I’m just being honest

26 Nov

Oprah’s Favorite Things is one of my least favorite things. It’s one of the few cases where I just cannot stomach Oprah or her (screaming) audience. Something that started out as a fan appreciation show mixed with a bit of product placement has turned into a full-blown example of Western consumerism and greed. I remember the first time Oprah did it. Back then she gave away digital cameras, which were fairly new to consumers at the time, gourmet pop corn and those awful velor jump suits (made by J-Lo’s company), among other innocuous things that you believed that Oprah actually owned and used. A few years later, corporations were fighting to get their stuff on her show, bringing into question whether in fact any of these were her favorite things. When she gave away cars, and the people who received them suddenly had to pay taxes and insurance when some of them clearly couldn’t afford it, she received some criticism. Every year, the give-aways got more extreme and the screams got louder. People would quit their jobs, cash out their bank accounts to try to get on the show.

This past week when the episode aired, I had to retire upstairs to my bedroom as my mother watched Oprah give away the 10-piece Le Creuset cookware set that I have always wanted in addition to the new redesigned Volkswagen Beetle. I put in my head phones and turned up the Old 97s. Still, I could not block out the screaming and hysterics. I knew what was happening. I knew some people were crying from the excitement, while others were drooling with anticipation. It all felt wrong. I asked myself, is this just sheer envy and jealousy? I’m pretty sure that a large component of my nausea was due to the fact that I was not in that studio audience to receive all the goodies from Oprah. But there was more to it. The screaming and histrionics also bothered me because of the way people were getting excited over stuff – just stuff.

In my experience, receiving material gifts creates a non-lasting joy. In some cases, that joy can turn to stress from the burden associated with possessing these material things (e.g. maintenance, space requirements and clutter, feeling obligated to use, feeling guilty when not using them). The other day I bought a Sony Bravia. I had put off buying a flat screen for ages and was so excited when I got it. That excitement lasted for about 6 hours when I realized I had to find some way of keeping my cat from tipping it over and that I had to take everything off my TV stand to make room for it. It’s just a TV, after all. On the other hand, when I receive gifts like tickets to the theatre, a trip to a foreign destination, or a chance to visit with friends and family, the joy lasts forever and are committed to memory. Meanwhile, the downside or costs to having these experiences are short-term and temporary. This is why I prefer it when Oprah does things for people to transform their lives (including education scholarships, make-overs, raising awareness of troubling social issues, vacations, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences). Yet, Oprah’s Favorite Things is the show that everyone wants to be on – consumers and corporations alike.

I will miss Oprah’s show. I have learned so much and experienced so much through my TV because of her. Yet I have learned the least and experienced negative feelings watching Favorite Things. I blame myself for the fact that my happiness for the audience is soured by my envy. Their joy is not a pure or lasting one though, so maybe I should not be envious. Still, if I were given a chance to be on that episode I would be there in a heartbeat. Maybe this conflict/contradiction is the true source of my nausea.

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One Response to “I’m just being honest”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. I’m just being honest: I think Bill Maher reads our blog « - January 2, 2011

    […] when Maher took on Oprah’s Favorite Things, I was nodding my head. As you will recall, I declared Oprah’s Favorite Things as one of my least favorite things a few weeks ago. It’s quite unsettling this meeting of the minds. Well, in this case, my mind agreed with […]

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