Oprah's Final Show – UPDATED

Over at National Review they’re running a Symposium exploring whether Oprah Winfrey’s long-running talk show has been a net-positive or negative for the nation.

I participated in the symposium, along with Charlotte Allen, Cal Thomas, Suzanne Venker, Danielle Bean, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Pia de Solenni and many others. It makes for a very interesting round-up of opinions

My own response was quickly dashed-off and had I taken more time, I believe I would have stricken the too-easy joke at the end, but there it is.

I recalled and dug up this Mark Steyn piece from 1998, which is relevant:

In this fragmented media age, not many TV performers are privileged to become nouns and adjectives, admitted to the same select group as Thatcherism and Dickensian. If anything, Oprah Winfrey’s achievement is more impressive than Margaret Thatcher’s or Charles Dickens’s. Oprahfication doesn’t refer to anything as piffling as a partisan creed or a stylistic voice; as denounced by the Wall Street Journal, it means “public confession as a form of therapy,” but even that doesn’t quite cover it: Rather, Oprahfication has become the routine designation for nothing less than the wholesale makeover of the nation, and then the world. Recently, it has been casually deployed to disparage not only President Clinton’s “national conversation on race” but also the new, breast-beating post-Di, post–Killer Nanny, flaccid-upper-lipped British public. Oprahfication, in that sense, is a term that has slipped its original moorings: Oprah herself had nothing very illuminating to say about the Princess of Wales, and her own conversations on race tend to be more robust, bringing together the author of the insightful tome Why Black People Tend to Shout (I forget the reason) with a studioful of prime exhibits.

But, as Ohio reminded us, there’s a world of difference between the Winfrey wannabes and the genuine article. When Oprah decides personally to Oprahfy something or another, the results are spectacular:

Finally, thanks to Susannah Breslin who sent this along, from “Team Coco”: about the men who will be sad to see Oprah go

UPDATE: Kathryn Jean Lopez on Oprah’s “Augustinian” View

I like that Oprah can laugh at herself, as she did on 30 Rock, when a stoned Liz Lemon mistook a 12 year-old girl for her idol:

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • elleblue

    Oprah inspired people to be philanthropic by example and this I admired. What bothered me, is that as time went on she appeared to become very new agey and along with that came vagueness about what is useful in terms of beliefs and what is not useful.

  • Janet

    I have watched the show from the beginning “A.M. Chicago” roots to the occasional ‘ who does she have on – is it worth watching?’ recent viewings. I admit her promotion of relativistic spiritual beliefs and her personal politics was what turned me into an occasional viewer.

    That being said, I do greatly admire her for her philanthropy and for what I believe was the overriding theme of the show – you are responsible for your own life – not your parents, your spouse or anyone else. You alone.

    And that’s a pretty profound lesson to learn from a TV show.

  • alex

    She is a Billionaire. Therefore she could NOT be THAT philanthropic. Relative to everyone else’s income her proportion of philanthropy is not that significant. She is just always telling everyone when she does something.
    p.s. those cars and gifts given away on her show were NOT paid for by Her, the advertisers coughed those up.

  • rjfarel

    Even though I constantly thought that her relativism, materialism, and pursuit of comfort bothered me, I found something about her character that was attractive and inspiring. She seemed to see the goodness in people; all types of people. She seemed to understand the joy of humanity.

  • Burgo Fitzgerald

    “Everyone loves Oprah.”

    One of the commenters in the National Review symposium on Oprah wrote this statement. Was it tongue in cheek?

    I don’t love Oprah (and by this I mean the media-personality; I have no idea who the real woman is). I never have. I never will.

    I was 15 years old when her show first premiered. I remember seeing crazy and sensational stories when she began. I don’t remember every episode being quality content. Did I remember this incorrectly?

    I can appreciate that she is an example of a person who has worked exceptionally hard for everything she has achieved. No one can take that from her.

    I can appreciate that she has personally aided many people in terms of paying for their education, medical bills, and various other well-documented cases of financial aid. No one can take that from her.

    I can appreciate that she is a buisness and marketing genius who has singlehandedly created a media empire the likes of which people will be able to study and try to emulate for years to come. No one can take that from her.

    The thing is that I have never “believed” a word out of the mouth of the woman from what was once, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” but that is now simply “O”.

    For the last 25 years it seems as though I have watched a personality who has preached one thing but acted out the opposite in so many ways:

    Possessions are not important, happiness can be found in the simplest of things, and money does not a quality life make; her “Must Have – Favourite Things” section of her magazine is an obscene list of alligator skin tampon holders and murano glass drawer pulls.

    We must respect the earth, live mindfully, and conserve: she purchases a personal jet and spends a staggering amount of money furnishing it with antiques. How many properties does she own? How many properties has she had built?

    Even the way she physically speaks has changed over the years. Sometimes the affected and clipped diction/enunciation while she is speaking to the camera seems so bizarre when she just finished doing this whole “you go girl, knowwahmsayin’” schtick not even five-minutes before!

    I was not able to watch her two-day love fest to herself. The section I did manage to catch with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith was enough to turn my stomach and ask myself what is it that everyone else can see but I cannot. Actually, reading all of these veritable hagiographies about the woman everywhere, I am starting to wonder if there IS something seriously wrong with me.

    She created a show, a production company, a magazine, a foundation, a website, and now her own network. She also built a school in Africa. And yet, I can only think of what I read about that school in Africa: that everything from the plates to the linens have the letter “O” on them; it seems that everything she does is stamped with “O” on it.

    The trademarked “O”.

    All that being said, she is Oprah, and everyone knows who she is. That is what is important in America, right?

  • jkm

    I always found myself regretting–as some contributors to the National Review symposium mentioned–the roads untraveled by Oprah: the issues she might have invited into the national conversation had she not settled for the easy I’m OK You’re OK side of the spectrum. What appealed to me, often, about Oprah was her potential to serve as a non-polarizing interlocutor, a power never more in evidence than when she became the natural choice to lead the nationally televised memorial service for the victims of 9-11, but one that (as in that instance) too often stopped short at fuzzy relativism and made her too easy to dismiss as the popessa of the church of American Anything Goes. I would like to believe there’s something between that and our currently bitter, polarized, national simultaneous monologues; perhaps in this next stage the Spirit will budge Oprah’s gifts in that direction. One can pray.

    And one can be thankful that her name (a hospital misspelling of the biblical Orpah) has given lots of catechists a pop culture hook to send kids to the Book of Ruth.

  • stringtickler

    Isn’t she the one that denied Christ…check You Tube…yup, sure is….another phoney yammering and doing what she thinks will bring her ratings up…kind of like the clown she endorsed who is currently flushing our country down the toilet…

  • Sarah M

    Thank you for linking to this. I am not an Oprah “fan” by any means but have to agree with the likes of Pia de Soleni that she did help bring important issues like domestic violence and sexual abuse to the forefront on the public mind. If this is her strongest point, I’m not surprised how most of the men in this symposium overlooked any good in what she’s done. I am 27, by the way, so I know no other world other than that with Oprah on TV!

  • FoolishMortal

    I watch very little television and have only watched the show in little snippets while occasionally channel surfing. I did DVR her last three shows and watched them in their entirety. Last night I dreamed that Oprah was the antichrist. I texted that piece of information to my son, and he texted me back with this: “I KNEW it!!” Just hoping my dreams aren’t prophetic! =:o]

  • SKAY

    I stopped watching Oprah years ago for a lot of the reasons already expressed by others.