Oprah's Confusing Filibuster…Confuses


At a press conference to promote her new network, Oprah delivered one of the longest responses to a question in TV history. Now she’s getting shit for it. Let’s analyze!

Last night, a reporter asked Oprah, “What were your dreams when you were a kid? What did you aspire to be? And it seems like you won every lottery in the country. What were your hopes, and what were your dreams?” She proceeded to answer — and answer, and answer, and answer. HitFix has a transcript of her response, which ranges from a pretty interesting discussion of her early years in broadcasting to some frankly obnoxious talk about reading people’s energy. Really, the whole thing is a pretty good encapsulation of the best and worst of Oprah. On the one hand, there’s her impressive rise, her obvious determination, and her undeniable status as a role model for women, people of color, and abuse survivors; on the other, there’s her weakness for new age bullshit.

But rather than take it as an opportunity for Oprahnalysis, a number of Twitterati chose to poke fun. News for TV Majors has a handy collection of tweets about the “Oprah filibuster,” ranging from “The Giants should hire Oprah as offensive coordinator. With her in charge, they could have run out the clock and beaten the Eagles!” to “I think she’s choking me like Darth Vader right now. I need air, OWN people! Crank up the air conditioning!” Tweeters poked special fun at Oprah’s reference to a gynecological appointment, and generally accused her of being out of touch, imperious, and self-absorbed.

Out of touch she may well be, at least with this particular medium — HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall pointed out that,

You can understand Oprah’s confusion. Throughout her 25 years on the national stage, she’s spent much more time asking questions than answering them. And though she’s appeared at press tour on occasion, it’s usually been to promote movies or miniseries she produced, and where there were lots of other panelists fielding questions right along with her.

Oprah doesn’t have much experience doing solo press conferences, and while she should be media-savvy enough to know how one works, it’s possible she didn’t recognize that an 18-minute monologue wouldn’t be welcome. Rather than giving her the benefit of the doubt, though, lots of TV critics in attendance seemed to jump to the conclusion that she relished the opportunity to impose her views upon them. Which may be true — but would they have been so dismissive of a similar speech by a dude?

Also on Twitter, Salon’s Rebecca Traister pointed out that when it comes to celebrity comeuppances, “the impulse to teach them that they’re not all that is often stronger w/ women.” She added that the “question is not always ‘do they deserve criticism’ (they do!) but rather do we dole out that criticism more easily/punishingly/gleefully than to male peers who merit just as much?” This is a good distinction, because the idea that we can’t criticize powerful women can be pretty damaging too (see also, Sarah Palin). And at least from the transcript, Oprah’s performance does seem pretty tone-deaf — not to mention that crappy energy-talk, which I’m convinced harms more people than it helps. If there’s anything we can learn from the “Oprah filibuster,” it’s not that dissing Oprah should be off-limits — rather, it’s that we need to be mindful of the ways we as a society implicitly and explicitly tell women to STFU. Oh, and during press conferences, it’s probably a good idea to watch the clock.

Press Tour: Oprah Winfrey Talks And Talks And Talks Some More [HitFix]
Oprah TVeets [News For TV Majors]

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