Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'O', How Fat You Are LOL!

It's been a great week for lazy hack comedians all around the country, as Oprah announced that she has gained weight and now tips the scales at over two hundred lbs. Cor, eh? What a porker!

In the grand scheme of things, Oprah should be an easy target for criticism without resorting to jokes about weight. In so many ways, she has managed to piss away her legacy as an innovator and source of inspiration and has turned what could still be a decent afternoon show that tackles important issues and subjects into a "look at me! I'm rich, do you hear me? RICH!" showcase. Ditto, her eponymous magazine. How obsessed with oneself does one have to be to not only name a magazine after oneself, but to insist on dominating the cover every month? I'd wager 'very'.

I defy you to watch Oprah for two weeks. You don't have to watch the episodes end to end, just dip in to see what's being discussed. What you'll see in those two weeks is at least one or two episodes that prove she's still 'got it', shows that really address topics that could make a difference. She's never resorted to Geraldo or Springer style circus freak shows or "OMG UR LUVERS GAY LOL" shows. Watch the show and you'll see that in there, somewhere, Oprah still has it. She's still able to connect with her guests and her audience and produce a compelling show that's socially and/or politically and/or culturally relevant.

But mixed in with those rare episodes that could make a difference in someone's life are lengthy shots, practically in soft focus, of Oprah agreeing with the guest, or interrupting them to tell a barely related anecdote about herself. Or episodes featuring vacuous, pandering, fluff celebrity interviews. Either that, or entire episodes dedicated to little more than showcasing Oprah's opulence. I kid you not, there was a recent episode dedicated completely to her jetting off to Las Vegas in her private plane to appear on stage with Barbara Streisand and Cher, in front of people who have paid a price for tickets that could, collectively, build a wing of an AIDS hospital. And guess who got top billing...?

Is that what people really want to see? Is that what we want advanced civilisations who may visit our planet to think we're interested in? The country is in a recession. Jobs are being lost left and right. Houses are being foreclosed upon and people's morale is at an all-time low, and traditionally, people turn to entertainment to keep their spirits up. If I'm sitting in a house I know I'm losing, looking for a job I don't know that I'll get or keep, wondering how I'm going to feed my kids, believe me: the LAST thing in the world I want to see is someone using their vast personal wealth for something so shamefully pointless. Use it to stock a soup kitchen for seven years. Use it to build a homeless shelter. Use it to help set up some sort of resource center for people at the end of their tether. Far be it from me to dictate to you how to spend your billions in your spare time, but don't you think that broadcasting it is rubbing people's noses in it juuuuust a tiny bit?

If they would cut the show to twice a week - three times, max - ditch the hopeless, vacant celebrity interviews (another chance for a thumbed-nose at the plebs), move the focus of the show away from Oprah and on to the subject at hand, she could still be a player. She could still be relevant and important.

As part of a culture that rewards an unattainable personal image with adoration and praise, one that claims beauty belongs only to the airbrushed and photoshopped, I probably shouldn't be surprised that weight gain inspires ridicule. I learned a long time ago that when it comes to expecting the best from humanity, my pessimism never leads to disappointment, but really... if we're going to sit in our glass houses and throw stones at people for their faults and failings, can there at least be some substance behind it?


Chimp Jones said...

I could not agree more. I have been saying for years (to howls of protest from many of my friends) that the big O is totally driven by ego. As far as her occasional "good show" the law of averages explains that.
All well and good but I totally want to go on that show where she gives everyone a golden blowjob machine and a free ipod.

Maura said...

I think once you become a celebrity of that caliber, you're just so insulated from reality that this becomes your own private one. Viewers then watch for the fantasy and escape, as if they're allowed to OMG GO SHOPPING WITH THE PROM QUEEN. I never bought into it, but the people I do know who have been viewers have unsatisfying lives and feel like if they gain her outlook, they have a piece of her life.
And the "fat" thing signals to me a personality disorder with perfectionism and attention-seeking. Her body is trying to tell her she's a big girl, and there is nothing wrong with that, but diets and corrections sell.

On the other hand, when i see her on Letterman, she seems like a likeable and sincere person, so I can't really diss her per se, just her product.

Spike Nesmith said...

@Maura that's an interesting perspective, and I can see where they're coming from, but is there no post-Oprah depression afterwards?

I remember when I got a cheat for "The Sims" that gave me unlimited 'simoleans', and had a riotously great time building a huge house and fitting it out with all sorts of cool furniture. But then, when I turned the computer off, I was even more depressed than I had been when I started because I knew I couldn't pay the *real* mortgage that month.

You're right, though. Some people just aren't built to be a size zero - that's what I liked so much about the BBC version of "What Not To Wear", they weren't obsessed with making people skinny, the basic message was that anyone can look great, regardless of their body shape, if they just have the right sort of clothes. I wish Oprah would put being healthy over being thin, but healthy and having a body shape that is 'socially acceptable' - which is about 10lbs underweight - just aren't compatible or, apparently, photogenic. It's sad.

RedZeppelin said...

First, you've watched entirely too much Oprah.

Second, in Oprah's defense (I can't believe I just typed those words) she has spent a lot of her money on charitable things, such as building entire schools in Africa. So even though she flaunts her riches now and then she does put some of them to good use.

Third, Oprah is a Celebrity with a capital C. Many people watch her for the same reason they read tabloids -- they're simply in love with the idea of Celebrity. As Maura observed, I'm sure some of that has affected O and she has turned into the image she sought out to portray.

And I agree with your assessment of good to shite show content. Occasionally she'll address a worthy topic or dispense valuable info, but most of the time she's just letting her audience kiss the ring.

Did I mention she's fat? Oh, sorry.

Maura said...

Spike- oh i'm sure there's a let-down. I'm an internet addict myself and there can be a let down when i go offline, so i seek out things to supplement that- games, food.. some escape, and i'll assume that they would too with their US magazines, TMZ and Food Networks?

And glad you mentioned the school in Africa. She was an abused girl in poverty and is trying to overcompensate for that and "save" other people in her warped way. And i remember all people could do was bitch that she didn't open a school in America, or somesuch. We in our criticism also fuel her disease, i think.

Bill Richardson is fat.

The Film Geek said...

I caught on to Oprah's narcissism in the early 90s, when the production of the show was still a little more daytime. Coming back from break, she'd always stare just a little too long into the monitor, watching herself, before she turned to the guest. And this happened way too regularly. Then, as you point out, there's this habit she has of agreeing with experts on the show as if she's made the point herself.


All Click said...

I second the opinion that you are obviously watchin waaay too much Oprah.

I don't think I've ever seen her show. It just hasn't appealed to me in the slightest and as a person she has never really seemed much of a "warm" individual. It seems a little obsessive to have O magazine with her picture on every month and jet set about the place though. You wouldn't catch "Ellen" doing that!

That was a great cheat for the Sims haha Except once you bought everything and had the massive place it really killed the fun factor of the game. Unless, of course, you used other cheats to say trap the Mailman until he wet himself and died.

What we were talking about again?

PumpkinSpider said...


2 posts for the price of 1...!

Come for the porn, stay for the Oprah... or something...