“Love her or loath her, it is difficult to deny that Oprah Winfrey spans a broad cultural landscape.” (Striphas, The Late Age of Print)
I have always felt just so about Oprah. I get tired of hearing about her, I don’t understand the draw to watch her, and I have never looked to her for guidance on anything from relationships to literature. (I feel this way about all talk-show hosts.) Still, I cannot deny that for whatever reason, she has become a lighthouse for all kinds of people (especially women).
As discussed in the chapter, she now uses the power or “Ophrahfication” to motivate people, and really it’s all been for good causes: better schools for the underprivielged (like girls in Africa), reading in America, etc. I cannot complain.
For someone interested in literature, I understand she is no expert on literary analysis or literature, and I prefer not to buy into the conglomerate that is Oprah or “what’s popular.” (Maybe I’m a hipster.) I will read on recommendation of those I trust, and I see evidence of good selection.
I’ve read very few Oprah books so I cannot back up what I’m about to say. Still, I wonder if those books became popular because they were “good” or because they had Oprah’s stamp. Would they have become best sellers? What qualifies as “good,” the number sold or the critics review, lasting power, or my own personal tastes? Branding is powerful as I learned in last semester’s Public Opinion and Propaganda class.
Just because it got people to read, made the work accessible to the general public, it does not mean her work should be unconditionally praised. It’s important to study the idea of what’s good, and of branding when it comes to Oprah.