I don’t watch Oprah but Maria sent an interesting article, so I turned on the TV just now and briefly watched the Oprah Show.
A teenager was crying hysterically, tears streaming down his face, screaming. It was embarrassing to watch, actually painful to see such public and humiliating display. I can not imagine why a parent would agree to have their child’s emotional pain out for all the world to see. I don’t care what the reason is; such trauma should be dealt with in private, showing enough respect and compassion to one’s own child to spare him/her the humiliation of been displayed like that.
Apparently the show is about obese families. The scene looked like penitents publicly confessing their sins seeking absolution. The Church of Oprah lives.
Which brings me to the article Maria sent, by Maureen Callahan, THE OPRAH SYNDROME
BLOATED, DEPRESSED — AS O GOES, SO GOES THE NATION
In one of her top-rated shows this season, Oprah Winfrey used her Jan. 5 episode to publicly confess, in a gauzy, soft-palette setting, her mortification and shame at hitting 200 (maybe more?) pounds.
“I am embarrassed,” she said. “All the money and all the fame and all the attention and the glamorous life and the success doesn’t mean one thing if you can’t control your own being.” Twenty-two years on, Oprah Winfrey – America’s most prominent secular spiritual leader, who has stated that her life’s work is to help all Americans “live your best life” and has deployed an army of self-help gurus to that effect – continues to publicly grapple with her weight and, it seems, her despair.
Why can’t America’s self-help queen help herself?
“That’s a great question,” says Micki McGee, sociology professor and author of “Self-Help, Inc: Makeover Culture in American Life.” “Ultimately, the key threads of self-help culture are hard work and control of the self. If she can’t control herself, she must engage in the narrative of shame and humiliation.
Shame and humiliation, not just for herself but for her guests. It’s bad enough that she’s into this narrative but inexcusable that minors are put through it.
I sincerely don’t understand what people see in Oprah that they follow her every word. I also don’t see the appeal of a magazine who has the same person on every cover month after month, year after year. Maybe the void left by people who don’t believe in faith has to be filled by faith in Oprahthink. Who knows. Certainly there’s a self-help industry out there.
I have read a number of self-help books, most of them because friends had just read them and suggested them to me. I read The Secret and found it interesting enough to do some of the things it suggests. Not because, as The Secret claims, “the Universe will find a way to manifest your wishes” but because prioritizing and visualizing your goals will clarify the direction you want your life to take.
However, the best self-help book I ever read was Toughness Training for Life by James Loehr, PhD. Loehr’s thesis is that you should develop health habits every day, in order to overcome difficult times. It’s basically what the Classic philosophers, such as the Stoics, used to teach. He explains what he calls “recovery training” convincingly, and it served me very well when I was recovering from my very severe hypoglycemia years ago.
I really don’t care if Oprah’s fat, thin, in between. Obviously the hours of TV broadcast time she dedicates to the subject must have brought her profits and fame. Which is probably why I don’t have Oprah’s money and influence: I don’t spend the day focusing on food, and if I gain a couple of extra pounds and my clothes feel tight I cut down on butter and spend an extra 30 minutes at the gym until the clothes again fit well.
While I can understand why her guests are so troubled, I don’t understand her angst and feeling of helplessness over her weight. I wouldn’t doubt that it’s sincere, but let’s face it, she’s one of the most influential and rich women in the world. How important can it be whether she’s fat?
Callahan looks for an answer:
“She actually said that it doesn’t matter how much she can accomplish unless she gets control of her body,” says McGee. “You cannot control yourself by controlling your body. She’s diminishing all her other accomplishments by while trying to create a diminutive physical self. It’s tragic.” Maybe. But, consciously or not, it’s shrewd. Her public shame over her gluttony and her renewed commitment to regaining control mirror the sentiments expressed in President Obama’s inauguration speech. His exhortation for Americans to “put away childish things” and to take personal responsibility for their future by acting with restraint and regard speaks to the national desire for a kind of proud austerity. And what could be more austere than denying yourself food?
It all reminds me of the slim and wise Rosalind Russell, who titled her biography Life is a Banquet, from one of her lines in Auntie Mame: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.”
Don’t be a sucker.