I never cared much for Oprah. Yep I said it, Me and The Big O went together like Lindsay Lohan and sobriety. It was nothing personal, I just didn't get her, plus I had Rosie O'donnell to fill my "good" talk show quotient. All the older people that I talked to, just adored her. Everytime one of them brought her name up I had to stop my eyes from rolling.
Something happened last week though. During her final premier week, instead of grabbing the remote when General Hospital ended, I left Oprah on. While I don't remember much of the shows, one really stood out to me and effected me greatly.She returned to Williamson, West Virginia 23 years after her first visit to see how the town had changed.
A little back story. Michael Sisco was a gay man back in the 80's just as AIDS was just starting to spread. One hot day, he and his sisters decided to take a dip in the public pool. After Mike jumped in, the pool was closed as a precaution, while to many modern people this sounds really ignorant, keep in mind that this was the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and many didn't understand how AIDS was transmitted.
Enter Oprah, she brought her show to the town. It was her hope that she would be able to educate people on the topic. The show however turned into a town hall meeting with many of the residents blasting Michael, one went as far as to say that being gay and AIDS was "repulsive"
During her return to Williamson, she talked with Michaels family, some had used aliases during the first show. This time they all talked freely about their brother and what he meant to them. When she brought the man who had previously called their brother repulsive, the tension in the air was thick. Finally the man admitted that he wished he hadn't said what he said, he just got caught up in the "mob mentality."
Here lies the power of Oprah. 23 years after the events and with all the knowledge that we have about AIDS now the program was still engaging. What could have been just a follow up, turned into a moving tribute to a very brave man. The credit has to go to the host for that, it would have been an easy choice and a guaranteed ratings bonanza either way, but Oprah decided to go with class and dignity.
While I still roll my eyes at O from time to time, I find myself being more objective with her. Maybe I will never be an 'ultimate' Oprah fan but at least I can watch some episodes with fresh eyes.