My hands trembled as I read the cover of this week’s Newsweek I pulled from the mailbox (see right). There was a photo of an almost crazed and emotional Oprah with the title, “CRAZY TALK – OPRAH, WACKY CURES & YOU.” They were calling Oprah, THE Oprah, crazy? Her advice “wacky?” This was utter blasphemy. Oprah is like God. Think about it. They're both worshiped by practically everybody, they’re both everywhere, and their bank accounts are pretty evenly matched. This was obviously a joke or the work of the devil. I quickly flipped to the feature to find out which.
It was no joke. Newsweek essentially calls her out for providing what they say many experts believe to be reckless, potentially harmful medical advice. They question the accuracy and credibility of information presented on bio-identical hormones, cosmetic procedures, thyroid dysfunction and much, much more. They even take on, gulp, The Secret! It is one of the longest features I can remember reading in Newsweek. I wonder if it’s fair to call Oprah’s show “Crazy Talk.” I think the message to take away is that you have to view Oprah’s program as what I think it's intended to be: entertainment. If information presented interests you, use it as a starting point and do your own research. Don’t take it as the gospel.
I have to admit, sometimes watching Oprah makes me feel bad about myself. I’ll think I’m doing really good after watching a Dr. Oz segment, because it convinced me to eat low-fat yogurt with fresh berries for breakfast. Then, Oprah features some guy who eats a bowl of apple PEELS for breakfast (not apples mind you, but the PEELS, as that’s where the nutrition and fiber are). He eats a GINORMOUS bowl of raw veggies (no dressing) for lunch. I can’t remember what dinner was – probably a glass of air and a nap. This guy believes in eating a lower-than-average number of calories each day and wants to make his food choices count. He does this to live a longer "life." Anyhooo… I felt like a big fat loser after watching that episode.
I am often confused watching Oprah. I see an episode about living simply and Suze Orman telling us not to spend money on anything, and then one with that cute Nate Berkus showing all the things we can do and buy to spruce up our homes. I learn that the only thing I should worry about is being my authentic self. Then Oprah features make-up artists and designers showing us all kinds of wonderful make-up tricks and fashions to camouflage our flaws. Oprah tells us “things” won’t make us happy, but her audiences on her annual “Favorite Things” shows seem pretty pleased with all the loot she gives them.
But, as I’ve learned from Oprah, I am the one giving her and her show the power to make me feel bad. No one can allow someone to get to me but me. So there, Oprah! Thanks to you, I know you are not the boss of me!
The real question is, what's Oprah’s responsibility to us? We trust her. We believe what she says. We show this by rapidly buying up whatever book or product she features on her show. Oprah is an entertainer, not an investigative journalist or a doctor. An entertainer. But she’s become something more. Something the likes of which we’ve never seen. When she features a book or a product, it literally, overnight, becomes a best seller. Seems no one is as powerful, persuasive or as influential as Oprah. Yet at times, we almost feel like she’s one of us – a sister, or a girlfriend. How many of us actually have much in common with the single, childless celebrity billionaire, though?
I know the Oprah machine is a business, created to make money. I know Oprah’s staff and producers come up with the segments and stories they do to lure viewers and advertisers. (Isn’t that also what Newsweek is doing by taking on the queen of talk in a cover story?) Still, I really do think Oprah wants to do right by us. Oprah plays big. She takes big chances to do big things. When you do that, and you make the occasional mistake, it might be a big one. The plus side is you’re going to make big, positive differences and changes, too. We have to be the ones to be responsible citizens, consumers and patients. Oprah’s not God. I think sometimes we just want to believe she is – that she always has THE answer. That’s an awful lot to ask of a mortal. Even if it is Oprah.
What do you think? Take the poll in the upper left hand corner and weigh in. Read the Newsweek article here.