Oprah art

From publication The Leftist:

Oprah The Woman, Oprah The Capitalist, Oprah The Humanitarian, Oprah The Profiteer

O artArtwork by Luna

When beef is non-beef

Jezebel has a post provocatively titled, “Here’s What Happens When You Cross Oprah.” Ominous sounding, no? Well, not-so-much.

The brief post rehashes Iyanla Vanzant’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss their falling out over Vanzant jumping ship from Harpo, Inc. for a deal-gone-nowhere with Barbara Walters. Vanzant, a spiritual coach and author who was quite popular in the 1990s, and Oprah have a conversation that, frankly, they could have just as easily had in Oprah’s penthouse. A clip of the interview is on the Jezebel website and it is, to quote Judge Judy, “a lot of who shot John.”

What would be more interesting to examine and track is whether, in her appearances on Oprah’s show and later in her own short-lived show, Vanzant’s message started to diverge from Oprah’s new age spiritualism. As Karlyn Crowley observes in her chapter, “New Age Soul: The Gendered Translation of New Age Spirituality on The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Oprah “translat[es] a New Age vision authenticated by African American struggle.”

Vanzant’s blend of Africanism and new age spirituality would seem to be the perfect mix for a Harpo production. Was this more than a bad business decision on Vanzant’s part? Or perhaps her particular brand of spiritual coaching was too far off the beaten path trod by Dr. Phil, Oprah’s Best Friend Gayle, and other Oprah proteges? Check out Karlyn’s chapter in Stories of Oprah and decide for yourself.

Oprah to…do something to Nottage’s Play Ruined

Hollywood news website, Deadline, is reporting that Oprah Winfrey will take Lynn Nottage’s play Ruined to the big screen. Commissioned by Chicagos’s Goodman Theatre and playing to acclaim in select international venues, such as London’s Almeida, Ruined enters the lives of three women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Facing war and the shortages it brings, but most of all the violence, the play’s dramatic highs and low are ripe for the cinema.

My companion and I actually left the theatre casting the film, but I can’t recall if we cast Oprah as central character, bar owner, Mama Nadi. Nonetheless, reactions across the web to Oprah taking another stab at acting are mixed…stop. I’m lying. Reactions are not “mixed”: people are pretty much uniformly asking for an Oprah-break. As I note in the introduction to Stories of Oprah, success and critical acclaim seem to evade The Queen of All Media’s grasp when it come to being a thespian.

And, as Trystan Cotten notes in his chapter, “Lost in Translation,” the process of de-politicization that happens when Harpo, Inc. gets ahold of a great novel can have not-so-great results.

Let’s hope the name of the play doesn’t become a too convenient diss because Nottage won the Pulitzer for this play for good reason: it’s dynamic, smart, moving, and intricately examines the complexity of women’s bodies as collateral in war. Quick: read the play and read Trystan’s chapter!

Pwned: Oprah’s New Cable Channel

After watching Felicia Day’s brilliant web-based sitcom about World of Warcraft devotees, The Guild, I have a pretty bad case of geek-speak. Thus, Oprah’s Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) becomes the Pwned Network…to no one else but me and entirely in my head. If you pwn someone it basically means you’ve dominated them or eaten their lunch. And isn’t that what Oprah’s vast array of media tentacles does to us: own’s our attention?

Her show  is winding down and hitting all of its usual high marks for, presumably, the last time—Final Favorite Things! Final Audience Giveaway of a Trip in the Worst Economy in Recent Memory! Oprah is in the news more frequently and you didn’t think that was possible, did you?

But get ready because there will be no breathing room between the end of The Oprah Winfrey Show and her network’s debut on January 1, 2011. As this happy-clappy video works to convince us: Oprah’s success is our success. Oprah’s secrets are our secrets.

Despite Winfrey’s use of the collective “we,” she still somehow manages to sound like she means the royal we. This majestic pluralism is telling because it unsuccessfully attempts to hide the fact that this era of continued media consolidation and threats to net neutrality, to act as if “we,” the people-citizens, not we the audience-consumer, have the resources to own a cable channel is a disingenuous claim.

“China’s Oprah”

NPR featured a rather condescending-in-its-nationalism interview with Yang Lan, one of China’s most interesting media moguls. One of Michele Martin’s opening questions was, “How sick are you of the Oprah Winfrey comparison?” Now if you have to ask that, clearly, it’s not a great question, is it?

Luckily, Lan quickly established why she has achieved as much as she has: she was quick-witted, incisive, and modest without being demur. Most notable was her observation about the nature of “power” as implied by her invitation to Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit. She questioned the definition of power and situated it in a masculinist notion of what the word means, “Well, I’m not very comfortable about the power thing because power used to describe the more, you know, male chauvinism kind of value system. I think nowadays, women are breaking the borders or the boundaries and also trying to give a new interpretation in terms of impact you can have to the society. It’s not about the manner of the scalability or the massiveness of how many people you employ or how much money you can decide on, but rather it’s the new thinking that you can bring to other women or to the society as a whole.”

Want more on Oprah, power, and gender? See Jennifer Rexroat’s chapter, “I’m Everywoman: Oprah Winfrey and Feminist Identification,” in The Stories of Oprah (now available for your Kindle or iPad!).

Eat, Pray, Oprah

With the release and critique over the film version of Eat, Pray, Love, it seemed timely to revisit an article that appeared in Bitch magazine. Joshunda Sanders and Diana Barnes-Brown, in their article “Eat, Pray, Spend,” referenced Stories of Oprah authors Karlyn Crowley and Jennifer Rexroat in scoping out the parameters of self-help works they deem “priv-lit”: “literature or media whose expressed goal is one of spiritual, existential, or philosophical enlightenment contingent upon women’s hard work, commitment, and patience, but whose actual barriers to entry are primarily financial.”

Oprah O/S

Ted Striphas poses an interesting idea about Oprah’s brand not being something that is applied to products, but that Oprah’s brand is “producted.” The difference? In my mind, I’ve worked it out that products, e.g. a cookbook, don’t merely have the Oprah label applied to them and, thus, retain some of their original identity, but that those products become a part of the Oprah stable. They take on Oprah-esque meaning by association. Who really cares what the products original form or intent was as long as it has the Oprah essence applied to it?

Ted continues with the idea of Oprah as a platform from which to launch. The notion of Oprah O/S worth contemplating, but from a layperson’s viewpoint (merely gadget addict), I’m loath to go too far with that.