From a dirt poor farm in Mississippi to a Gold Coast Chicago penthouse, Oprah Winfrey worked hard, took risks and built a media empire. Her brand is instantly recognizable. She’s a businesswoman par excellence, and a generous philanthropist.
The end of the “Oprah Winfrey Show” this week after 25 years is cause for misty retrospectives and heartfelt celebrity tributes. It’s also cause for hoping her new OWN network dies on the vine and we never hear from her again.
Why? Because Oprah’s only-in-America success has come at the expense of American culture. Because she’s a garden variety show-biz liberal with a giant megaphone. And because a healthy society should eventually recognize emotional voyeurism and personal-pain pornography for what they are, and marginalize them.
It’s easy to forget that in the 1980s and early 1990s Oprah was, in the words of Penn State Professor Vicki Abt, the “Queen of Trash.” With its parade of freaks, miscreants and hapless victims baited and confronting each other on-camera, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was indistinguishable from the offerings of Geraldo, Sally Jessie Rafael or Ricki Lake. Topics in those days ran from satanic worship to “families who interbreed” to “when the wife meets the other woman.”
Then in 1994, Oprah famously shifted her focus, announcing that she wanted her show to be “uplifting.” So it became a parade of former freaks, miscreants and hapless victims. “Overcoming” became a constant theme. The Wall Street Journal coined the word Oprahfication to describe “public confession as a form of therapy.”
It was the same sleaze dressed up with hand-wringing and tears, New Age schlock and psychobabble. But the “Queen of Trash” was now America’s therapist. Like so many powerful liberals, having done her damage (in this case to American pop culture) Oprah was able to walk away without consequences to herself.
And Oprah is certainly a liberal. Besides campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008 (and fueling the left’s messianic fervor by dubbing him “The One”), she’s able to check the boxes on the full range of lefty issues. Oxygen, the woman-oriented cable network she co-founded, was barely on the air when it sponsored the Million Mom March, an anti-gun, anti-NRA rally held on Mother’s Day 2000.
In cozying up to far-left filmmaker Michael Moore, Oprah came for the gun control and stayed for the anti-Americanism. In 2003, Winfrey featured Moore as a guest and showed a clip of “Bowling for Columbine,” his anti-gun and deeply anti-American film screed. Winfrey admitted that the presentation “resonated with a lot of people, me included.” Moore responded by seriously suggesting in 2005 that Oprah should run for president.
If she did, it’s clear what President Winfrey’s vision for the nation would be: Denmark. In 2009, Winfrey did a series of shows from the Scandinavian nation whose residents, according to a then-recent survey, were the happiest people in the world.
And who wouldn’t be happy in a socialist paradise like this? “Copenhagen is one of the world’s most environmentally conscious cities. A third of the population rides bikes, many with groceries and kids in tow,” Oprah enthused. “Homelessness and poverty are extremely low here. If you lose your job, the government continues to pay up to 90 percent of your salary for four years. You’re never going to be homeless on the street.”
Oprah is also a relentless promoter of the gay agenda and alternate sexualities, celebrating the “marriage” of TV star Ellen DeGeneres and actress Portia de Rossi. In 2008 she interviewed Thomas Beatie, a pregnant transgender “man” who clearly still possessed the reproductive parts of a woman. Oprah thought that was just swell, “a new definition of what diversity means for everybody, and redefining normal. And I really applaud you for having the courage to do it.”
And she’s by no means done. Her OWN network features “Becoming Chaz,” a documentary following the “deeply inspirational and personal journey” of Sonny & Cher’s daughter Chastity in becoming a “man” (“Chaz”). And this fall, Rosie O’Donnell, she of “truther” conspiracies and Helen Thomas tributes, joins OWN with a new talk show.
So here’s hoping that when the last “Oprah Winfrey Show” airs, Oprah’s deeply inspirational and personal journey to irrelevance begins.
Matt Philbin is the managing editor at The Culture and Media Institute.