Here is my Defense of Oprah and Attack of Dr Phil. Hopefully not too clichéd--I usually think carefully before I'm *In!* or *Out!* for something.
I'm not a die-hard Oprah fan, but I've always had a lot of respect for her. As I mentioned yesterday afternoon, I watched one of her horrible rape episodes. But here's the thing: She handles them sensitively, and even after all these years she had a couple interesting things to say.
1. "Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different." I haven't decided if I agree yet, but I appreciate being given something to think about.
2. She showed a clip from an interview with a man who'd molested his sister (I think it was), and he said: I killed the person she could have become. And Oprah said to the two women on her show, I want you to not be "killed" by this.
I think this does get to the heart of what makes me angry about child abuse (besides the actual pain of the abuse). It takes a child full of possibility and shoves them off the path of their possibilities. I don't think it destroys that path--Joseph Campbell says those "golden seeds" within us never die. But the trek back is very painful, and that road will never be quite the same.
So good on you, Oprah. Still offering value after all these years.
Then there's Doc Phil. Phillio started as a once a week guest on the Oprah show, and my husband and I loved him so much we taped it every week, and watched it together with our finger on the pause button. He gave really good, solid, practical life and marriage advice, and it prompted a lot of great relationship discussions for us. My husband made a rule that Dr Philisms were "allowed" in marital fights.
Then he did this really great special. It was a sort of marriage clinic, where a whole bunch of couples spent time with him for a weekend. Some of the exercises he did were so powerful, and his manner was so gentle and warm--it was Dr Phil at his best. Amazing. This is why I defended him when his show came out and the Dr Phil backlash almost immediately began. You had to see him in the Olden Days.
So we were happy when his show started, and we watched it all the time. Again, we taped it, we talked about it, we learned from it. Cause here's what he did: (a) Most of his topics weren't sensational, they were topics that a large percentage of viewers could relate to; (b) they weren't topics that (in my opinion) it was "dangerous" to "treat" in a TV format. He was giving marriage communication techniques, better ways to talk to children, exercises to get past grief, etc. They were lessons that you could take away and apply in your own life. The advice was practical, I used it all the time, and it's become so integrated into the way I think I don't even know what I learned from him anymore.
Then I think two things happened. 1. He came under a lot of criticism for treating people within an hour long format--he mentions it almost every episode. And he seems to have done two things. One, he has longer series, like Dr Phil House. I can't watch these. They look like tabloid TV to me, trash, not like the series he did on the Oprah show. They're sensationalistic. The other thing he does is that for his one hour topics, he gives NO ADVICE. Nothing. None. If you're lucky enough to be a guest, you will get some sort of after-show care out of it. But watching the show is only a voyeuristic exercise, you will learn nothing.
2. He got full of himself. I think this happens to 99.9% of all people who experience fame, I'm sure if would happen to me. The key is how fast it takes you to get over it. Metallica's ex-bass player Jason Newsted, this lovely humble guy, went through it in about one week? At most a year? He had one experience where a club wouldn't let him in, and he said "Do you know who I am?" And he HEARD himself, and thought "OMG I'm a DICK!" And that was it. He got over it.
I've seen no signs of Dr Phil getting over himself. It definitely started when he came out with a line of supplements, which were very sketchy. That's when he totally lost me. He started this weight loss program, oookaaaay, fine, but accompanied it with all this money-grabbing bullshit. Oh buddy. I couldn't make excuses for him anymore, I was out.
Before then, I'd bought and got value out of some of his books. Relationship Rescue is very good, it's practical; and I highly recommend Self Matters, it's great. But then came his wife's books, his son's books, and the books to accompany the books, and the pocket calorie counters, and the journals, and and and. Blech. I know that making yourself into one massive brand is the way to make money, but how much is enough? Where do you draw the line? When are you adding value, and when are you fleecing the public?
I hope Dr Phil comes back one day--I guess we'll see what he's like on the Oprah network.