Saying goodbye to Oprah--and cynicism
Upon reading a recap of the taping of the second and third to last Oprah Winfrey Shows, a coworker commented, “I guess Jesus was already booked or else he would have been there too. Hilarious. Oprah, curer of cancer, eliminator of world hunger, bringer of world peace.” The evening had long parade of celebrities including Beyonce, Tom Hanks, Michael Jordan, Maria Schriver, and Madonnna, among many many more.
This, I believe, is the general sentiment among non-Oprah watchers: general cynicism around the idea that this woman has actually had such an enormous impact on the lives of not just her fans, but people all around the world. Before I attended the taping of the “Farewell Oprah: A Surprise Spectacular,” I would have shared in that cynicism. When I got a call asking me to cover it for another publication, I, of course, said yes (who would pass up the opportunity to attend such buzz worthy event if only for the opportunity to watch from afar). But I didn’t expect to be moved as I was.
I admit to misty eyes when a group of young girls who’d all been born years after Oprah had started her show stood on stage during the first taping and thanked her for the positive reinforcement they’d received from her. The smallest said in a squeaky voice, “Thank you Oprah for showing me I can be anything, even president of the United States.”
Woman after woman thanked the media mogul for sending the message that helped them get out of violent relationships, get an education even when the odds were stacked against them, and stand up for the causes they believe in.
An acquaintance of mine pointed out recently that Oprah’s magazine, O, is only one of two women’s magazines she knows that has a book section. She says she reads it “because it isn’t crafted with the intent of working you into a lather of shame that can only be fixed by buying bronzer or very fancy underwear or heels so high they will languish in your closet eternally.”
I think it’s natural for us, especially Christians, to be wary of people that are held so high on a pedestal, and that’s probably a good thing. But I also wonder if perhaps it’s not cynicism that gets in the way of appreciating the efforts and the philanthropic achievements of someone like Oprah. While I did feel as if the people who attended the taping were expecting some kind of spiritual experience, and I got a glimpse into a culture of women who think that having a flourishing spiritual life means reading Oprah book club books, drinking plenty of water, and taking walks, I walked away convinced that Oprah is making choices and directing her life in a way that serves and empowers others, in particular, women.