She has certainly changed the talk show game, fostering a relationship with fans and our culture that transcends that of most every other host that has come and gone during her tenure as the reigning overlord of daytime talk, with the exception of Jerry Springer who is more like the reigning "guy who cleans up after the strippers."
But what will TV look like in this Post-Oprahpolyptic (I'm trademarking that) time of confusion and sadness?
Let's take a look at what some of you are already experiencing: Life without Oprah.
My decision to refer to Oprah as an overlord is not as flippant as you might think. To me Oprah always walked the line between noble benefactor and divisive fear monger. I would never accuse her of not doing buttloads of good with her power and status, but that coin had two sides. An episode about building a school for underprivileged orphan pandas might be followed by a show about the list of things you do before 10AM that are going to kill you within a week, with an appearance by John Travolta in between.
In her absence, there are now millions of viewers staring blankly at television screens around the country, awaiting further instructions that may never come. My own wife is probably asking herself right now, "Oprah's gone? Now how will I know what to be afraid of? Meat? The sun? Dirty hands? Outside? Inside? Anyone with a mustache? My husband has a mustache! Oh no!"
That's why I think Oprah's departure is going to end up being a good thing. Without the queen of daytime stirring the pot-o-insecurity, maybe we'll become a society that's more comfortable with itself.
Oprah was at times guilty of feeding our shallow and paranoid culture with big meaty hunks of gratuitous fear. In a nutshell, Oprah is the reason you have hand sanitizer in a holster on your belt, and without her, we might all have a shot at managing our OCD.
I understand that this was not the way everyone engaged Oprah and her massive media conglomerate. I can only speak from experience, and I could always tell when my wife had been watching Oprah, because my life would change immediately upon walking through the door. "We don't eat meat because Oprah showed them killing a cow." "The kids can't go outside anymore because of rapists." "Shave your mustache, immediately." These sound like the rantings of a crazy person. Nope. Just your typical Oprah fan.
Let's also not forget that Oprah is not "leaving" in the purest sense of the word. It's not as though we'll never hear from her again. She has her own network, which will arguably provide her the opportunity to administer her power more broadly and precisely, if you will forgive my contradiction.
Either way, Oprah leaves behind her trained minions, toiling in the sweat shop of daytime talk. 'Dr. Phil', 'Dr. Oz', and 'Dr. Berkus' (he's a doctor of design, right?) will be around to make us feel wholly insecure about our minds, bodies, and possessions respectively. Oprah didn't get where she is today without knowing how to delegate.
I hope you can read this with an open mind and understand what I'm trying to say. I certainly don't hate Oprah, but I just as certainly dislike the lofty pedestal we put her on. Perhaps her move from in front of the scenes to behind the scenes is an admission of, and a reluctance to carry the burden of power that she was almost powerless to stop. Like Dave Chappelle walking away from his show and the burden of its cultural misinterpretation, maybe Oprah is also looking to de-deify herself and bring us all back down to earth.