychologist.
It was through Oprah that I became a sponsor for a woman in Bosnia. Oprah gave me the opportunity to become an armchair philanthropist for an affordable sum each month.
Oprah is also at her best when she is encouraging people with serious problems, exposing situations that have hitherto been closeted. Sometimes these border on exploitation, but on the whole, as a person who has experienced many of these situations herself, I think Oprah handles things like sexual molestation and weight issues with sensitivity.
She is at her worst (at least from my level of interest) when she holds endless shows on beauty, make-up, staying young, fashion and the like. It's a big yawn for me.
Likewise her huge give-away shows leave me feeling somewhat sleazy. It reminds me of Eva Peron tossing money to the masses, changing the life of one person temporarily. The annual gift show turns the entire audience into a screaming greedy hoard, worshipping at the feet of their goddess, Oprah.
I used to watch 'em all, though, because that was what was on from 4-5. But now I'm more likely to switch to yet another Little House on the Prairie rerun because I have just reached Oprah overload.
However, like millions of others, I tuned in to watch her confrontation with James Frey, the author of the runaway best seller, "A Million Little Pieces."
From his first response to her first question, Frey reminded me of one of my children caught in a lie and trying frantically to find a way to make it all better, while trying to appear calm on the surface. He also had the air of a smug frat boy who has pulled off the Big One. He had duped the queen of talk TV.
I read the book, based on Oprah's raving endorsement--not because Oprah said to read the book but because so many people raved about being unable to put it down and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. But I have to admit that I was not as taken with it as many others.
There is no denying that it is a riveting read, but the more I read, the less credible it became. I've watched my good friend struggle with alcohol addiction, working the AA program and maintaining his sobriety for the past 8 or more years. The hero of this book, which I guess is loosely based on Frey's experience, appears to have conquered concurrent multi-drug and alcohol addictions in a matter of weeks without subscribing to any support groups, but just making up his mind and that was that. After years of see sawing back and forth with addiction, he supposedly just quit, cold turkey, and never looked back.
His book is peopled with big important men who all took him under their wing and helped ease his way back into the real world, something that again seemed improbable.
And then there was the root canal, the scene that sets everyone to squirming. He describes in vivid detail how he undergoes not one, but two root canals without so much as an aspirin. When asked about this, he now admits that "he thinks that happened." I'm sorry--but you don't forget root canal, especially if it is done without benefit of novocaine! You also don't write about it in minute detail for several pages and then admit that you "think" it happened.
As I watched him squirm under Oprah's unrelenting questioning, I wondered if he wasn't, underneath, smiling to himself at having gotten away with something and working hard to look contrite. I saw as much sincerity in his confessions as I saw in his book, to tell you the truth.
Here's a guy who has to be laughing all the way to the bank. He must have made a fortune on the sales that Oprah's endorsement has generated. He can afford to sit mum and listen to Oprah's icy comments about her embarrassment at having been so duped.
If he were sincerely sorry about the historical fiction he has purported to be truth, he would take a big chunk of that money and donate it to one of Oprah's pet causes.
But I don't see that happening.
After all, we have a
whole administration that plays fast and loose with the truth, so why shouldn't
the watchword be "if you can get away with it, why not?"
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Photo by Claire Amy Atkins