Friday, January 27, 2006

Oprah Stir-Frey: A Recipe for Liars

I've mentioned before on this blog that Oprah occasionally irritates me. Some parts of me view her as a lady who'd make a great candidate to join our Saturday morning coffee cult. She seems like a down-to-earth someone whom any of us would enjoy visiting with and giggling with in a one-on-one situation.

I often remain glued to the tube when her shows feature intellectually stimulating, timely topics or fascinating guests whom I admire. Other times, however, I switch the channel, especially when the topic hints of another dose of Oprah self-aggrandizement along with those nauseating but fawning audience screams, which seems to happen frequently.

I guess I'm really pretty ambivalent when it comes to Oprah. At times I admire her; at other times, I think she's a bit into herself and all the power she wields worldwide. In fairness, it's possible that any human being, given the success and spotlight she enjoys, would act pretty much the same.

Yesterday was an "I Admire Oprah Day." Two weeks ago, my assessment was exactly the opposite after listening to James Frey (author of the New York Times bestseller A Million Little Pieces, which I have not read, by the way) sit at Larry King's desk and make a less-than-lame attempt at dispelling the notion that he's nothing but a lying fraud who duped the best of them with his phony life story. As I sat listening to him stumble over answers for the hour, I could not believe that he actually had the smarts to pull the wool over all those Oprah producers and the Queen herself.

I reacted throughout the show by commenting about what a sham he was every time Larry would ask him a question about an event in his book and his answer would begin with "I mean . . . . " Often that response came to question which called for a "yes" or "no" answer.

"This is so phony," I thought. "This guy has totally unmasked his charade on this show. Oprah's gotta be so embarrassed at watching this. " Then, they paraded his doting mother to the desk and asked her a few questions about how proud she was of her little boy.

Then, Oprah called and uttered her now-famous testimonial supporting Mr. Frey's alleged memoir. I couldn't believe my ears. The shock was followed by dismay. Once more, a prominent figure in our society---one whose every word can rival the pied piper---had minimized the importance of truth in favor of defending an obvious liar and con man.

Since then, until yesterday, I've remained in an "I Can't Believe Oprah Would Do That -- Oh Well, I Guess It's The Bottom Line" mode. It was disheartening to think of how a woman who has earned admiration worldwide could stand behind this phony and continue to do so. It was also disheartening to know that he'd just keep on selling those books and would continue to enjoy the Oprah seal of approval all the way to the bank.

I don't know if James Frey's bank account is going to suffer after yesterday's giant and very public dismantling of the profittable myth he has created, but I'm willing to bet he didn't sleep last night. He surely knows the wrath of Oprah after she squished him through the wringer and then hung him out for the rest of the media to fling a little well-deserved pigeon poop his way.

Thankfully, Mr. Oprah Stir-Frey's publisher took a few hits too. The only sad irony to yesterday's revelations, heard round the world, is that Frey and the publisher probably will sell a lot more of those books because of this publicity.

Maybe he'll need all that money to find a high-priced shrink smart enough to cure him of that pathological lying. Maybe Dr. Phil's that man. I believe the only way Frey and the publisher could gain any iota of credibility and restore people's faith in publishers is to announce that money from all further book sales will go to a humanitarian cause such as mental health rehabilitation----not one more cent to their pockets.

I'm willing to bet that Oprah slept a lot better last night, knowing she had once again wowed the masses with her courage and conviction by standing before the American public and admitting she was wrong, that she had made a mistake, and that telling the truth is still pretty helpful.

Oprah, you've got my vote today. You have ensured a brighter future for the much-maligned, often abused but indisputably essential element of truth.


Anonymous said...

If only the politicians, including the emperor himself, would follow Oprah's lead in publicly admitting their mistakes...

Dogwalkmusings said...

I too watched Oprah yesterday - the first time in years. I admired her admission of having made a mistake. What bothered me, however, was the amount of play this story has gotten - especially yesterday. With everything else going on in the world I don't think this should have been quite the news event it was. Just my opinion.

singlemom-madness said...

Oprah Just Kills Me! Talk about passing the buck. She screwed up, her minions screwed up. Deal with it. She is blaming it on anyone else she can find. The man wrote the book. The publisher/editor found it worthy. Millions read it and found it inspiring. She made a mistake. To have him on and grill him, to call into Larry King and defend him, to slam the editor, seriously folks, she is looking for someone else to blame for her mistake. So she apologized. Big Deal! A memior is (according to Webster) a narrative composed from personal memory. Are we slamming a professed addict for a faulty memory? Yes, he was stretching the truth, wouldn't you? Jeeze, it's a manuscript.Give me a break!

Sue said...

Poor Oprah was embarrassed. On the other hand, a young man has overcome an enormous problem in his life, and writes an inspiring book that stretches the truth in a few instances--how his girlfriend commits suicide, the number of days in jail. These are minor points compared to the obvious anguish that he so clearly relates, and that go unchallenged. The book is powerful and helpful, but Oprah chooses to see this as a personal affront to her. I have less respect for her, and I can only hope that James Frey is doing okay with all of this unnecessary debate. I'd hate to think Oprah might lose a few dollars for goodness sake.