Tuesday, May 08, 2007

O-ploitation



Oprah Winfrey gives millions of dollars a year to charities. But by god, does she take, as well.

Today I saw her show on which a woman who had been abused for two years by her husband, and a harrowing 51-minute video of this abuse shot by her own thirteen year old son, was the subject of the day. And the show was Oprah at her most sanctimonious and master-of-the-obvious best.

First, it was wonderful of Oprah to maintain a level of normality during this emotionally draining show by keeping the number of commercial interruptions at their usual fever pitch. She wouldn't want her viewers to think domestic abuse was a reality and fear the sky was falling. So, phew, the commercials kept the viewing audience grounded in its superficial, consumerist quicksand.

The subject of the show was a woman named Susan Still. She married a man who revealed himself to be a brute, whose verbal and physical abuse of her was stomach-turning, rage-inducing, humiliating and Oprah-ready. Oprah played lengthy excerpts of the bizarre video Ms. Still's son made of her abuse -- Ms. Still standing, silent, motionless, in the living room while her Neanderthal husband verbally berated her; then footage of her being kicked and stepped on as she lay crying on the bedroom floor.

It was agonizing, sobering stuff.

Midway through the show, breaking for yet another damnable commercial, Oprah trumpeted the next segment -- when her guest's three children were commanded by their father to call their mother a "white slut ho" over and over. Oprah announced this as though it meant Tom Cruise would soon be onstage dancing sock-footed on her couch. All the while, a clearly traumatized Susan Still sat next to Oprah, looking like she expected her ex-husband to come slithering in from offstage. The disconnect between the two women could not have been more ugly or pronounced.

As Oprah gallantly announced at the end of each commercial break that today was the day she wanted the abused among her zombie horde to begin making their plans to escape their abusers, she showed clips of Susan Still's abuse as though they were Hollywood trailers, and then assailed her guest with the most maddening, obvious, condescending questions: "When your kids were calling you a ‘white slut ho,’ how did you feel?" "What did you do?" as though to say, I hope you marched over to that rotten husband of yours and slapped his lousy face!

When Susan Still meekly stated that she had once seen an episode of Oprah dealing with domestic abuse, Oprah took the opportunity to make a joke about Ms. Still's predicament: "I'm surprised you were allowed to watch the show..." (audience laughs). Then Oprah looked at the camera and addressed her abused zombie horde: "Watch Oprah in secret." More laughs from the audience.

There is no doubt today's Oprah may well inspire some battered people to escape their brutish partners. But what a gnawing, ham-handed program one had to sit through in order for that to happen.

Yes, Oprah Winfrey gives much to the world, but goddamn does she take. The type of exploitation she peddles is most sickening because it's done under the guise of "helping." But there is something utterly unwholesome and un-nourishing about all those execrable tampon commercials shoe-horned between glimpses into human misery.

1 comment:

dave said...

"But there is something utterly unwholesome and un-nourishing about all those execrable tampon commercials shoe-horned between glimpses into human misery."

Now that's writin'!

Dave!