The other day, I got into a conversation about Oprah and was pretty critical of her. It was promptly met with a DM from a Twitter user who I will keep anonymous, telling me that it was wrong of me to criticize her in such a way because she was an important symbol of empowerment to the black community. To break it down for you, I was being asked to reconsider my position on Oprah based solely on the colour of her skin.
Let’s rewind a few years…
There used to be something endearing about Oprah. She was a new, up-and-coming special interest journalist who seemed ambitious and innocent and fearless up against the old, white gods of talk shows like Donahue. It was cool to see a black woman raised in poverty rise beyond the silver-haired and silver-spooned dinosaurs in the industry. I wanted to cheer for her. I wanted to be her fan. She seemed fallible. She seemed human. She was relatable.
Somewhere along the line, though, amidst the grieving moms sobbing on her stage, the bald and infirm struggling with terminal illness being broadcast to millions, and the surreal interviews with celebrity nutbars like Tom Cruise, Oprah lost me and she lost me for good. I remember once at the dinner table with my dad, we were hunched over our spaghetti,
“I saw a lady with multiple personalities on Oprah, today.” I told my dad.
“Oh, the ringmaster is still parading the mentally ill around on her freak show, huh?”
I can honestly say I’d never thought about it that way, but it matched how I felt. There was something inside of me that became unsettled every time I watched her. I felt like a predatory voyeur witnessing her constant stream of people suffering, people grieving and people whose private lives would never be private again. There was the woman who was disfigured after being shot by her husband; the children of the man who had 34 of them put on stage for our entertainment; the actress friend of Oprah who had been molested by her brother blind-sided when she saw him and her parents appear on Oprah’s show. She even exploited her friends… Sometimes, it was too painful to see, like witnessing a large, muscular man beat a puppy. It hurt me to my core to watch Oprah exploit those suffering in pain and in loss.
I was still subject to her bullshit often, though, as my mom loved to watch her, and all my aunts and my grandmother. I’d hear Oprah’s voice boom from my living room about free shit under everyone’s chairs, and a chorus of high-pitched screams would bounce around in my head forcing me to swear under my breath. At lunch, I’d overhear Oprah talk about bullshit like chakras and “aha moments” and positive thinking and it’d take everything in my power not to walk out to the garage, grab a sledgehammer and send my set to television heaven.
It went far beyond no longer liking the lady. It got to the point where I loathed her; where my skin would crawl at the sound of her voice. I’d catch a glimpse of a crying child on her stage and want to fly to Chicago myself just to heckle her from the audience. It became the running joke among my friends and me that Oprah was my nemesis because one mention of her name and I’d go right off.
When Dr. Phil launched, my loathing for Oprah became rooted even deeper into every fibre of my being. She birthed an entire show devoted to parading around the mentally ill. Dr. Phil is nothing short of a predator, watching people like a ravenous lion, and the moment someone is overwhelmed by some crippling mental health issue, he pounces. He showed up at the hospital when Britney Spears had a breakdown, salivating at the ratings he knew he would get if he could have her dance like a monkey on his show, spilling her guts about her personal struggles. He dragged actress Shelley Duvall onto his stage while she was clearly suffering delusions, claiming Robin Williams was still alive and a “shapeshifter”. There was the woman named Tonya who sat in his plush chair and explained to the world that she spoke with Barack Obama in her head; the time he held an intervention for the model, Jael Strauss exposing her meth addiction to the world without her consent; he’s posted bail for violent criminals so they could appear on his show; sent those struggling with addiction to questionable rehabilitation facilities and hawks woo-filled bullshit like his weight loss pills over which he was forced to settle a class-action lawsuit costing him multiple millions of dollars.
There’s nothing good about this man. Nothing at all.
What’s worse is that the two of them, Oprah and Dr. Phil, this dynamic duo of duplicity, had you all convinced it was all in the name of education, awareness and helping people. Parents would bring their ADHD kids out on stage and complain about them to the entire world, while Dr. Phil would talk to them all condescending like,
“What are you hoping to achieve by being so sexually promiscuous? Cause I can tell you, there are only two things you can really get out of it: babies and AIDS.”
and the mindless, unquestioning crowd roars with laughter…
Fuck you Dr. Phil. Fuck you and fuck your braindead wife, too.
These children – hurting children – whose behaviour proves how down on themselves they already are, are marched out onto the Dr. Phil stage and verbally paddled in front of America. Divorces and infidelity, obesity and eating disorders, anxiety and depression, things that made people truly struggle and hurt and consider self-harm – these things were all entertainment for us, now. They were all worth a buck to Oprah and that’s all she saw out of all of it: billions and billions of dollars.
It got even worse when Dr. Oz became a thing, hawking the alternative medicine, holistic lies and fad diets. This snot nozzle of a human being making empty promises to desperate people about how to lose weight, prevent cancer and cure the common cold. Billions more dollars pumped into Oprah’s wallet at the expense of the wellbeing of all of us.
The icing on top of the cake arrived when I became aware of multiple instances of Oprah talking down to atheists as though we are less than her,
And thirty years earlier,
Clearly, the woman thinks she’s better than us non-believers, even though she’s reached a crescendo in her career now where she’s pushing the works of such snake oil salesmen as Deepak Choprah.
If all of this is not enough to convince you that Oprah is a tit storm of a human being, perhaps her cash-draw idea of putting Lindsay Lohan up on our screen making her private struggles all of our business – of course she’d agree to it, Oprah probably offered her an insane amount of money and she was struggling in her career. Of course, Oprah took advantage of that – this is the very definition of exploitation and you don’t have to like Lohan to see that.
Oprah’s evil peaked when she pushed Henrietta Lack’s son into signing a document with Oprah and HBO which would end his ability to speak of his mother without first seeking Oprah’s permission. Luckily, the man was too smart to be swayed by her glistening billions and didn’t sign it as asked.
With all of this in mind, I have little reason to believe that anyone who still considers themselves a fan of hers is of sound mind or has an ounce of compassion in their entire body. I often criticize her in public and I will never stop.
So, when I was asked to be less critical of Oprah because she is a symbol of empowerment for the black community, you can imagine I was more than a little gobsmacked. I mean, just give me a minute and I can come up with a hundred better people to look up to: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, Colin Kaepernick, Valerie Jarrett, Shirley Chisolm… and on and on and on.
Essentially, a request was being made for me to overlook all the things that made me loathe Oprah simply because of the colour of her skin. I should ignore her overt exploitation of other people’s pain and struggle; I should ignore the fact that she pushes bullshit solutions to real problems; I should ignore her vulturous nature and the many people who have been truly hurt by her. Nevermind her proteges like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz who have been groomed to carry on the exploitation in her wake; forget the very real people behind the gut-wrenching stories she crams down our throats. Forget all that, right?
I dislike Oprah. I dislike Oprah because she uses people’s pain to fill her bank accounts with billions of dollars. She literally feeds on the suffering of others. It’s the same way I feel about white people like Joel Osteen, Dr. Phil, Nancy Grace and Maury Povich. My dislike of Oprah has nothing the fuck at all to do with her skin colour and every-fucking-thing to do with the fact that she is a vile excuse for a human being.
Under no circumstances will I ever change my mind about someone based solely on the colour of their skin. Don't ask me to.