Wednesday, July 24, 2024
News, analysis and commentary by UBC Journalism students

Oprah: our mother of marketing

This, my second blog ever, may be my last because it could number my days. But I figure that if…

By Amy Hadley , in Blogs , on January 22, 2008

This, my second blog ever, may be my last because it could number my days.

But I figure that if I go into hiding for a few weeks things will cool off. Then I’ll get a new security system and maybe a new nose (bonus).

It will have been worth it to take an online dig at North America’s favourite queen of consumerism: the O-ster.

Oh geez, I swear I just felt a blast of reader wrath hot enough to singe my eyebrows, and all I’ve done so far is call Oprah the O-ster. I take that part back.

As I was saying: Oprah. One can’t deny the woman credit for philanthropic efforts, for her success despite personal obstacles. One certainly can’t deny that she is phenomenally good at what she does.

Plus, her fiction recommendations are excellent (The Secret was comedic genius).

With her vast line of products, and her ability to play pied piper to multitudes, the richest woman in entertainment holds immense power through the sheer scope of her influence. Oprah defies divisions of age, income and race in her appeal to women, and she uses that power to do some good things.

What I can’t stomach is the almost reverential attitude she takes towards certain products or even certain people, and imparts to her adoring fans.

Okay, so people are adults, they can make their own decisions about who and what they like, thank you very much.

That argument might have won me over, until I accidentally saw an episode featuring American Girl Dolls. In the episode a group of “collectors” that look to be eight or nine years old surround Oprah on stage as a representative of the doll company reveals the new doll “Mia.”

This short clip from the program doesn’t extend to Oprah’s announcement that every girl (the gender stereotyping is another issue altogether) will receive a doll herself, but that’s where things start to get a little scary.

As if on cue, the children break into a full-fledged shriek-fest. Eyes dart back and forth confusedly, and screams weaken and then resurface in manner that says: “can we stop now?”

I gather that this is okay because the dolls come with books, and espouse a ubiquitous soda pop, can-do attitude.

The girl’s reaction is a forced mockery of the scene their mother’s make in the audience, whipped into a frenzy over a free blender or a new skin cream.

The girls look about as natural as the dolls. But don’t worry, they’ll learn with time.