Oprah Winfrey and the creation of “Oprahfication”
When Oprah Winfrey began hosting her self-named television chat show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1986, little did the world realize that a wave of Oprahfication was about to influence the manner in which people discussed their issues; and actually managed to resolve them by doing so. Oprahfication, named after Winfrey’s style of confession-therapy, refers to televised, public disclosures of issues previously not discussed, and the subsequent highlighting of coping methods and strategies which can be implemented in order to alleviate the said issue. Despite there being other television chat shows in existence, notably, “The Phil Donahue Show”, Oprah’s unique style of bringing out the sensitive, vulnerable side in her guests is what caught on to the audience and kept them riveted to their seats while she questioned, reacted, laughed, and even broke down in hysterical sobs along with them. A considerable chunk of her hosting style does appear to have links with her own troubled past, which is riddled with painful memories of rape, incest, childhood pregnancy and the unfortunate death of the infant son she gave birth to at the tender age of 14. In 1986, she publicly disclosed information about her own struggle to deal with childhood sexual abuse in an episode of her show; a move which resonated with audiences worldwide and won her the empathy of millions. Her own ability to lose the usually stolid composure maintained by other television show hosts, made her more human and relateable than the others in her line. Always armed with relevant, “burning” questions, and fearlessness when confronted with the same, she maintained composure throughout, even during an episode where white supremacist members of the infamous, outlawed Klu Klux Khan or KKK, spoke openly about the violence they enjoyed inflicting on people of colour. Her honesty juxtaposed with her own willingness to humanize herself by discussing her personal struggles, greatly enhanced the success of the Oprahfication style of therapeutic talk show journalism. Well-known personalities such as Michael Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Whitney Houston have poured their hearts out to her about the controversies surrounding their lives, while media moguls like Tyler Perry have even spoken publicly about childhood sexual abuse, and have encouraged others to come forward and take the first step towards healing from their trauma by talking about it. One of the final episodes of the show is testimony to the impact that this style of therapy has had; in a rare televised moment on the show, 200 men of varying ages from all over the United States stood up from the audience and stated that they had been sexually abused as children, thereby contributing to the awareness movement on the issue, with special emphasis on the fact that boys are equally vulnerable to abuse. The success of Oprahfication currently permeates both the world of television as well as the real world. Spin-offs of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” follow the now-common method of intimate interviews and audience participation rich “group therapy sessions”, as they are known. Oprah herself has encouraged motivational figures such as Dr.Phil McGraw to host shows on her self-named network, “OWN”, and continues to host similar shows on it where she motivates, encourages and inspires countless others to open their hearts, let go of their pain and move forward towards brighter futures. She has been quoted as saying, “Success is putting the past behind you, no matter how terrible”, and indeed, the success of the Oprahfication process of cleansing and bidding goodbye to the past has worked, not only for her, but for the some of the millions worldwide who are inspired and encouraged by her brutally honest, humane approach to life’s many challenges. That's Oprah Winfrey, for you.