What's so great about Oprah?

Weir Thinking About It

Last Saturday, thousands of screaming fans paid a minimum of $185 apiece to attend a motivational seminar given by a television icon who has mesmerized a generation with her ability to seem like the girl next door. Her amazing communication skills have made her Oprah—ness a veritable billionaire by connecting with a kind of desperate housewife aggregate of entertainment—starved acolytes.

Five thousand people jammed the Dallas Convention Center for the 'Live your best life' seminar, many of whom got on line in the wee hours of the morning, even though they had reserved seats. Watching the TV news film clips featuring throngs of women giddily reaching toward the talk show host, as if struggling for a chance to place a hand on a god, was interesting as well as sad. Interesting because it tells us how powerful the medium of television is, and sad because so many people need to boost their self—esteem by worshipping someone else. We all admire those who lived the rags to riches story, and Oprah is a classic example of the American dream. However, it's important to keep a few things in mind when practicing idolatry.

For one thing, Ms. Winfrey didn't find a cure for cancer; she didn't invent a formula to reverse the aging process, and she didn't pioneer space travel for the 21st Century. Instead, she developed a super successful daytime talk show. Entertaining? Yes! Poignant, at times? Definitely! But, elevating one to god—like prominence? Gimme a break!

Ms. Winfrey, given all her talent for chatting with afternoon TV watchers, is merely famous for being, well, famous. With all of that fame and the influence that comes with it, she rarely takes on any controversial subjects. Instead, she tackles issues that could be viewed more dramatically on any given soap opera with a tear jerking script. How about the major issues of the day, like Social Security, immigration, and corruption in government? Are those subjects to sensitive for a talk show diva? Would her ratings suffer if she challenged her audience with the hot political topics affecting the country today? Perhaps the best way to challenge her audience to be the best they can be, would involve telling them to stop spending so much time watching TV. But such advice, if embraced, would remove the viewers who keep her in that ten figure bracket.

America has long been in love with stardom. Whether it's Elvis, the Beatles, or the latest Hollywood starlet catapulted into the spotlight by the clever tactics of creative hucksterism, the masses are led to believe that some humans breathe a finer quality of air than the rest of us. Yet, if true heroes like Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, or Rosa Parks were able to speak at a seminar, would their historical accomplishments arouse the level of fan hysteria enjoyed by Oprah? It's extremely doubtful! Moreover, if they did organize a motivational seminar, they'd probably make certain that those people who need it the most, but can afford it the least, were able to attend. For Ms. Winfrey to charge 2 C—notes for the chance to hear about how to be successful is a bit disingenuous given that those who can lay out that kind of money for a 2—hour seminar are probably fairly prosperous already.

The people who really need her inspiration the most, are those who also need that $200 to feed their families for a few weeks. Oprah is undoubtedly one of the most charming personalities who ever graced a TV sound stage, and she's deserving of the ego massage. Her charm is her power; a universal appeal that insinuates itself ever so gingerly into the comfort zone of everyone it touches.

Bill Cosby has a similar charm, and he also was in Dallas recently to give a talk. The difference is that he paid for it out of his own money and he gave his mostly black audience a critical appraisal of their lack of priorities when it comes to educating their children. That's what I call using one's influence to enhance the lives of others. And he didn't use any of that influence to convince the high ticket Neiman Marcus store to stay open after hours so he could buy a chic outfit for the event. Evidently, Mr. Cosby was more concerned with the message than the massage.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com

Weir Thinking About It

Last Saturday, thousands of screaming fans paid a minimum of $185 apiece to attend a motivational seminar given by a television icon who has mesmerized a generation with her ability to seem like the girl next door. Her amazing communication skills have made her Oprah—ness a veritable billionaire by connecting with a kind of desperate housewife aggregate of entertainment—starved acolytes.

Five thousand people jammed the Dallas Convention Center for the 'Live your best life' seminar, many of whom got on line in the wee hours of the morning, even though they had reserved seats. Watching the TV news film clips featuring throngs of women giddily reaching toward the talk show host, as if struggling for a chance to place a hand on a god, was interesting as well as sad. Interesting because it tells us how powerful the medium of television is, and sad because so many people need to boost their self—esteem by worshipping someone else. We all admire those who lived the rags to riches story, and Oprah is a classic example of the American dream. However, it's important to keep a few things in mind when practicing idolatry.

For one thing, Ms. Winfrey didn't find a cure for cancer; she didn't invent a formula to reverse the aging process, and she didn't pioneer space travel for the 21st Century. Instead, she developed a super successful daytime talk show. Entertaining? Yes! Poignant, at times? Definitely! But, elevating one to god—like prominence? Gimme a break!

Ms. Winfrey, given all her talent for chatting with afternoon TV watchers, is merely famous for being, well, famous. With all of that fame and the influence that comes with it, she rarely takes on any controversial subjects. Instead, she tackles issues that could be viewed more dramatically on any given soap opera with a tear jerking script. How about the major issues of the day, like Social Security, immigration, and corruption in government? Are those subjects to sensitive for a talk show diva? Would her ratings suffer if she challenged her audience with the hot political topics affecting the country today? Perhaps the best way to challenge her audience to be the best they can be, would involve telling them to stop spending so much time watching TV. But such advice, if embraced, would remove the viewers who keep her in that ten figure bracket.

America has long been in love with stardom. Whether it's Elvis, the Beatles, or the latest Hollywood starlet catapulted into the spotlight by the clever tactics of creative hucksterism, the masses are led to believe that some humans breathe a finer quality of air than the rest of us. Yet, if true heroes like Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, or Rosa Parks were able to speak at a seminar, would their historical accomplishments arouse the level of fan hysteria enjoyed by Oprah? It's extremely doubtful! Moreover, if they did organize a motivational seminar, they'd probably make certain that those people who need it the most, but can afford it the least, were able to attend. For Ms. Winfrey to charge 2 C—notes for the chance to hear about how to be successful is a bit disingenuous given that those who can lay out that kind of money for a 2—hour seminar are probably fairly prosperous already.

The people who really need her inspiration the most, are those who also need that $200 to feed their families for a few weeks. Oprah is undoubtedly one of the most charming personalities who ever graced a TV sound stage, and she's deserving of the ego massage. Her charm is her power; a universal appeal that insinuates itself ever so gingerly into the comfort zone of everyone it touches.

Bill Cosby has a similar charm, and he also was in Dallas recently to give a talk. The difference is that he paid for it out of his own money and he gave his mostly black audience a critical appraisal of their lack of priorities when it comes to educating their children. That's what I call using one's influence to enhance the lives of others. And he didn't use any of that influence to convince the high ticket Neiman Marcus store to stay open after hours so he could buy a chic outfit for the event. Evidently, Mr. Cosby was more concerned with the message than the massage.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com