Like many of you out there, I have been watching the new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Yep, I tuned in New Year’s Day to watch the premiere and stayed glued through “Season 25” and Peter Walsh. And as I watched the network and glimpsed at the upcoming programming, I was struck by how the power of television was shifting.
But aside from my awe and great anticipation for the Judds reality show, I was really hit by something when watching “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes.” And that, dare I say it, was a bit of hypocrisy by Oprah herself.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always liked Oprah. I record her show and have had many “a ha” moments watching it. She’s done great things for humanity; has gotten our nation reading; and thanks to her, I wear the correct bra. In fact, I struggled with whether to even write this post because I don’t want this to be a criticism-fest. But as amazing as she is, I felt the need to point out this dissonance.
Throughout her show and magazine, Oprah constantly brings up the theme of balance. She is a proponent of work/life balance, and believes that’s key to living your best life. So what I found so fascinating was it was VERY clear watching “Season 25” that Oprah expects nothing less than a huge time commitment from her staff, which many of the staffers admitted has caused them to not see their families, sometimes work around the clock, and not have any life balance. And Oprah believes in this. She herself said working on her show was not a 9 – 5 gig; it was constant and her employees must fully commit to the lifestyle. She’s working 24/7 and expects her staff to do the same and deliver nothing short of perfection.
Clearly we viewers reap the benefits of that perfection and she’s #1 because she expects nothing less. And that’s okay. I just question how one can continually spout the importance of balance and living a tranquil life when she and her staff are epitomizing the complete opposite.
Another interesting contradiction with the OWN network is the fact that it’s an expanded cable network. This means that one can only enjoy the benefits of OWN by paying for more than basic cable. I was saddened by a woman’s comment on the OWN message board who said she wishes she could enjoy Oprah and the network. But because she’s older, she cannot afford to pay another $55 a month for cable.
Oprah talks about access and education for everyone. And her show has made it possible for thousands to learn about topics they never would have before. So it is a bit sad that this amazing programming and education is being offered at a cost.
I understand the only way for Oprah to get her own network is to buy one that exists on expanded cable. I get that; I really do. But I think it’s also important to realize that she’s not practicing what she’s preaching.
Given all this, will I stop watching OWN? No.
Will I stop watching Oprah? No
Do I think she’s a bad person? No
Do I see contradictions and flaws in Oprah herself? Yes.
I recognize by writing this I may be blacklisted by Oprah or receive criticisms of myself and my life choices. But in order for me to live my best life, I had to write about what I observed and hope these thoughts give some readers their own “a ha” moment. After all, Oprah would expect nothing less.