Long Live the “Queen”

May 29, 2011

in Oprah,Self-indulgence

Not speaking here of Elizabeth or Latifah, but Oprah.

At the risk of alienating millions of Americans, I am critical of Oprah Winfrey’s interminable, self-indulgent farewell to her fans over the past 25 years of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”  Did I miss the day she was appointed or anointed “Queen of America?”

Let me make clear I am not envious of Oprah Winfrey.  I am as proud of her as anyone.  I met her on several occasions and she was, in person, as warm and gracious as she appeared on television.  She transcended a humble background, unfortunate family circumstances, and race and gender to become one of the most influential and wealthiest women in the United States and the world.  A little black girl from Mississippi. Good for her.  Good for us.

But after watching her two-day extravaganzas, “Oprah’s Surprise Spectacular” shows, I was uncomfortable with the latest incarnation of the talk show star.  The productions were a descent into abhorrent self-indulgence.  I have watched scores of major television productions: presidential inaugurals, presidential funerals, the Bicentennial celebration, the 100th birthday for the Statue of Liberty and the Millennium New Year productions.  Few could compare with Oprah’s farewell shows from the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls. 

As admirable a woman as she is, Oprah Winfrey didn’t cure cancer.  She didn’t land a plane safely on the Hudson River.  She didn’t rid the world of Osama bin Laden.  She didn’t solve the economic crisis.  She didn’t restore the levees in New Orleans.  She was a consummate talk show host and noted philanthropist.  But she was a television personality, and all she did was leave her long-running television show.  A TV show.

The two days of  “spectaculars” brought out some of the biggest stars in America: the Toms (Hanks and Cruise), Beyonce, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Seinfeld, Stevie Wonder, who all gushed their love for Oprah, and she for them.  A poem, called “Oprah,” that she had written, was delivered by the venerable poet, Dr. Maya Angelou. 

There were choirs, and giant card displays among the audience, whose members also waved flashlights every time the arena was darkened for dramatic moments.  Hundreds of young black college men paraded down the aisles carrying candles in honor of Oprah.

Oprah’s self-love began showing through in recent years.  She started “O” magazine, on which she was the cover girl every month.  Why would you do that?  She even created “angels,” a network of them.  And she fashioned herself as a spiritual guide.  Who would be so bold?  On finally, her final, final show, Oprah, while thanking her loyal fans, raised her arms in the air just like a preacher calling his flock. 

I know.  I know.  She changed people’s lives.  She spent her money well on projects to help disadvantaged people.  But she spent a lot on herself, as well–like several multimillion dollars homes in some of the world’s most expensive locations.  Again, that’s her right.  She earned it.

She goes off now to try and build her new cable station, OWN, which stands for the Oprah Winfrey Network.  (What else would you expect?)  I wish her well and I will miss her omnipresence.

But folks, the time it took for her to leave her show consisted of weeks of tributes and flashbacks of previous shows, followed by three days of all Oprah, all the time.

Wasn’t it all just a bit too much? Over the top?

I think so.

{ 7 comments }

Carolyn Moon May 29, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Ms. Simpson as an admirer of yours for years ….I must say that this was a tad salty. I’ve had ambivalent feelings about Oprah over the years. However, she has this amazing ability to regroup after she stumbles and continues to strive to do better. Her quote of Ms. Angelou…”when you know better–you do better” has been the trademark and the inspiration for millions around the world who adore this woman.

As far as the analogy with preachers go…there are many of that group who don’t deserve a flock and hasn’t proceeded in helping their fellow m* like Oprah.

Her philanthropy extends to areas that weren’t covered during her lengthy farewell from network t.v.. I was moved by the Morehouse tribute and not to mention her school in South Africa. The many homes that were built for survivors of Katrina and the list goes on. You indicated that she didn’t land a plane on the Hudson River but the pilot was doing his job and he did it well… for his sake as well as the passengers. I believe that gentleman went on to receive hundreds of honors, press and
opportunities as a result of his heroic efforts.

Allow Ms. Winfrey some slack on this and instead of lamenting or criticizing her extended farewell which by the way you didn’t have to view; congratulate (from the heart) her on the many positive and life changing things she did for others. Don’t be a ‘hater”; you are an icon for many and a woman of courage who wrote a book that mainstream publishers wouldn’t touch because of your truth telling. I and I’m sure
thousands of us rejoice in that.

Janet Lawler May 30, 2011 at 8:07 am

Ms. Simpson, I love your work, but I must disagree here. Oprah deserved one helluva send off by her own staff. She worked her butt off for all those years making her show only better and better with each passing year. That’s rare. She never treated the show secondhand or just called it in. Although she didn’t cure cancer or kill bin Laden, as you say, her impact was felt by me more on a daily basis — day in, day out, Monday to Friday — which is something us folks (fans) relate to. The long haul. Oprah always delivered and was consistent with her voice and gave her best to her job. We benefited from it. Her dedication to her name and product. She will be enormously missed here at 4pm in New York… and around the country.

Marianne Stack May 30, 2011 at 9:05 am

Carole, I think you’ve eloquently put into words what many of us have been feeling for a long time. When I moved back to the U.S. in 2008 after 13 years in London, I was shocked to read that only Oprah appeared on the cover of O Magazine. As you say, who would do that? It summed up, for me, what she and those surrounding her had allowed Oprah to become: “Queen of America”. In their minds, at least.

I’m so happy to have a break from Oprahmania. Thank you for your blog. It’s insightful, funny and not mean.

Mary hayes May 30, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I agree with Carolyn Moon. Question Carole : what would you do if you had her money and your own TV show? Just curious.

Marcy Zeldman Patterson Maycock May 31, 2011 at 6:00 am

I am with you Carol. It’s just TV. I had to leave my insignificant job at ABC just to give back and have meaning in my life. I hear you…

Max Schindler June 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Right on Carole.

Funk Star June 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Dear, “Queen Of Black Media”. Been an admirer of your’s for many years. You are one of our greatest pioneers, and your iilumination of truth has always been one of the intangibles that has made you such a “beautiful messenger”.

Your comments on Ms. Winfrey are nothing but what i’ve grown to expect and respect about you. TRUTH!
Thank You Ms. Carole. God be with you, and i look forward to reading your book.

All the best.

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