Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Don't Mess With Oprah

The men don't know, but the little girls understand"
Howlin' Wolf: "Backdoor Man" 1955

I watch Oprah. You got a problem with that? I used to think when "Jeopardy!" was over, it was time to hit the computer. I associated Oprah with all the other provocative, one-name, daytime hosts, like Phil, or Maury, Sally, or Rikki, who all seemed to cover the same topics on the same day; teen sluts, people who were grotesquely fat, or incest, sometime all three at once. Then I became a househusband and a freelancer, which means any sort of lancing I'm called upon to do is usually pro bono, so I've allowed myself to be coaxed by Melody away from the internet to check out the topics on "Oprah," and have come to the same understanding that all her admirers reach; there are talk show hosts, there are celebrities, there are politicians, and then there is Oprah. And the amazing part of it is that men have no conception of this single, courageous woman's influence, because they don't watch the show. Men think of her as a rich, celebrity TV star, women see her as a force of nature.

I've become familiar with the inner stories surrounding Ms. Winfrey and Harpo Productions. I know of her humble beginnings and her start in broadcasting in Nashville to become the head of not just a corporation, like Martha Stewart, but a business empire that includes publications, movies, television, theatre, and more. And she is the CEO, as well as spiritual leader, of a philanthropic organization that has given more scholarships, medical supplies and treatment than any celebrity since Danny Thomas. Her school for girls in South Africa was briefly touched by sexual scandal until Oprah attended to it personally, ending the problem like Paul Bunyan stamping out a prairie fire. I know her favorite designer is Nate Berkus who lost his partner in the Indonesian tsunami, and her best friend is Gail King. When Gail and Oprah came through Memphis, it was treated by the media like a Presidential visit and their tour of Graceland was hosted by Priscilla herself. Oprah had already won the Freedom Award, given by the National Civil Rights Museum.

Oprah has never used her celebrity to support politicians, until her recent endorsement of Barack Obama and her announcement that she would attend several upcoming campaign events in Iowa on his behalf. Immediately, both Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, who should know better, discounted the importance of her participation. But, as I said, they are men and just don't watch the show. I have seen spontaneous demonstrations of respect and love by ordinary people toward Oprah that rival the public's response to Robert Kennedy. Olbermann said that she would make no difference unless she started handing out clock radios. Others may only see the Oprah highlights; the ribbon cuttings, the Broadway openings, and the "favorite things" shows, but they don't understand that the devotion of her fans is a direct response to the sincerity of her mission, to help people live better lives.

Oprah will be appearing opposite Bill Clinton, but I bet that secretly, Hillary would trade Bill for her, if Oprah would only offer. Because Oprah is a genuine threat to Hillary and her claim to the women's vote. I, like many people, would welcome a woman President; just not Hillary Clinton. Obviously, Oprah feels the same way, and anyone who doubts her ability to persuade should look at the long list of books, including many classics, that have reached the top of every national best-seller list because of her recommendation. And anyone who wishes to cross Oprah, or take her on, would do well to remember the author James Frey, who's fictionalized "autobiography" caused Oprah to break him into a million little pieces after the hoax was revealed. Or the Texas Cattle Industry, whose lawsuit against Oprah's free speech was thrown out of court as baseless and only caused Winfrey's stature to rise.

I have heard female talking-heads on cable news say that the thought of a woman president is just too appealing not to vote for Hillary. I'd like to see a Jewish president one day, but don't expect me to be voting for Joe Lieberman. Oprah's appeal to women of all regions, economic strati, races, and ages is enough to make the most ardent feminist take another look at Barack Obama, and that chips away at the perception of inevitability that Hillary is attempting to establish. Clinton tries to project competence and toughness. Oprah constantly exudes the single emotion that Mrs. Clinton lacks; empathy. Anyone who doubts this does so at their own peril.

My wife believes that Hillary's interview yesterday with Katy Couric is the equivalent of Howard Dean's scream. Asked if she would support a nominee other than her, Hillary protested that "it will be me," and when prodded by Couric that certainly she must have taken into consideration that someone else could win, Hillary replied that she never thinks of anything other than being the next President. That is hubris that George Bush would admire. No wonder all the Republicans are dying to run against her. But the latest Zogby Poll showed Hillary losing in head-to-head races with five different Republican candidates; Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, McCain, and Huckabee. Her arrogance, masquerading as certainty, may be her undoing.

Celebrity endorsements may not mean much to the beltway types, but they have never reckoned with an Oprah Winfrey. And although Iowans are reputed to be a jaded lot when it comes to celebrity, I'll bet right now that Oprah and Barack are the hottest ticket in town and will outdraw Bill and Hill. And that's because Obama is right; the Clintons are old news and are still caught in the teeth of the culture wars begun in the sixties that my generation will fight until we all roll over and die, and people are rightly weary of it and eager to turn the page. Barack Obama is increasingly looking like the agent of change the country so desperately wants, and Oprah, like her many other successful endeavors, just may convert enough women voters to tip the nomination to him. In that case, Ambassador Winfrey has a nice ring to it.

18 comments:

A Postscript said...

I have noted from observation, that although this post goes to an equal number of men as women, with a few notable exceptions, the overwhelming participation in the conversation comes from men. I don't know why this is, but I would personally like to invite more women to comment on this and other issues. If you wish, you may do so anonymously. Randy

Jane said...

I LOVE OPRAH!!!!! Always have.....always will....that feeling is borne out of years of watching her, really listening to what she has to say, respecting what she's achieved, admiring how she has always taken a stand for what she believes in, and, the way she instills a sense of pride in being who we are, as human beings. Her unfailing encouragement of women, like myself, to reach for the stars, and to never settle for less, has been, in a world dominated by men, like a salve to my sometimes wounded soul...she is truly one of the very few inspirational figures of our times.......that said.....I don't like Barak Obama...!! (but I do love you, Randy)

Anonymous said...

Any woman who came from what Oprah used to look like to "what she looks like now" deserves more than good mention. She is obviously a better choice for President than most Dems and Repubs running now. I only wish Jimmy Stewart was still alive and running. I'd send Mr. Smith back to Washington. Wouldn't you?

Anonymous said...

Even those ultra cool women who would never admit to watching TV, much less Oprah, have to love her. She is truely a womans woman!Say what you will about Oprah but shes the best thing to happen to women since "Spanks" (underware,not soft pats on the bottom)and I for one will listen to what she has to say about Obama and anyone else that she thinks is fair and just. Why not give her a try,hell you gave that bastard Bush a try.You never know, she may again surprise us all with one of her "favorite things" and it could just be our next president. All i'm saying is give Oprah a chance.Right along with peace.

ghg said...

Iowa will be interesting. I'm not sure about the Zogby poll, though. I don't believe that any Republican could beat any Democrat in 2008. Oprah's effect remains to be seen and I'm excited to see it. I'll tell you, it's nice to have a powerful media presence compete with the idiots on Red State talk radio---that is for sure. The female voters can push this thing one way or the other. Let Oprah bring them home. Let's get started rebuilding a country we can be proud to be citizens of.

Anonymous said...

You're right about the empathy issue. Hillary is Darth Vader in drag. I shudder to think of what she is really like on the inside. Oprah is generous and empathetic. These are qualities that are in diminishing supply. However, I don't believe that she will sway many votes. I would sooner vote for Oprah than Hillary. Obama is a little wet behind the ears to be entrusted with the presidency. But, I would vote for an axe murderer before Hillary. Some of you will get a kick out of this. My older brother is about as right wing as you can get. He is an authoritarian, militaristic, absolute bigot. I can't stand to be around him for more than a couple of days, because he has everything figured out and, in his estimation, anyone who disagrees with him is a fool. Anyway, he recently admitted that he screwed up by voting for Bush. He said that there is no way Kerry could have screwed things up as badly as Bush. If someone like him would admit this, Bush's support must be near zero, and to my thinking justifies all of Randy's Bush-bashing.

cindy sanders said...

no need to post as anonymous. i will proudly show my support for a smart, savvy woman. oprah does more in one month to encourage and empower women than hillary has in her lifetime. i also worry about hillary as president. yes, she is smart, and savvy to boot but she is cold and calculating and no amount of makeup can hide that. i will not vote for her (or anyone for that matter) just because we are the same sex, religion or race. thanks for a great blog randy!

Anonymous said...

How many of you remember when America was a free country? I will vote for the candidate that will turn back the trend toward reducing freedom, if there is such a candidate. If not, I won't vote. I'll just live the rest of my life as though we were a free country, looking over my shoulder all the while. Like Willie Nelson said, 'Who cares whether pot is legal or not, as long as you can get it'. In like manner, if America is no longer free we can ignore the fascists and live as though we were. You just have to be a little more careful. As a last resort, I am moving to an area of the country where there is more freedom (less government,fewer cops, and more of a live and let live attitude). No one monitors you to see if you are using the n-word, the f-word, the f-word classic, the b-word, the s-word, and so on. And the dancing girls aren't forced to wear pasties by the nanny-prudes.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous (3:05 pm), your words are wasted on those who love their chains. The pro-government boys love their chains and want to restrict and restrain those who don't. You have no idea what they are willing to do to bend the will of others to conform to their vision of what is 'right'. They have no use for freedom. In their view it is an impediment to the fulfillment of their purposes. The nanny state will see that all bottoms are wiped, all diapers are changed and that most choices are usurped from cradle to grave. They just want submissive cattle for the government farm. So don't waste your breath with your appeal for freedom. Just move to the country and watch the net of totalitarianism fall from the vantage point of your refuge. Smoke a doobie in memory of the good old days and let your freak flag fly while you can.

Anonymous said...

A few years back I met a beautiful Jewish hippy girl (names of players here are witheld because some of you will know them). A fellow told me that she was screwed up, because all she wanted to do in life was to be a shepard. His estimation of her sort of shocked me, because I grew out of the green, simple-living hippie stock myself. I realized that his world view had been twisted by an overly capitalistic, materialistic mind set. She was as free as the wind and, unfortunately, he wasn't. It's hard to find sane people these days. The pre-60's mind set has returned with a vengeance and has warped this entire generation. Externalism and materialism have supplanted the inner life. There are few inner cosmonauts these days. At one time the world was full of them. It's all produce and consume and each man's worth is calculated by his ability to earn money. It is a crying shame.

Anonymous said...

Here is a music listening tip. There is a free internet folk music radio station called FolkAlley.com that broadcasts from Kent State University. The music conveys something of the spirit, the sensibilities, and feeling of the old days. You'll have to listen to it for a good while to get a sense of the scope of the music that they play. There are plenty of extras like commentary, music ordering through Amazon.com, folk festival listings, etc., etc. To me, it is the best music being written and played today. You become a member by posting your email address and it is safe and legit. I have been a member for several years. If you pay annual dues of $60, which I do because I listen to it all the time, you get nothing but music 24/7 with no ads or appeals for donations. It is a great music value for folk music lovers. Just thought that I would share this with you, especially the refugees of the good old days.

Mr. Natural said...

Find out who you are (no small task), then live accordingly. This simplifies life. There will always be those who like you for what you are, and those who reject you for what you are. Rave on with the former and forget about the later. Mr. Natural says that it has always been thus. Go with the flow, but use discernment because some streams flow into the sewer. Use your rudder judiciously.

Mr. Natural said...

Long ago, while having a 'vision', I was given to see that there is a vast 'LP of Being' and that each of us occupies a particular groove in that LP. Each individual consciousness represents a stylus that interprets the music within the groove that constitutes our experience of life. My 'stylus' was temporarily lifted out of its groove and I was given to see that there were countless other grooves in the LP. None of us are necessarily confined to the groove of being that we occupy. Like Timothy Leary said, 'You can be anyone that you want to be this time around'. That was a very freeing revelation at the time. You just have to remember where 'homebase' is, otherwise you might become what some would call insane. Otherwise, this affords one a panoramic view of things with the sense that one is not really stuck in a given groove or mode of being...you just choose to occupy it for the sake of having an identity. For me, this has always been something of an antidote for bigotry and dogmatism. I hope that this makes sense to someone in another groove. And never forget that life is groovy.

Mr. Natural said...

It would probably be a surpise to many conservative Christian types to realize that should anyone be gifted in regard to intellect or ability that these gifts were given to minister to the less fortunate. They were not given for self-indulgence or for self-aggrandizement. I think that many liberals already know this. One hand is to wash the other. We are all just variations of the original man. To see another is to see a variation of yourself...so where's the love, man? God demonstrates so many scriptural principles through ordinary and natural means if one has the eyes and ears to see and hear.

malamute'smom said...

Randy, my friend Brett shared your blog with me within the last year, and I truly think you are a great read!


As a 50 year old woman, and being of democratic persuasion, I was sure that I would be backing Hillary.

Partly due to the O factor, I have registered on Obama's site, and have signed up for notification of rallies and events.

I can not handle more of the same in Washington.

Anonymous said...

You are all well spoken above, but does anyone remember God?

Mr. Natural said...

We live in an age in which it is political suicide to speak the truth. One dare not speak the truth anywhere in the public domain. Therefore, our policies are based not upon truth, but upon political expediency (aka bullshit). This makes for a foundation of sand that cannot continue to support the superstructure of our civilization. We are teetering and the fall is certain. It's just a question of when critical mass will to be reached. And there will be no political resolution. There will be tyranny, misrule, and chaos from coast to coast, regardless of whether Tweedle-dee or Tweedle-dum is in power. Civilizations fall because Truth is not honored and enthroned. Everything else is subject to disintegration.

Anonymous said...

The one unspoken requirement of everyone in todays culture is the ability to play 'the Emperor's New Clothes'. It is de rigueur. Don't leave home without it, or yours may be the next head to roll. The only safety is to never speak the truth, unless it the version that has been sanitized by the Thought/Speech Police.