For decades Oprah Winfrey has done many things to help people whether that help came from the Oprah show’s subject matter, giving her audience members cars or opening up a school. It has been said her 2007 endorsement of Barack Obama is what put him over the top in his bid to become president of the United States of America. First let me be clear, I have no problem with Oprah Winfrey at all. Oprah is an amazing woman who has overcome unbelievable odds to become one of the most powerful and influential people in the world. But what has she done with her power?
In November 2006, male prostitute and masseur Mike Jones said that over the course of three years Evangelical Leader Ted Haggard had paid him to engage in sexual activities and that Haggard had also purchased and used methamphetamine.”I had to expose the hypocrisy. He is in the position of influence of millions of followers, and he’s preaching against gay marriage. But behind everybody’s back he’s doing what he’s preached against.” Jones told ABC News. Oprah has said that she puts people on her show to empower them, so I find it surprising that this “Evangelical” leader has appeared on her show multiple times.
The Oprah show is largely positive, but at times it is a show rife with one-sided opinion, half-thoughts, sexual anxiety, victim hood, mis-truths, and dark vision of sexual relationships. Oprah did not want males at her Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, but still there have been at least two sex and abuse scandals involving the school. Her influence is as real as it is legendary, it is often called “Oprah Effect”. She referred to Barack Obama as “The One”, in a nod to the Neo character in the movie “The Matrix”. If Oprah says “Grilled Chicken”, then the next day KFC runs out of grilled chicken, instead of promoting the chicken Oprah’s audience would have been better served if she had held the KFC corporation’s feet to the fire about why they are putting meat and beef in the chicken that they sell. If Oprah says “Steer Clear” of beef, then cattlemen lose 11 million dollars. If she says “I love this book”, or “That’s such a handy product”, then those items will be best sellers. Which all of this power it is surprising to still see her fawn over a celebrity, misrepresent facts and give out advice such as, telling a child to take on a bully with tough body language. This advice from Oprah places the ownness on the one kid against the bullies instead of on the school system and the parents where it belongs. What good is having this much vaunted effect when you aren’t using it to help even the most helpless of us.
The Low Down Show
This show had J.L. King, author of On the Down Low, a gay black man revealing the “Down Low” lifestyle to America. The Down Low lifestyle is one in which men have sex with other men but self-identify as heterosexual. On this show it was said that a Down Low black man “Could be anywhere, ’cause we’re everywhere”. That same year Governor James McGreevy, was found to be living this type of lifestyle. Oprah invited his ex-wife on the show to cry and to promote her book. Somehow Oprahs never made the connection that White Males also lead these “down low” double lives, unless the message is that White Males can’t be on the Down Low?
Let’s not even talk rappers, okay let’s talk about Ice Cube.”For the movie ‘Barbershop’ she had Cedric the Entertainer and Eve on, but I wasn’t invited. Maybe she’s got a problem with hip-hop. She’s had damn rapists, child molesters and lying authors on her show. And if I’m not a rags-to-riches story for her, who is?” Ice Cube has produce and/or starred in three over the movies she has discussed on her show, but he has never been invited on. Ice Cube’s question has never been answered.
When the rapper Ludacris appeared on her show with fellow cast members to promote the 2004 movie CRASH, (a movies about racial and social tensions) Oprah took Ludacris to task for his rap lyrics. “She edited out a lot of my comments while keeping her own in. Of course, it’s her show, but we were doing a show on racial discrimination, and she gave me a hard time as a rapper when I came on there as an actor. Initially, I wasn’t even invited on the show.” says Ludacris. “After the taping, she pulled me into a room and we had a five-minute conversation. The feeling I got was that by having rappers on her show, she feels like she’s empowering in them. So it was like being at someone’s house who doesn’t really want you there.I don’t see why she’ll invite Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle on her show and they speak the same language as I do, but since they do it through comedy, I guess that’s acceptable to her.” This would have been the second time Oprah did not invite Ludacris on her show for a movies that she was discussing.
Oprah has had rappers Diddy and Common on her show, both of whom have used what she calls “Degrading”, or “Bad Lyrics” at sometime or another. In an with D.J. Ed Lover, Oprah said “I’ve been accused of not liking hip-hop and that’s just not true.” That’s what she said, but it sure does seems like it. Perhaps it is a particular kind of rap that confronts issues that she doesn’t want to tackle, or maybe she only likes East Coast rappers.
Ms. Winfrey has never said an unkind word about Eminem, who has the largest reach of any rapper and is also the most misogynist and violent as well. However, Oprah took the time out to say that Snoop Dog’s lyrics were bad and refused to speak to him on the issue. Kanye West was on the Oprah show, Kanye is known for his thought-provoking lyrics, but maybe she forgot about his songs “Golddigger” and “Workout Plan”. Oprah went on the Gayle King show and said that she likes Jay-Z’s lyrics, either you like the lyrics or your don’t. When anyone else in the media speaks like this it is usually called lying, or being hypocritical, I’m just sayin’. Although her disdain of rappers is well documented, recently, she has even been palling around with Jay-Z, in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects no less. “Jay-Z is my new best friend,” Oprah said. Maybe Ms. Winfrey and her staff are unaware of his violent and misogynist lyrics. Apparently Jay-Z has Ninety-Nine problems, but Oprah ain’t one. Whatever the case may be she gains more credibility with her supporters by not having these blacks on. By the way Jay-Z is said to have a deal with Oprah to have a show on her new network.
In life, there are many bullies and they are not all in school, but everyone is afraid of them just the same. Along with worldwide power, you also have a responsibility to make a positive change. That being said Oprah is right. Some rap lyrics are negative, some rap videos have not set very good examples and some rappers have been exploitative, but there are those in the media who have done the exact same things albeit in a different manner. Oprah like many others in the media, Bill O’Reilly included, are quick to point out the obvious wrongs, and slow to highlight the many things that are right. Oprah as well as O’Reilly have called for clean, positive music and many rappers and singers have answered that call, but neither Oprah or O’Reilly will promote them on their shows either. The so-called bad rappers have a massive base of promotion, so how does the public know that these positive rappers exist if you don’t give them a platform?
Early on in Oprah’s career she had racist come on her show to express their point of view, but she vowed to no longer have then on and since she has went to great lengths to bring on racial uniters. Why not do the same with music? Why not with men in general and with black men in particular? Why indeed Oprah? Why attack the rappers instead of those own these entertainment companies and the individuals who are actually pushing and distributing this music, you have such a problem with, to our youth? Because it is easier to go after the rappers instead of your friends, that’s why.
Now that Oprah is ending her show, we may be seeing an end to the era of “The Oprah Effect” an era where her words and actions are followed, an era where she has set and ended many trends. OWN is launching in 2011 (The Oprah Winfrey Network is a joint venture with Discovery Communications), so in essence she’s on to the next one. Many will rejoice as she seeks to spreads much of her same power to a new era, let’s just hope that the new era isn’t just as one-sided as the last one, an era where it is alright to marginalize people like me, my sons or yours… message.