(Special to The Root) — Oprah Winfrey has hit a new low. In an effort to garner ratings for her fledgling OWN network, the self-made billionaire and queen of multimedia platforms is going to interview the Kardashian clan on her Oprah's Next Chapter program, as if they're the Waltons.
We're talking about a group of people who have created nothing and have contributed nothing to the betterment of society or mankind. According to Winfrey, the purpose of OWN was to "create messages that fill you up and bring you to new levels of awareness about yourself, ourselves, and our world; our potential … "
So, um, how exactly does a two-hour interview with the Kardashian clan fit into that paradigm?
Two years ago, when OWN launched, I wrote on The Root that I was disappointed in the programming the network was offering. Now, not only am I disappointed, but I am literally sickened by this news. We have a saying in the black community: "When you know better, you do better."
By her actions, Winfrey is showing everyone who ever trusted her taste and admired her accomplishments that she has lost her moral compass and will do anything to gain ratings.
At this point, Winfrey might as well come out and say she favors the legalization of pornography and prostitution. Lest anyone forget: Kim Kardashian's fame is rooted in her notoriety.
She made a sex tape with R&B singer William "Ray J" Norwood, unintended for the public, in 2007. But as is often the case in these types of scenarios, the tape was leaked and went viral on the Internet. Vivid Entertainment, a porn distributor, purchased it from an unknown third party, but the matter was eventually settled in a California Superior Court in Los Angeles, with Kardashian receiving a share of the profits as compensation for invasion of her privacy.
Now Oprah, in a desperate attempt to keep her network from sinking, has drunk the Kool-Aid and decided to turn a trick, too. Why Winfrey would put her reputation, brand and a lifetime of credibility on the line for a possible — not probable — brief bump in ratings is mind-boggling. News of this impending interview makes me feel as though the American public has been duped.
During the late 1990s, each talk show was trying to be more salacious and lascivious than the next. For a while, Winfrey got caught up in the noise, all in the name of ratings. But she took a breath, stepped back and renewed her commitment to being an example of how powerfully entertaining, informative, even educational, television can be when it's produced by talented, creative people who truly understand the potency, value and reach of the medium.
This is the woman who re-engaged Americans in reading, who touted the value of teachers and education and who was a living Horatio Algier story. A woman whom I used to admire and in whose footsteps I once wanted to follow.
This same woman just last year proclaimed on Facebook, "The world is a mess … It's depressing and overwhelming at times to look at how much potential we have and yet we're constantly bombarded by images and information that speaks to the lowest common denominator. We can do better. We can be better. I know it's true."
My only question now to Ms. Winfrey is, "What has happened to change your mind?"
Jennifer E. Mabry holds a doctorate in communications from the University of Maryland, College Park and is a cultural anthropologist of race, gender and popular culture. She is an occasional contributor to The Root.
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