Sunday, February 12, 2006

Win Frey

Why are people so eager to forgive Oprah Winfrey's hypocrisy?

I know this story is totally old now, but hey, Entertainment Weekly only got around to weighing in on it last week, which was what got the issue stewing in my mind.

The consensus seems to be that Winfrey should be applauded for pummeling James Frey, the author of the partially fabricated memoir A Million Little Pieces, to a pulp on live TV. Good for her that she finally decided to stand up for herself and call him on being the liar that he is.

But seriously, what's up with her defense of him merely weeks before? That was the time to get mad at Frey. The secret was out: He was a liar and everyone finally knew it. That was the time to feel betrayed and get outraged, yet that was the moment when Oprah stood by him. Why did it take two weeks for Oprah to decide that lying is bad?

Because Oprah's first reaction was to cover her ass. She underestimated the public's wrath, figuring that if she defended the book's sentiment as essentially true, that the whole scandal would blow over and her book club would emerge unsullied. But this was a stupid miscalculation. Her book club would have been fine if she had immediately condemned Frey along with everyone else. No one could blame her for being taken in along with the millions of other readers.

But her decision to support Frey only makes her later turnabout and smackdown completely disingenuous. Clearly, the ensuing two weeks, and the public's confused, skeptical reaction to Winfrey's flimsy Frey defense showed her that the scandal wouldn't blow over. Oh shit, she realized, this is a big deal after all. People do care that he lied in his book. Who knew?

The solution? Take it all back and crush the man responsible in a disproportionately cruel manner designed to compensate for her ill-advised defense and settle once and for all her positioning on the right side of the moral fence.

Her change of heart is so transparently self-serving, I can't believe more people aren't upset with her. Everyone is saying "Good for Oprah," when they should be calling her on her willingness to sell out her principles for the sake of her reputation and success, just like James Frey.

3 comments:

Zack said...

Wait, why do people care that he lied in his memoir? Lies are the new truth. I'm kidding, but only sort of.

People read these stupid little books in order to be emotionally manipulated. The Nation Of Oprah got taken for a bonus ride. They ought to pay him again, not demand refunds.

Memoirs are ostensibly nonfiction books, but they are not textbooks. They are not references. They are entertainment, and ought to be judged on entertainment value, rather than truthfulness.

When the government stops pretending that global warming doesn't exist, I will give a shit about people who feel personally offended by tiny little lies like James Frey's.

Kenny said...

Fair enough--that was more or less Oprah's position when she defended the book. But if you believe this, then her vicious turn against Frey is even more unjustified.

One argument against this book is that it's kind of a shitty book that is made exciting by the idea that it's true, so once you know it's not true, then the entertainment value itself suffers. It only remains an entertaining book as long as the illusion of truth is maintained--once that crumbles, it all goes.

lyan! said...

I got in a big involved conversation with Hiromi about this. I agree wth Zack most heavily. To me, just because someone's a pedophile doesn't mean they can't say it's wrong to have sex with children.
But he's stupid. The technical beef to make is that he put autobiography on his book and that he continually gets recovered addicts thanking him for his book. Though, at the same time, you can still get whatever you want from anything.
Find a cocktail napkin inscribed with "wax on, wax off" one day and who knows, maybe that's the right thing at the right time.
But beyond Frey, Oprah doing her inquisition in front of her in-studio angry estrogen mob is dirty pool in it's own right.
What it all comes down to is this:
The Karate Kid, Part 2 is great.