Monday, May 21, 2007

the glamorous life

Back when I was lightweight internet famous, I made a career out of trying to box with God. And by God, I mean Oprah. As a result, in my small internet circle of readers, I kind of garnered a reputation of hating Ms. Winfrey. And even though I might've said, "I hate Oprah," a time or two, the truth is, I really don't. That's right. I don't hate Oprah; I just hate her fans. (Just kidding. I don't hate all of them.) The point in all of that acerbically humorous deconstruction of the divine Ms. O wasn't simply to assert myself as the number one internet pharisee of Oprah, but rather to illustrate--on the lower frequencies, of course-- that she's a complicated figure that should not always be blindly revered and admired for her obvious philanthropy and incredible success.** One does not become a billionaire on benevolence (alone). To "prove" this, I employed a pretty radical and scathing position on one end of a spectrum when the truth is I don't really believe most things are so neatly aligned. In fact, I venture to suggest that the reasons one might employ to argue for disliking Winfrey are the very same ones one could use to love her. Essentially, it's all about translation. I provide my following "reading" of an Oprah show to prove this, and also just to clarify.

Last week, Oprah went to a party thrown by her neighbors. For those of you unfamiliar with Chicago, Harpo Studios is located in Chicago's West Loop a neighborhood to the left (to the left) of Downtown, mostly comprised of warehouses and new loft condominiums owned mostly by white urban professionals. Previously, Winfrey made an impromptu visit to one of these neighbors. So impressed was she with their domicile (the crib was fly), she encouraged them to throw a party and invite their neighbors; she even said she'd come. Fast forward a few weeks, and I see Oprah hobnobbing with the neighborhood homies.

Let's be clear: an Oprah party is on some level a great party. And if she can't show her clout, what's the point of having her over? As always, she didn't disappoint; of course there was a surprise guest. So, after yet again proving that not all black people have rhythm with her dance moves, Ms. Winfrey stopped the party to announce that her "friend," Michael Buble would be providing some additional musical entertainment. Mike emerges from the bathroom; the white people love it; they all go home with some incredible swag.

I lingered on the phrase, "My friend, Michael Buble." Oprah does that a lot-- my friend, Maria friend, Maya Angelouuuu. In the past when she'd say such things, I'd simply utter the onomonopoeia, "Clink," to illustrate that we've just heard a name drop. During this episode, however, I just laughed. I've decided that such phrases are mere euphemisms, or code words for what she really means. I conclude that you can replace those remarks with the following sentence: Shit, nigga, I got a billion dollars.

By most accounts, the woman we know as Oprah Winfrey should not exist, and I think she knows this. I imagine those name dropping moments are times when the money, power, and fame become a little less theoretical, and perhaps she's overwhelmed by the fact that this life of hers is real. Whether that's true or not we'll never know. In the meantime, try my theory out. Next time you hear Ms. Winfrey say something similar to what I've described, switch her words for mine. Ventriloquizing (so not a word) for Oprah in this way can be fun.

This is not to say that Oprah isn't on one. She is. Sometimes I think she and her staff come up with show ideas just to test if soccer moms are still indeed Pavlovian in their response to her. (Remember Pavlov? Ding. Poof. Slobber.) I can't say I blame her; I might be on one, too.

P.S. Upon hearing my theory, Saf added that "Don't you think so, audience?" and the like simply translates to, "White people, are you still with me?" I agree. I'd also add, "...because I still can't believe this shit," to that.

**pharisee is (new) slang for hater.

The Oprah Archive:
9/18/05 ii


language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison