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The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Nov 15, 2011
The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy

With utmost respect and seriousness, Deborah Davis has proudly written and compiled a coffee table book that will delight women and gay men from all over the world: "The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy".

With hundreds of full color photographs from the 25-year history of the show, plus portraits of the many celebrities that offered their own personal reflections on Oprah's lasting effect on the world, the book is a behemoth of contrasting notions.

Don't get me wrong, Oprah's the bomb. Inspiring, effective, smart, and big-hearted, she is a woman worth hailing. So it's with my tongue in cheek that I note my initial reaction to this offering. Partly a book celebrating an icon of popular culture, it also seems a bit self-congratulatory and self-promoting. We get it: Oprah is a big deal and she really has done some amazing things. We all know she was born a poor black child in a racist region and grew up to be, well, a one-named wonder. But you have to wonder about humility. Not that Oprah is responsible for this book, but she and her people must have approved every detail right down to the overly regal (yet undeniably beautiful) portrait on the cover taken by Ruven Afanador that makes her look like an Egyptian Goddess. Seriously?

Within the depths of the book are many essays written by friends and colleagues of Winfrey from the opening forward by Mayo Angelou to the Farewell Season essay by Sidney Poitier. A gaggle of celebrities practically write theme papers under different topics like "A Forum for Women" and "Star Power." Some are original works like the musings of Gloria Steinem and even Maria Shriver who coincidentally, writes about "The Power of the Girlfriend" which precedes a photographic trip down memory lane with Oprah and her best gal pal, Gayle. Others like John Travolta and Julia Roberts have their previous speeches about Oprah reprinted here for us all to pore over and reflect on.

Inside the pages of this compilation are discussions about certain episode topics that had lasting impact: the Freedom Fighters, the men who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic Priest, racism, homosexuality, women's struggles: you name it, it was probably on "Oprah." And sometimes, ONLY on "Oprah." She was a woman so many trusted because you knew she would take care of you - just as a mother would. You felt safe admitting your deepest, most gut-wrenching fears and truths, and she easily let you know it was going to be okay.

Within these pages we can remind ourselves of moments from the show with production stills and behind the scenes photos that are as big and splashy as the show itself.

Because of this, the world became enlightened. At least the women of the world did, since, let's face it, the "Oprah Winfrey Show" wasn't the go-to show for that many heterosexual men. But she did offer a forum for topics sometimes not always discussed, and those episodes - those 43 minutes of time - affected a lot of people.

So while I joke at the elaborate format of a book essentially canonizing a television show, I'm readily aware of her place in history. No, she isn't Mother Theresa and she didn't cure any disease, but she did offer an education - a perspective - and a loving touch to what she brought to the world's living rooms.

Within these pages we can remind ourselves of moments from the show with production stills and behind the scenes photos that are as big and splashy as the show itself. Separating topics into sections like "Embracing Equality," "Giving Back," "Soul Searching," not to mention being able to see a list of all 283 of Oprah's favorite things is a treat. And to read the words of renowned writers such as Toni Morrison, Elie Wiesel, Roger Ebert, Marianne Williamson, Nelson Mandela, and even Bono gives Oprah's legacy the weight it probably deserves.

Sometimes I sit back and think to myself, "My God, it was just a talk show!" But then I see all of this and I say to myself, "My God! This - was just a talk show. And look what it has accomplished."

"The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy"
Deborah Davis

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.


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