The last episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show will air this afternoon, and the advance marketing--referring to the juggernaut series finales of M*A*S*H, Cheers, and Johnny Carson's Tonight Show--is already asking, "Where will you be?"
In keeping with most of her 25-year run, I won't be home to watch it. I'll probably be playing Monster Tag on the playground with TwoBert while Robert's at track practice. But that doesn't mean I'm not in awe of all that she's achieved.
Over the years, The Opremacy has suffered its share of blowback. We've sniggered about how she gave away all those cars. (But dude: She GAVE AWAY ALL THOSE CARS.) We've dismissed her has an evangelist for silly, bored housewives. And most of this derision has come from men, most of whom feel threatened by the wave of Woman Power that Oprah has engendered.
Sadly, her influence on men has been terribly understated. As evidence, take a look at this video celebrating the 467 men she's put through Morehouse College. (If you don't sob even a little, your veins are full of creosote.) Or read this piece (excerpted below) about why men cheat on their wives:
I think that, to a large degree, men are trained to fill roles and move through life unconsciously. Our society makes jokes about "sensitive" men. And it's that willingness to poke fun at real feelings that breeds machismo.
As the men opened up about their marital transgressions, I was able to see each of them as a young boy hungering to be heard. It's hard to feel compassion when you're the one who's been lied to and deceived. But the conversation reaffirmed what I know for sure: There's always room to grow when you lead with the truth.
There is a theory that men don't learn to acknowledge their emotions from other men because most teachers and therapists (and mothers) are women. And we learn that emotional authenticity is something The Other has, that we learn From Them. Could a man affect all of us the way Oprah has? At least without reading from a Bible and asking for money?
We men could use one, because our male hegemony, however powerful it is now, is decaying at its roots. Boys are dropping out of school, going to jail, and killing themselves at escalating rates. And I think this is happening because boys are not learning from men how to figure out what manhood is.
Anyway, short of watching the Last Show, I'm jumping into this Flickr thing that Maggie started. Whatever you think of Oprah, she's helped a lot of women (and some men) invest in their emotions and face down their fears, and the dividends are clearly paying off.