Oprah Winfrey is an icon in many ways -- her style, her positivity, her constant drive to better herself -- and now a Yale professor is saying that her influence is so overarching, so great, in fact, that she is a religion. Holy Oprah!
Yale professor Kathryn Lofton writes in her new book, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon, that she has watched nearly every episode of her show from the last 12 years. She says the talk show queen has managed to become a religious icon by using the same techniques a preacher might. According to the New York Post, Lofton says:
Gospel is a word that means 'good news,' Oprah says that the good news is 'you.'
Well, then. It certainly is true that people worship her. They believe everything she says and hang on her every word. But religion? Really?
After spending time reading 1,560 show transcripts, 105 issues of O magazine, 17 issues of O at Home, 68 Book Club selections, and 52 Spirit Newsletters, Lofton says there was a moment in 1994 when Oprah went from simple talk-show host to religious icon.
The time has come for this genre of talk shows to move on from dysfunctional whining and complaining and blaming. I have had enough of people's dysfunction.
Suddenly her show was focusing on positive transformations and on encouraging you to be the best 'you' you can be. Lofton says Oprah uses the same speech cadence as a southern preacher and her show follows a sermon-like structure even while tackling subjects as silly as UGG boots.
The message of her shows became what Lofton calls a consistent gospel, The Gospel of You.
Dr. Lofton may just be on to something with this, too. My own relationship with Oprah is love/hate. I love HER. I love who she is and what she represents. I think she is genuine and means the things she says. But I often don't like her followers. There is a cult-like obsession, a near deity worship of the talk show queen that seems almost unhealthy.
She tells them what to read, how to think, who to like. She has launched the careers of Rachael Ray, Dr. Phil, and Dr. Oz all because Oprah gave them her blessing. In her inner circle, you're indeed blessed, but is it healthy?
Anything and everything she says is RIGHT according to these people. I believe that Oprah changes lives and I believe that she changed her own, but her power is a bit unnerving. For many, she truly is a god-like figure, but I wonder how many of those people have found their own center. Is it the Cult of YOU or the Cult of HER?
Do you worship Oprah?
Image via Alan Light/Flickr