Oprah Winfrey’s fans seem to have lapped up her Australian tour which finished with taping of her show at the Sydney Opera House. However her trip also has had its fair share of criticism.
She has admirers for a range of reasons. Dodge Taylor, who blogs as Roger’s blog at Capital Reservations’ travel and accommodation service, gives Oprah a big tick:
I'm not ashamed to say I'm an Oprah fan. Not so much for her TV show (although I do find myself watching it during lunch), but for where she has come from and the empire she has created over the last decade or so. She's now the most powerful woman in the world and does so much good for so many people in this world. Its impressive and inspiring.
The Oprah House
There was much discussion about whether Australian taxpayers should have paid her for the tourism publicity. Crikey gave a financial assessment of the Oprah phenomenon:
Thousands of Oprah fans were screaming for their idol (and celebrity guests including Jay-Z, Jon Bon Jovi and Russell Crowe) at the renamed “Oprah House” in Sydney this morning. So just how big is the American multi-media gigastar? Crikey runs the numbers…
$US2,300,000,000 net worth.
Australian Oprahmania: by the numbers
Sarah Baker summed up the visit for online magazine upstart, a site ‘for emerging journalists’ in Australia:
So was ‘Project O’ worth the $4 million taxpayers spent on the TV talk show queen? That’s debatable, but I will say one thing in her defence: she’s approachable. She doesn’t shy away from the media, she answers questions, she stops to talk and takes photos with guests, even winding down the window of a passing vehicle to wave and chat to media and passersby as she left Sydney airport last week. She may be powerful, but she’s not a total snob.
The Oprah bonanza
At Independent Australia, David Donovan has a detailed critique:
The tour has been declared an enormous success.
In pure marketing terms, it is difficult to disagree.
He reflects on Aussie culture and identity, especially our need to embrace foreign celebrities:
I am left with questions. Like, are we so starved of A-list celebrities in this country that we roll out the red-carpet, wear funny hats and costumes and shout ourselves hoarse no matter which famous person walks through the arrival gates? And, is it really necessary for commercial media to break from regular scheduled programming to cross to a celebrity petting a koala? Also, should our Prime Minister possess enough gravitas to not look for a photo opportunity with every visiting A-list celebrity?
Oprah Winfrey and Australian neediness
We’d never hear the f-word on Oprah’s show but it does happen on Oz TV. Jess McGuire of Defamer attacked local television and radio presenter, Carrie Bickmore, for promoting fast food chain McDonald’s as part of a crash course on Aussie culture. Maccas were apparently a sponsor of the tour:
But the fact that Oprah – via Carrie Bickmore – is telling her viewers that there’s nothing we backwater fucking hicks like more than congregating at McDonalds and supping on McLattes while we act in ways that fit our gender (Men have business meetings! Women just like to talk to each other, probably about Cosmo’s latest article “Ten ways to blow him away in bed!”) is actually so gross and commercial and sad, I find it hard to believe that anyone involved is able to wander the streets without looking absolutely ashamed of themselves.
Oprah’s Version Of Australia Is Our Version Of Hell.
From the ‘profane’ to the religious. At Eureka Street, the website of Jesuit Communications Australia, Susan Biggar links Hugh Jackman’s Sydney Opera House stunt accident and the US Health system. Susan is an American but currently resides permanently in Australia.
If she — friend of President Obama and host of the highest-rated talk show in US history — were to find herself a customer on the doorstep of Australia's excellent and equitable healthcare system, America's best-known mouth might go home peddling a message that could change the foundations of her society.
Oprah and Australia's ‘socialist’ health care
The tired journalistic fallback when trying to fill out a story is to quote a taxi driver. At Cablog, Sydney cabbie Adrian Neylan does his own reporting and posted this exchange with passengers:
My suggestion of tourism returns was smartly batted away. “Bullshit. The American economy is stuffed so there’s not going to be any rush from them.”
Actually, it’s a very good reason why well-heeled citizens would consider a flight to safety.
I joked how the exposure from Oprah will see hordes of wealthy American gays flooding his charming inner-city neighbourhood. He let out a shriek, and the hubby swooned…or that’s what it sounded like from the front seat.
Finally an indigenous woman has sent a video message to Oprah:
…a video prepared for Oprah Winfrey by Chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Bev Manton, …shines a light on the living conditions of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, in particular those living under the NT intervention, an Australian Government program which the United Nations has branded racially discriminatory.
YouTube: A PERSONAL JOURNEY by Bev Manton
Oprah is a huge drawcard. Concerns in the Oz blogosphere about our modern fixation with personalities have been balanced by those who would like to tap into her potential power to improve society.