Entries in oprah (2)


Goodbye Oprah, and good riddance

Rousseau’s most successful contemporary heir is Oprah Winfrey. Her entire brand is built around a cult of authenticity through therapeutic self-disclosure and promiscuous emotionality.

That's from a column I wrote for Mediaite last year when Kitty Kelly's memoir about Oprah came out. I didn't like Oprah then, I like her less today, and I'm glad she's gone. She's basically a cult-leader who  has had a horrible impact on the publishing industry, helping transform literature into a form of talk therapy while becoming so influential the entire book business is terrified of her. She celebrates "personal authenticity" while serving as an exemplar of the worst forms of ultra-conspicuous shop therapy.  Perhaps worst of all, she went into business with Playboy Bunny-turned anti-vaccine lunatic Jenny McCarthy.

If there is a person who has made more money and become more famous peddling a more perverse ideology to Americans than Oprah, I can't think of who it might be.


Selling authenticity: The Bethenny Frankel brand

One of the aspects of the authenticity hoax is that one of the underlying assumptions of the modern search for the self is that, once we strip away all of the accretions of culture – the status seeking, the masks and the false consciousness of consumer society – we'll discover a true self that is almost godlike in its innocence and creative power. But I argue that's an assumption we're not entitled to make. What we find is that while some of us do have hearts of gold, many of have hearts of darkness. In countless ways we're scared, weak, flawed and frail. Or, in the case of Bethenny Frankel, you're just a bitch.

You know Bethenny: reality tv star, author, pregnant bridezilla, and personal brand manager extraordinaire. Regarding her new show, Bethenney Getting Married, she says, "I'm never going to edit myself because then the show wouldn't be authentic."You want authenticity? Frankel will give it to you in spades. In this profile in Salon, Heather Havrilesky gets it exactly right:

Her total lack of shame and regret, in fact, make Bethenny the ultimate personal brand for the 21st century. Hiding from the public eye, trying to keep parts of your life private, not having light-hearted rejoinders and flip explanations for everything you do – these are tantamount to embracing failure these days. The media-saturated universe wants a steady flow of soundbytes, bloopers, behind-the-scenes footage, inside scoops – the more humiliating, the better. Cooperate to feed the machine exactly the sorts of calories it wants, and watch your star rise.

But authenticity is one thing, likeability is something else entirely. But who cares? In this, the age of authenticity, what we want more than anything else is disclosure. Kill off the wizard of oz, let us see behind the curtains of your life. What do you have to hide? It turns out if there's money to be made, virtues such as shame, discretion, and privacy are for chumps.

Related: Oprah Winfrey: the greatest story ever told.

(Thanks to Chris for the pointer.)