Not a member? Sign up now
I hate Oprah. There, I admitted it. What kind of curmudgeon hates the loveable, exuberant Oprah Winfrey? After all, there are plenty of valid reasons to like Oprah. Her triumph over her tragic childhood is inspiring. She tackles taboo topics. And her philanthropy is unrivaled by any other celebrity
Yet — at the risk of offending her mob of followers — there are also plenty of reasons to criticize, mistrust, disapprove of, and, dare I say, hate the most powerful woman in the world. Here are ten.
1) Her idea of happiness involves a lot of spending
Oprah supports her image as a modern enlightened everywoman with a lot of self-aware, self-help, positive-thinking rhetoric. But at the end of the day, her biggest contribution to the self-improvement landscape is her promotion of retail therapy — the idea that you can spend your way to happiness and fulfillment. Her "Favorite Things" can turn a company like Carol's Daughter into an overnight success, and so retailers beg for her approval. Her Oprah store in Chicago sells the items she endorses, to go along with paraphernalia bearing her logo and even clothing she has worn. Go for your dreams! Buy an "O" notebook to write them in! Somehow, with a straight face, she makes the contradictory claims that happiness is available for everyone and that $25 pairs of socks are the way to get it. She's an awfully expensive person to emulate.
2) At heart, her show is a gawk-fest
Oprah has worked hard to distinguish her program as more sophisticated than Jerry Springer's, Maury Povich's, Ricki Lake's, et al. And although she presents it as an empathetic platform for discussing serious issues, at heart, it's still a freak show. She knows her audience will react to the pregnant man and the woman whose face was ripped off by the chimpanzee. But there's no great truth she's seeking from these people, merely audience gasps and higher ratings. The only difference between her show and the low-rent versions is that Oprah gets the A-list freaks.
3) She fat-shames
As an overweight black woman, Oprah's never looked like a typical mogul. The most powerful outsider ever to become an insider, she has the unique opportunity to show women that it's okay to be overweight. But instead of leading by example, she's punished herself with years of yo-yo diets, celebrating her low-weight victories by running a marathon, endorsing her chef, and famously bringing a wagon of fat onto her program. When she peaked at over two-hundred pounds a year ago, she declared herself "embarrassed" by how much weight she had gained. That may be so, but her self-hate and fat-shaming are a missed opportunity for her to show American women that they can accept themselves no matter what size they are.
4) She created the monster that is Dr. Phil
Among the army of experts that Oprah has launched into syndicated stardom, Dr. Phil's fame is the least deserved. Why? He counsels strangers on their most important decisions in folksy catchphrases — perfect for sound bites, but nearly impossible to apply in real life. He's given airtime to notorious anti-gay activists, legitimizing their bigoted views. And he used his celebrity to extend his brand into the lucrative weight-loss field, writing a diet book and releasing his own line of shakes, energy bars, and supplements. Oprah gave him his start, and his perceived authority relies on her endorsement.
5) Her perceived infallibility
Oprah's been lauded as the world's most powerful and most influential woman due to her millions of viewers, readers, and listeners, and no other talk-show host, celebrity, or world leader has the aura of authority that Oprah has. But while celebrity worship is nothing new, the "cult of Oprah" is on an entirely new level. Her most devout admirers watch her religiously, quote her as an expert, and scramble for every product she endorses or even mentions. The idea that Oprah expresses anything more valuable than her own opinions gives her a level of misplaced trust she doesn't deserve. Anyone perceived as infallible is dangerous.