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.