|Image from today.msnbc.com|
My second observation is a more meta one. Her producers have brought out the big guns for her. Today’s show alone features Aretha Franklin, Tom Hanks, Jerry Seinfeld, Kristen Chenowith, Michael Jordan, Maya Angelou, Will Smith, Jada PInkett-Smith and countless others. They are all there paying tribute to Oprah for her 25 years on television. Right? They acknowledge the good that she’s done, but ultimately this is because she’s going off the air and this is a tribute to her many years in front of the camera. It seems a little incongruous. This might be somewhat cynical, but given what I know about the television industry, and the importance of the relationships people have with others, this plays more like people trying to promote themselves through aligning themselves with Oprah and her brand. It doesn’t feel like a pure celebration of a person who does good, but a very public kissing-up. I don’t think this theory fits with all of the guests. Ms. Franklin and Ms. Angelou’s appearances are probably a little more honest, why would they need to promote themselves through Oprah? Then again, why would any of them? All of the stars who appeared are big names in their own right, but there’s just something about it that feels so manufactured. They might be there to say goodbye to a friend, but it’s also clear that they are probably there to help themselves as well.
The other thing that struck me so odd is that, as mentioned, this is a farewell spectacular. This is celebrities saying goodbye to Oprah. I wonder how many of these people that are saying how much they’ll miss her presence on TV actually tune in to her on a daily basis. My guess is pretty low. And, she’s not going away. She has an entire cable network now devoted to her (not to mention her ongoing magazine). Also, lets put this into perspective. This is a television show. TV. She’s not, God forbid, dying or dead. She’s not even really going anywhere. Oprah has established herself s one of the strongest entertainment brands and just because her show is going off the air doesn’t mean she’s gonna stop doing what she does best, self-promotion.
Oprah isn’t really a polarizing figure, I don’t know many people who share my feelings towards her. I can’t even really articulate completely why I’m not a fan of hers. She was on in my house on a daily basis as my mom watched her every day while preparing dinner for us as kids. Her voice, to this day, brings me back to those days sitting in our kitchen while the smell of spaghetti and meatballs filled the room. That should invoke positive memories, which it does, but they don’t transfer onto her. I think my distain towards her is partly due to her constant self-aggrandizement, which you would think would be offset by the good she does, but it doesn’t.
She’s not the first person who’s had a show go off the air, yet since it’s Oprah, it’s gotta be big. It reminds me of Boorstin’s idea of pseudo-events. It’s big because it’s gotta make a splash and it has to make a splash because it’s Oprah, and Oprah only does things if they’re big and promote her own brand and image. Something about the whole thing just doesn’t sit right to me.
Dissenters welcome (and expected).