5 Bad Things Oprah Gave Us

Before we start, I must confess: Oprah really did break boundaries. Not just for people of color, but for several other minorities, including gays and lesbians. She did something unique with a time slot and a show format that had usually been reserved for trash TV.

But because of her influence on the country, her missteps have been real floozies. And if I go missing shortly after publishing this, you’ll know she really is the most powerful woman in the world.

James Frey

A Million Little Pieces might have made a great novel, had it been written by a better writer, but James “The Liar” Frey decided to publish it as nonfiction. Oprah should have known better than to trust a man who claimed he once woke up on an airplane covered in almost every body fluid imaginable when most of us can’t even get through security with a first-aid kit. (Of course, I have a suspicion Oprah doesn’t have the same problems when she flies.)

Kudos to Oprah, however, for having the balls to interview him soon after the truth leaked. She didn’t go easy on him, either. Other daytime talk show hosts may have just swept the fact under the rug. Oprah went for his jugular. Even so, the damage had been done: Frey’s book was a smash hit.

The Secret

This Australian bestseller gave Americans exactly what they wanted to hear: if you really want something, hard work, money, and determination aren’t in the least bit necessary. Instead, the titular secret is simply thinking happy thoughts. I’ve read about numerous studies which seem to suggest positive thinking can be beneficial to the thinker, but none have supported the author’s assurances that if you want something really specific, whether it’s a shiny new bicycle or millions of dollars, all you have to do is think positively.

Conversely, the author correlates bad things with bad thinking in no apparent shades of gray. Listen up, those of you who have lost your houses and jobs in this rough economy: you did that to yourselves by inundating the universe around you with bad thoughts! In fact, the author claimed if you were one of the thousands harmed by the 2006 Indonesian tsunamis, you would have been left unscathed had you just accepted her cult (oops, I meant “philosophy”).

Quite frankly, I’m surprised enough people who bought into this nonsense can actually read, but luckily for those who can’t, there’s a DVD, too!

Oprah’s Book Club

Speaking of the books she’s given us, let’s just go straight to the head of the problem…

Oprah’s Book Club is nothing if not inconsistent. She averages about three or four books per year, which makes me wonder if she even reads much at all. If not, she isn’t exactly the best candidate to head a book club, now is she?

A lot of the time, the writers are already well established, with relatively little to gain from exposure. Sometimes the writers aren’t even alive any more, so what’s the freakin’ point? It’s kind of masturbatory to say, “Hey, I’m reading this so you should, too!” (Although if I had my own show… yeah, I’d probably do the same.)

Where are the genre titles? Where are the unknown writers who could really use a boost from The Oprah Effect? Jonathon Franzen stirred controversy when he removed his book from Oprah’s Club, citing his feeling that most of Oprah’s choices are “schmaltzy” and “one-dimensional.” So what does she do? She chooses his next novel as a choice, too. Way to support lesser known writers, Oprah!

Countless Politicians Talking About Anything But Politics

Oprah has the power to interview practically any politician she wants. So does she ask the questions we’re dying to know? Nope. She asks about marriage, children, pets, meet-cutes, and anything else that has no bearing on a person’s ability to hold an official job. Sure, the politicians get to plug their charities, but we tend to hear a lot more about their ranches than why they decided to rip the country apart.

In Giant, Elizabeth Taylor rebels when Rock Hudson tells her to run along so he and his friends can discuss manly things like politics. Why can’t Oprah be more like that? I get it, she’s “keeping it real” and asking the questions that are true to her personality, but I wonder if that doesn’t foster the stereotype that women don’t care about “big boy stuff.”

Dr. Phil

Don’t you just love it when bumpkins apply simple, southern philosophy to, you know, complicated problems? “If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!” Cue undeserved applause and sermon-style nodding.

For the record, I happen to think Dr. Oz (who Oprah also initiated into stardom) is the real deal. Although I’ve never watched an episode of his show, I like what I’ve seen on YouTube and, as far as I know, he isn’t such a merchandise whore. He also doesn’t try to fix his patients’ problems in the course of an hour episode. People like Phil give his industry a bad name; the artificial breakthroughs he coddles out of people who need actual help is like Dr. Oz performing open heart surgery in between The Price Is Right and Dancing With The Stars.

All I’m saying is doctors who frequently use the word “folks” have no business obtaining a recommendation from a star whose fan base isn’t exactly known for its resistance to blind loyalty. Unlike Dr. Oz, Phil is less about education and more about sapping melodrama out of people who don’t have the sense not to air their personal laundry in front of millions of viewers.