Sunday, January 29, 2006

Oprah Eats Her Young

Oprah made James Frey a very rich man and it's all his fault.

I don't normally watch Oprah. I think the entire show represents everything I hate about journalism right now. Oprah takes a very emotional (as opposed to rational) view of the issues she discusses on her shows, and consequently it lacks depth and reinforces stereotypical thinking. Oprah is classic for warning the legions of soccer moms that make up her following about "The Dangers that Lurk in your Home" and "Is your teen having sex with Hobos?". The entire thing is quite unfortunate, because Oprah has the resources to do a lot of really great things, and instead she epitomizes a viewpoint that you should read what she reads, buy the expensive, useless crap that she buys, and cheer for who Oprah says you should cheer for. Women of America, whatever you do, don't pick out your own books, products, and financial plans, let Oprah and her cadre of corporate sponsors do that for you.

Because what Oprah promotes lacks substance, she can often get herself into quite a pickle. In an attempt to keep soccer moms glued to their TVs, Oprah has quality guests that include Long Island Lolita Amy Fisher and that annoying skank from TLC's most superficial program "What not to wear." Her picks for her book club have been all over the board, in terms of quality and genre. Everything from John Steinbeck to Romance Smut Novels.

In September, Oprah picked James Frey's A Million Little Pieces as her next Oprah book. She called it one of the most riveting books she's ever read. It prevented her from sleeping on multiple consecutive evenings, and she wanted to share the powerful experience with her fans. Buy this book NOW! Everyone should read this book. What a fantastic fucking book!

The problem is, much like a lot of what Oprah supports, that the book is just merely Ok. Having read it myself, and comparing it to either books written either by or about drug addicts, it falls somewhere in the bottom half in terms of quality. And this is before the revelation by the Smoking Gun that better than half of it was made up. But, even considered as a work of fiction, it's got a lot of stuff that could be taken right out of Leaving Las Vegas, Girl Interupted, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, only it's just not as interesting or tragic.

Yes, I know that Lilly hangs herself at the end of the story, but 99% of stories about addiction end with someone being dead, and that death subsequently changing the life of the addict. Oprah's soccer moms don't read anything accept Nora Roberts novels and whatever Oprah tells them to read, so this point, that the book is formulaic within the addiction genre, is lost on their sad little faces.

That didn't stop Oprah from shouting the book's praises from the hilltops, even after the Smoking Gun report was released. And then came last week and Oprah did a 180 degree flip. James Frey appeared on her show, where she proceeded to berate him about being a liar. All of the sudden, Oprah cares about the truth! She's never mentioned the faulty intelligence and bold faced lies that led to our invasion of Iraq, wherein thousands of people died. As far as I can tell, no one died because James Frey lied in his bestselling book, and one could argue that many people may have been saved, but I don't really care.

The entire issue with Frey's embelishments of the story is stupid. Just because the details of a book are fiction, doesn't mean it can't affect the life of a reader. While I am not one of those people, a lot of people's lives have been positively affected by Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but the fact that they are complete fiction, doesn't change how some people relate to the ideas within those stories. If Oprah wants to claim that every detail of every memoir ever written is 100% accurate, she's as idiotic as her viewers.

Furthermore, this particular memoir was written by a drug addict. Would you ask a drug addict to recount the Presidential Debates between John Kerry and George Bush? If you did, would you expect them to be accurate? Again, only a moron would have these expectations.

The best part of Oprah's hour long cross examination of Frey, was the fact that she takes absolutely no responsibility for the book's success or the issues about the book's accuracy. It's all James Frey's fault. I'm not trying to say it was Ok for James Frey to lie in his memoir, particularly if said lies were created simply to increase the appeal and sales of his book, but Oprah has taken no responsibility, when she could have had a member of her staff uncover in a week, what took The Smoking Gun maybe 4 hours.

Oprah made James Frey what he is, and she has no one to blame but herself for the embrassment she experienced.

No comments: