When I started my blog more than seven years ago, I really had no idea what the hell I wanted to say, at least in a general sense. Like a lot of nascent online writers, I knew I wanted to unleash my admittedly worthless opinions into the ether, but what I was going to talk about day after day who could tell? Right off the bat, though, I did know one topic I wanted to confront head-on, that I wanted to at least try to take apart piece by piece, even if no one at all was reading. And so, the second piece ever posted to my site remains a juvenile attempt at ripping Oprah a new one. The rest was, of course, history, as that one screed written by a frustrated TV news producer eventually ruined Oprah's career, left her penniless, and ultimately reduced her to the lowly state she still occupies today.
It's actually been quite a while since I've written anything about Oprah, despite her having been, at one time, my online arch-nemesis. Since vanishing from network television, she's actually been removed somewhat from the public's consciousness. While she's still an omnipresent cultural succubus, the daily forum she once had to inflict her will on an entire nation of gullible middle-class moms has been replaced by a much less popular cable network and therefore her impact is more a peripheral one than in days past. If stupid women who can't decide what breakfast cereal to eat in the morning without consulting ten self-help books want to be condescended to by a grotesquely privileged celebrity, they can now bow at the feet of Gwyneth Paltrow. Oprah's still a big deal but our media climate is so rapid-fire these days that she can't help but feel a little like yesterday's news.
Still, if the last few days have proven anything it's that Oprah hasn't lost her touch when it comes to manipulating the media into putting her front-and-center. I'm certainly not saying that it's impossible she was actually discriminated against by a Zurich store clerk who haughtily implied that she probably couldn't afford a $38,000 handbag and I'm absolutely not alleging some kind of conspiracy aimed at promoting her new movie. It's just that the entire story currently occupying the outrage center of The View's collective brain comes down to basically one person's word against another's and what may have been nothing more than a misunderstanding has now been elevated to the level of "international incident"; what could be a simple case of miscommunication gets turned into proof that -- gasp! -- even one of the wealthiest and most famous women on the planet can be the victim of the scourge of racism. Today, we are all Oprah Winfrey.
And of course Oprah would never push that meme out into the world, knowing full-well the attention it would immediately draw.
Melissa Harris-Perry already aimed a volley of very pointed barbs at Oprah for the blitheness with which she talks about plopping down her Amex Black Card and buying a Tom Ford handbag that costs more than a lot of people make in a year, so I won't delve too deeply into those waters; suffice to say I'm a big fan of Tom Ford but most of his stuff can only be admired from afar by myself and a lot of other mere mortals. Oprah's worth the GDP of a mid-size country and she can obviously spend her money however the hell she wants, but the tone-deafness of complaining about how she was treated while attempting to engage in the most gruesome form of conspicuous consumption imaginable can't be overlooked. The clerk whom Oprah interacted with while in that shop in Zurich says she's been unfairly demonized on a grand scale and that Oprah's story just isn't what happened. Again, no one's saying it isn't impossible that Oprah was regarded as any other plebe might be based largely on the color of her skin and was dismissed as such, but it's really tough to imagine Oprah being understated enough to present herself as just another plebe, regardless of the color of her skin.
This is Oprah we're talking about. Even if you couldn't pick her out of a lineup without her make-up on, if you think she entered an exclusive shop in Zurich, Switzerland dressed in a Target sweatshirt and a pair of Jaclyn Smith mom-jeans, you're out of your fucking mind. Sure, she says she wasn't wearing Louboutins or a giant diamond ring, but I have to imagine that any high-end store clerk, particularly in Europe, wouldn't need those dead giveaways to know what she was dealing with. Put it this way: Oprah can't be just another inconspicuous schlub, black or white. This is the woman who sucks up every form of legitimately vital art she can get her hands on and spits it back out via her book club with a shiny new veneer of pre-packaged, Oprah-approved banality; this is the woman who turns anybody who feeds, clothes, or psychologically advises her in a manner she finds pleasing into international stars in their own right; this is the woman who foists whatever ridiculous celebrity pseudoscientific cleanse she's on this week into the faces of America until it becomes a dangerous trend; this is the woman who manages to brand even her philanthropy, turning it into an entirely solipsistic endeavor; this is the woman who puts her own goddamn face on the cover of her own magazine every single month. This woman is self-obsession incarnate. She's not just gonna walk into a shop that sells $38,000 Tom Ford handbags without announcing herself in some way.
Oprah now says she feels bad about ever mentioning what she swears took place in Zurich. She says it's not Switzerland's fault -- thank God, since the country doesn't have much of an army to defend itself against the Death From Above killers of the 1st Soccer Mom Air Cav who blast Josh Grobin from their Volvo choppers and love the smell of potpourri in the morning -- and she didn't want to create an international controversy. She says she's sorry the whole thing got "blown up." Right. Oprah doesn't want attention. Oprah's above taking what very well could have been a misinterpretation on her part -- if not an entirely exaggerated bunch of crap -- and turning it into Handbag-gate.
Why should anything be different after seven years?