With the announcement that The Oprah Winfrey Show will end in 2011, fans and industry observers have poured on the praise for the talk show host. There's little dispute that she's a beloved figure worthy of tribute for her charitable initiatives and for soothing and guiding millions of viewers. But that's not what we're here for. (If you're looking for Oprah-hymns, we covered those here.) Playing devil's advocate for the day, the Atlantic Wire has roped up some of the best Oprah takedowns. Here's what the haters won't be missing:
- Feel-Good Voyeurism, write Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert in Newsweek: "Oprah routinely grabs viewers with the sort of tales of the strange and absurd that might be found a few clicks over on Maury Povich or Jerry Springer: women who leave their husbands for other women (another recent Oprah episode); a 900-pound mom (ditto). But there is a difference. Oprah makes her audience feel virtuous for gaping at the misfortunes of others. What would be sniffed at as seamy on Maury is somehow praised as anthropology on Oprah."
- Bad Medical Advice, writes Rahul Parikh, a physician with a medical blog. He takes Winfrey to task for promoting
Jenny McCarthy's "unscientific crusade" against childhood vaccination;
untested cosmetic therapies such as bioidentical estrogen and
progesterone creams; and vaginal hormone injections to name a few:
"Given her influence, it's a shame the TV star offers unbalanced health
and medical advice."
- Ra-Ra Consumerism, writes Peter Birkenhead in Salon: "One of Oprah's signature gimmicks has been giving stuff away to her audience ('giving' here means announcing the passing of stuff from corporate sponsors to audience members), most notably in a popular segment called 'My Favorite Things.' These bits have revealed an Oprah who truly revels in consumer culture, and who can seem astonishingly oblivious to the way most people live and what they can afford. She seems to celebrate every event and milestone with extravagant stuff, indeed to not know how to celebrate without it."
- The Book Club Hegemon "The all-powerful Oprah Book Club is not so much a club as a ruthlessly influential marketing vehicle," writes Kate Pickert in Time. She goes on to highlight Oprah's promotion of James Frey's supposed memoir that he later admitted was embellished and even made up in some cases. Oprah eventually apologized, saying, "I made a mistake and I left the impression that the truth does not matter. And I am deeply sorry about that, because that is not what I believe."