Oprah fails to ‘own’ cable TV

With her cable network hemorrhaging money, it looks like Oprah Winfrey’s star could finally be dimming.

According to a United Press International report, the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, has laid off 20 percent of its staff and could lose close to $150 million this year.

The failure is attributed to a lack of viewership, the article said.

With some foreboding numbers and the cancellation of OWN’s anchor program, “The Rosie Show,” it looks like Winfrey’s days as the undisputed queen of the American cultural consciousness are numbered.

Frankly, it’s about time.

Before anyone gets too up in arms, let it be known I hold no ill will toward Winfrey.

Her story is certainly inspiring in the most textbook Land of Opportunity kind of way. She’s also to be commended for her extensive philanthropic work.

The problem with the Oprah phenomenon (and given the length of her career, it’s undeniably genuine, not a fad) is that it epitomizes the vacuity of so much American culture.

This was always most obvious in her show’s rampant, unrepentant materialism.

Sure, who wouldn’t want to find out they just got a new car just for showing up to a daytime talk show? It’s just that the frantic screams of the audience members whenever they looked under their seat to find a set of Hummer keys always made me a little uneasy.

Not to mention the subtly authoritarian poise Winfrey assumed in her gift-giving sprees, as if she were showing the masses with her imperial largess. Just look at the arrogance of the name of her network: OWN.

The consumerist frenzy didn’t stop with the handouts, though.

In one episode, Winfrey took viewers on an extensive tour of her sprawling Montecito, Calif., estate and the perfect tea party she threw for her guests.

For all our talk of equality and classless society, it seems strange that we should be so eager to ogle at the staggering wealth of the upper crust.

Let’s be honest; no one in the audience will ever attain the success required for such extravagance. Ironically, Oprah’s own story serves as the perfect red herring to make it seem as though someone could.

Not everybody can live in a mansion. At the end of the day, there still have to be people to flip our burgers and run the register at Wal-Mart, emotionlessly swiping our Sam’s Choice corn flakes over the barcode reader over and over again.

At the end of the day, we live in a society that, whether we like to admit it, requires us to be Social Darwinists.

If this all sounds a little Marxist, apologies. It’s just that bottomless materialism of the darker moments of Winfrey’s show paint a particularly dire picture of our culture.

Does the decline of Winfrey’s prominence herald a wane in our interest in her brand of wide-eyed consumerism? Probably not.

If anything, people simply realized there was no reason to voluntarily watch Rosie O’Donnell.

 

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