Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Vanity, Thy Name Is Oprah

Vanity is a treacherous thing – especially when cloaked in altruism.

Saturday evening on the Mickey Mouse network the great unwashed was treated to an hour-long love letter from Oprah Winfrey to…well, to Oprah Winfrey.

Let the hype sheet for ABC speak for itself: In a one-hour special, Oprah Winfrey brings to television the incredible five-year journey of the creation the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls -- South Africa. See the touching, inside story of how Oprah turned her dream of opening a school for disadvantaged South African girls into a reality, including an up-close look at some of the life-stories of these inspiring students. Despite unimaginable hardships, these girls all exhibit that intangible "it" quality and know that attending this Leadership Academy will forever change their lives, the lives of their families, their communities and the future of their nation.

Sounds like a plan, right? Everybody wants to see good-hearted and ambitious but disadvantaged kids get a head start in life. Except that’s not exactly what this show was about.

What it’s about is…Oprah: see Oprah fly to Africa. See Oprah watch the building of the school. See Oprah interview the prospective students. See Oprah schmoozing with Nelson Mandela. See Oprah throw her money around with the kind of ostentation that would have embarrassed the Robber Barons. See Oprah walking in the sunshine. See Oprah and all her Groovy Friends basking in the, the…Oprahness of it all.

Amazingly enough, we apparently live in a society where millions of people buy into this crap.

Everything, and I mean everything in this little passion play is calculated for effect. The girls who happen to benefit from all this are all telegenic as hell, all pretty and perky with straight teeth and good posture, and just a-bubbling over with grand plans for the future. They all want to change the world, feed the poor and free the girls who are political prisoners (the boys, presumably, will be left to twist in the wind).

Good for them…but make no mistake: the school, the kids, the whole of the Dark Continent, it’s all just part of the backdrop against which we can bask in the saintly glow that is Oprah. Those wrinkled old nuns from Calcutta ain’t got nothin’ on the Big O.

All in all, it’s nothing so much as a well-crafted greeting card from St. Oprah to her millions of adoring minions.

Hey Ope, you want to impress me? Go back to the Third World and find the deepest, darkest hellhole of a community you can find; a place where people are unwashed, underfed, undermedicated and way too concerned with the business of just surviving to know or care about some slick talking head just in from Chicago with entourage in tow. Try helping the poor souls of this world who can’t or won’t smile for the camera and gush all over you.

Or just turn off the damn TV camera. Try helping people for the right reason.

Many a wise man has warned us of the folly of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

I fear though it may be too late for her Oprahness. Oh, I have no doubt that she’s completely sold herself on the virtue of it all. And like I've said before: there's nothing sadder than someone who believes their own bullshit.


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