Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Don't let the door hit you, Oprah

So Oprah Winfrey is closing her Harpo Studios on the city's west side. That means 200 jobs are leaving Chicago. Jobs we can ill afford to lose right now. I shouldn't be surprised. This is far from the first time Oprah has dissed us, her "adoptive home."

When Oprah Winfrey Presents The Color Purple came to life off-Broadway in 2004 and had its world premiere, did she have it in Chicago? No, she went to Atlanta. Never mind that Chicago has a vibrant, world-class theater community and musical productions as diverse as Sting's The Last Ship and Mel Brooks' The Producers got their starts here.* She had her "baby" open in Atlanta.

And then there's her school. In South Africa. Like the inner city girls she saw in Chicago day in/day out for decades couldn't use a leadership academy? As she told Newsweek in 2007, "I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools [in America] that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn't there. If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don't ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school."

Gee whiz, Ms. Winfrey, you don't think you have added to the worship of things? It's no accident that when people imitate Oprah, they often have her shouting to her audience, "YOU GET A CAR! AND YOU GET A CAR!" If local kids think they need electronics or cool shoes, it's possible it's because she plugged them on her show. Her annual "favorite things" shows was a ratings grabber so she continues the feature in her magazine. It's fun and I enjoy it, but there's no denying that it commercializes Christmas and perpetuates the attitude that you can giftwrap happiness.

(I could also slag her for the measles epidemic, since she was one of the first and certainly the most influential to give Jenny McCarthy's now thoroughly discredited anti-vaccine stance a forum. Like any should ever take medical advice from a former MTV hostess and Playboy centerfold. But never mind. I'm concentrating on Chicago right now.)

I'm not the only Chicagoan who is sick of O. At the health club on the Monday after the Oscars, I heard two different conversations among women who were either 1) glad Selma didn't win Best Picture because Oprah was a producer and no one wants to see her holding an Oscar or 2) unhappy to "even see her face" during the Awards show.

I was surprised to overhear these two separate shots of vitriol, but also a little relieved to discover I'm not alone.

*With me in the audience. Yea!


  1. Thought-provoking post. I've always been an Oprah fan, but now I see a more complex situation.


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