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Is Oprah a religious icon?

No, seriously, I’m actually asking this. I can’t believe that I am actually asking this, but I am, because according to the New York Post, a Yale professor who has studied almost every episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show show from the last 12 years says the enormous success of the talk show queen is down to one thing and one thing only; “she has transformed herself into the equivalent of a religious icon.”

Yale religion professor Kathryn Lofton writes in her new book, “Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon”;

“By using the techniques of a preacher, Oprah has been able to create a new “gospel” that goes beyond just being a simple daytime TV show.. Gospel is a word that means ‘good news,’ Oprah says that the good news is ‘you.’”

Thus, the professor is arguing that “Oprah” is effectively a religion icon. No, I’m not kidding.

Lofton isn’t arguing that Oprah’s followers admire her as a sort of god, (which, judging by the way some of her audience members act, is probably very true), instead she is arguing that Oprah herself gets her message across, by using the language and trappings of traditional religion. The New York Post note that; “a mix of southern preacher’s rhythmic speech patterns with a sermon-like structure for each show, [meant that] Oprah could tackle subjects ranging from spousal abuse to the best pair of Ugg boots.”

Lofton believes she can pinpoint the moment Oprah went from being a successful talk-show host to a religious icon in 1994. At that time Oprah said;

“The time has come for this genre of talk shows to move on from dysfunctional whining and complaining and blaming… I have had enough of people’s dysfunction.”

Lofon argues that this “spiritual revelation” was converted into a “corporate makeover” with her show becoming “Change Your Life TV.” Lofton told the Post;

“As a part of this new look and focus for the show, she began to develop her brand, including, eventually, the book club, the magazine, the Web site, and her Angel Network.”

Lofton argues that the message of Oprah’s shows became “a consistent gospel, The Gospel of You” She argues that her shows were geared toward the discovery of yourself as the source for change; in yourself and in the world. She says; “Oprah says, first, you don’t have to be perfect; and second, she gives endless advice so you might try to be [perfect].”

It is these elements which (at least in the professors mind) provide the successful formula for her religion. She says; “the double whammy of being forgiven for your shortcomings and simultaneously being shown what you ought to be doing; reading books, giving to charity, etc,  is the secret of Oprah’s success”

Yeah, I don’t get it either.