Oprah's Recent India Episode Not an "Aha!" Moment

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

For nearly 30 years, Oprah Winfrey has been one of the most influential voices in American culture, overseeing a multi-billion dollar empire that includes publishing, radio, movies, and television. But this past weekend, millions of viewers in India believe they witnessed Oprah at her worst.

Two episodes of Winfrey's OWN series “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” aired over the weekend in India and created an explosion of criticism. Critics say that the episodes reinforced stereotypes of India, complete with arranged marriages, Bollywood glamour, and Slumdog Millionaire-like tales. Has Oprah alienated the largest democracy in the world with her depiction of their nation?

Deepak Kashyap is a psychologist in India who regularly appears on the BBC to talk about Indian culture and life. She thinks that Oprah acted poorly when she expressed surprise when she saw Indians eating with their hands. 

"Somebody of Oprah's money and resources [should have] researched it enough to not have been that surprised," Kashyap says. "And the way the surprise was shown was as unappreciable as a general flaunting of conventional mannerisms as a guest in someone's house. You don't go to someone's house and make them feel inadequate, and then ask them [if they're] happy living in this small house." 

"I'm willing to grant her the benefit of the doubt by saying that her intention wasn't to insult anyone, but that's what ended up happening anyway. 

Robert Kolker is a writer for New York Magazine who has written about Oprah Winfrey in depth. He says that Oprah has been regarded as being out of touch for years, but there are also concerns about Oprah Winfrey Network, which Kolker thinks is Oprah's next step towards retirement. 

"I think what happened in India might be a result of her being slightly out of touch, but it's also a result of her winging it in terms of her working life," he says. "She thought, 'I'll go to India because I'm interested in India and we'll put a show around it,' but perhaps it was a little light on the research." 


Deepak Kashyap and Robert Kolker

Produced by:

Robert Balint and Kristen Meinzer

Comments [11]

The staff writer for the new york times that was on the show this am speaking of the horrific massacare in coloroda should do his research on guns. None, zero of the guns used was an automatic weapon as he reported.
Personally i have said for years that the shooters name should stricken from the media reports. I believe some of these cowards , want to bask in the media reporters ports, hearing and seeing their name.
And lets not forget that any mass murderer will become infamous. I remember many of the names of the grisly serial killers the clown guy, the guy who used a fake arm cast to get women to help him, as opposed to the shooters recently such as the Columbine, Virginia Teck, whose names i do not remember.

Jul. 25 2012 09:09 AM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

One last thing about Oprah. She knows her audience...

I'm certain she has dipped nan in a curry sauce before. So, I think she was playing dumb for her audience at home, who can be really dumb about the ways of other parts of the world.

She was not right to do that, but I'll never believe that she never ate Indian bread dipped in sauce. She is too much of a foodie

Jul. 25 2012 12:57 AM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Oprah will take over India.
Everybody will start eating in a Martha Stewart kind of way in India. It will be like the Seinfeld episode where people start eating candy bars with a fork and knife.

She is going to gentrify India. New York Real estate brokers will start renting out those small homes to Hipsters from Williamsburg who are going to India to become Swami's.

Don't worry about Oprah

Jul. 24 2012 09:21 PM
C. Wilson

I listened to the BBC report about Oprah's visit on the radio while out and about with my kids. I had heard vague accounts of the visit and wanted more details. I turned up the radio and asked the kids (8 and 12)to listen as well. My children learned a great deal about manners in this story. One can speak to whether or not Oprah had not researched India, but in the end one does not go into someone's home and speak down to their family about the way they live. Most people forgive a guest not knowing how to eat a foreign food-- there is an awkward moment, maybe a laugh, everyone tucks in and enjoys. No one forgives insulting the way one's host eats, much less their house size and their income. This is, in any culture, rude.

Jul. 24 2012 04:09 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

why would anyone who witnessed what passed as "programming" in oprah's last years be surprised? on the whole, it was simple, unabashed product placement, and further campaigning on her part to convince women that their lives would be their "best ever" if they'd only use this cosmetic or read that book. anyone with a modicum of business experience knows that all marketing messages have their wearout point. when this shill source danes reveal something of cultural significance without doing its homework (or worse: assumes its audience doesn't know better), the audience moves on, quickly.

net, oprah's offering today doesn't resemble the program that put her on the map for many. in time, she certainly amassed a significant following, but a percentage of thatl cohort has moved on, and in some cases, has died. she's done nothing to bring new viewers to her brand, because the offering really hasn't moved on from where it left off on network television--it merely changed address.

oprah: this ship has sailed.

Jul. 24 2012 03:58 PM
Lff User from CA

Unfortunately, its African-American at its best in terms of knowledge, education, and general understanding of the world. Too bad she is their emotional leader- this is the best they learn from.

Jul. 24 2012 03:54 PM

This is Oprah at her worst. Either coming off as exceedingly ignorant, or exceedingly "better than thou". Ugly and stupid. And the most unfortunate part is that millions of her "middle America" followers now know *nothing more* about the real India than they did before; but, they *think* they do.

Jul. 24 2012 02:07 PM

At this stage Oprah is just rich and famous and that's about it. I have low expectations of what she has to offer. I wish her well.

Jul. 24 2012 09:48 AM

So now that Oprrah does not like Obama anymore the media is now trying to dismiss her?

Jul. 24 2012 09:41 AM
Rick Evans from 10473

Some Indian people eat with their hands??? Oh, Oprah? When was the last time you ate a burger, sub, sandwich? It's official. You have way, way, WAY more money than brains.

Jul. 24 2012 09:36 AM
Trey from Detroit

We all know that the Big Ten school in Columbus Ohio is the worst northern example of a football program running the institution, so now let's go for accountability at the place where the college President said he hoped the football coach wouldn't fire *him*!!

Jul. 24 2012 09:32 AM

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