There's a great scene near the end of The Godfather, right after the baptism, when Michael Corleone and his henchmen return to the house to confront an unsuspecting Carlo—Michael's brother-in-law and the father of the baby for which Michael has just stood as godfather—over Carlo's role in facilitating the hit on Michael's brother Sonny.* (The machine-gun massacre at the toll booths, considered graphic for the era, is part of the iconography of American film, along with the baptism/assassinations juxtaposition, Michael's jittery revenge killings in the restaurant and, of course, the horse's head.) Using Sonny's given name, and speaking with the understated menace that was the hallmark of Pacino's portrayal, Michael walks in and says, simply and directly, "You have to answer for Santino, Carlo." You know the confrontation is coming, but the scene is so masterfully done—and the transformation on Carlo's face is so complete as he realizes what's taking place—that it wouldn't matter if you'd memorized the script in advance. It's still riveting. It's still riveting to me today, and I've seen it 400 times.
That scene came to mind as I sat there yesterday watching Oprah. It occurred to me: I don't think we should let her off the hook for her role in facilitating the massacre of the American economy. If we can't actually send Michael Corleone (or at least Al Pacino) over for a visit, we should summon Oprah to Washington and call her to account for her actions.
Seriously. Her show yesterday, which ran in my time zone just as the stock market was slouching to its lowest close in roughly a dozen years, was all about how to cut back, how to survive the economic disaster, how to make practical, realistic decisions that are appropriate to this new world of hurt we live in. And as I'm listening, I'm thinking: the nerve of this woman! Monday's low-key, conciliatory tone was quite a departure from the Just-Trust-In-The-Universe-Because-The-Universe-Is-Your-Friend! b.s. she's been spewing (and peddling) relentlessly for a decade, aided and abetted by a parade of elite SHAM schlockmeisters like Marianne Williamson, Rhonda Byrne and Eckhart Tolle. (By the way, you'll notice that Tolle doesn't seem to be getting quite the press anymore since a fair number of us realized that "living in the Now" helped get us into this mess, huh?) Indeed, on February 7, 2007, in her teaser for the next day's show—the one in which Oprah would introduce Byrne and several of the other clowns from The Secret to America, thereby touching off arguably the most intense self-help craze in history—she tantalized her viewing audience thusly: "It's the secret to creating the life you truly want. Make more money, lose weight, fall in love, land your dream job..."
Here, then, is the substance of what we might call our "indictment":
- If there's any one American responsible for disseminating the message that we live in a friendly Universe that is just waiting to reward us, it is Oprah.
- If there's any one American responsible for disseminating the message that your mere sense of personal empowerment will lead to success, it is Oprah.
- If there's any one American responsible for disseminating the message that the answer to all of life's mysteries resides within you, and that you are entitled to have your needs met, it is Oprah.
- If there's any one American responsible for undercutting the traditional values by which one achieves greatness—hard work, true brainpower**, self-sacrifice, etc.—it is Oprah.
Or ponder this one question alone: Why save for a rainy day if you're convinced that positive thinking will supply the umbrella?
Look...I know that there's really nothing we can do about Oprah Winfrey and her empty, fraudulent promises. I would just suggest to her that next time, instead of coming out and apologizing for your inability to conquer your weight problem, show a little contrition over the wider damage you've done by making millions and millions of Americans who trusted you think it's all about empowerment and belief and taking the leap.
Then go take a flying leap of your own.
By the way, browsing AOL this morning as part of my daily immersion in pop culture, I noticed that its feature on "10 Movies to See Before You Die" included not only such expected choices as The Godfather and Citizen Kane, but also AOL "member favorites" like The Notebook and Mamma Mia! OK, I realize that movies are about entertainment and thus movie preferences basically come down to who's entertained by what, which is a highly subjective matter...but...Mamma Mia? Really?? Yikes.
* Nice family, huh?
** i.e. as opposed to all this "positive thinking"/"vision board" nonsense.