Wednesday, April 23, 2008/lk
Women scare me. It's not that I think they're going to hurt me, just that I'm afraid if I turn my back on them for too long they're going to demand Oprah Winfrey put her name on something else.
You might think that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I was sick for three days a few months ago and while I was napping, Discovery Health announced that it was changing its name to the "Oprah Winfrey Network." Forget that Oprah already has a TV show, a TV channel (Oxygen), a satellite radio station and countless network specials, her name means so much that it goes on properties for which she has no time to actually do any work.
Though women don't seem that different from men (other than in some pleasant physical ways) the ladies clearly think differently from those of us in the rougher sex. It would never occur to men to adore a fairly tepid talk show host prone to unnecessary fits of hysteria, but women not only love Oprah, they love anything associated with Oprah.
Now before all of the women on Earth lash out at me about the foolish things men like, let me admit that we love a lot of ridiculous stuff. My bookshelf contains hundreds of "Star Wars" books, I'm obsessed with my fantasy football team and I know more than a few guys who own dozens of fishing lures. Still, I'm hard-pressed to find a male passion as illogical as the love so many women seem to have for Oprah.
Certainly Oprah has some appeal in that she struggles with issues like weight and love like regular people, but she hardly seems honest about either of those issues. Aside from not being stick-thin and having a tough time in relationships, Oprah appears entirely unremarkable. She's not funny, has no special talent as an interviewer and her talk show moves at a sleepy pace.
As a man, I remain perplexed as to Oprah's popularity and am confused as to why the women in her audience scream with joy at everything she says. As far as I can tell, she conducts mild, non-probing interviews and has all the same self-help segments every other talk show has.
Still, no matter how much Oprah Winfrey America has there seems to be an insatiable demand for more. In addition to her TV show and the aforementioned two television channels along with her radio station, Oprah lends her name to a magazine, a book club, an ABC reality show and a series of weepy television movies. She also owns Dr. Phil's show as well as Rachael Ray's and I wouldn't be at all surprised if she has a breakfast cereal in the works.
It doesn't matter how much involvement she actually has in any of these ventures, people always seem to want to give her more money to add another one. Oprah appears on her Sirius radio station for half an hour a week for which she gets paid in the neighborhood of $30 million over five years.
Oprah likes to put her name on products almost as much as Donald Trump. Unlike Trump, however, she's not content to simply be a star, she has to make everyone in her world a star. Simply being Oprah's friend can make you famous and while nobody knows exactly what Gayle King might be good at, she's rich just for knowing Oprah.
Like tweezing off your eyebrows and then drawing them back in, Oprah remains a purely female phenomenon. Even the most ridiculous spectacles that men like...say professional wrestling and monster truck rallies...boast a few female fans, but I have yet to meet a man who tapes Oprah's show so he can watch it with his buddies after work.
Daniel B. Kline's work appears in over 100 papers weekly. His new book, a collection of columns, Easy Answers to Every Problem, can be ordered at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. Daniel B. Kline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.