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A Million Little Kinds of the Truth Maybe Kinda

Posted by Robyn / January 26, 2006

I just caught the last 25 minutes of today's Oprah show, but saw that A Million Little Pieces author James Frey at least had his tail between his legs, appeared defeated (I suppose some might have thought he would be cocky about it?) - it could've been acting, sure, but, hm, I don't know why he would at this point.

The final sentiment, of him figuring out what the real truths are and "learning something," seemed a decent conclusion to come to - laying blame (on drugs, money, publishers, etc.), a game without an end in this case, I think, wasn't the point. And this also upheld the Oprah name and all it stands for, e.g., she was pissed but it's better for the psyche to forgive, understand/learn, move on ("I made a mistake," says Frey. "Maybe this is the beginning of another kind of truth to you?" Oprah urges later). However, underneath it all is the purpose of the show, why it got a whole hour of Oprah: people can feel betrayed by Frey, even betrayed by the publishers, but they should not feel betrayed by Oprah. Fair enough.

And I can see how people felt betrayed by Frey, reading his book as truth, trusting him, but hell, HE WAS A DRUG ADDICT. But maybe it's not common knowledge that drug addicts are (or become) incredible liars - and in living that way lose the ability to differentiate between truth and lies - that is, this differentiation doesn't matter, the reason to lie justifies the lie. Only the end result (drugs/getting high) matters. This also applies to chronic liars, who could be anyone, anywhere. I didn't read the book (I read several pages and just didn't like the writing style), but I figured when I first heard about it (before Oprah endorsement) that a) it'd be full of exaggeration, and b) people would eat it up. Worse things have been done in the name of making money, holy crap. At least this time, the person in question was called on it publicly.

Lying is bad, the show concludes - the truth matters. Oh, you can make up a story, but tell us it's a story before we buy into it. Okay... I think we kind of expect to be lied to these days, with this political and media climate. Yet we still love the "truth" - reality tv, investigative reporting, crime lab forensics, discovering the terrorist who's infiltrated the group, etc. Many people live in constant suspicion - and that's draining. So when we're given stories such as this, which are said to be true (and backed up by Oprah!), we almost want to believe in those MORE because we're believing in everything else LESS.

In letting our guard down, we invite emotional intimacy - in doing that we could be subject to emotional manipulation as well. Sometimes we get hurt. Ohgod, and we don't wanna get hurt. The crazy fascinating thing is how this fits into current issues of personal and national safety and fear. These small incidents, especially when they get so much press, show us there's always something bigger going on, more dots to connect, more, well, pieces to put into place.



asmaa / February 1, 2006 at 11:32 am
oprah has been really starting freak me out in a big way. it's amazing the kind of sway she has ... i just read a journal article about the new academic field of "<a href="http://insidehighered.com/views/2006/02/01/mclemee";>oprah studies</a>." there have been four books and numerous essays written on her and the prevailing theory seems to cast her as some kind of "narrative authority." it's quite fascinating ... and scary.
rrrobyn / February 1, 2006 at 04:48 pm
Yeah, it's pretty astounding, Oprah's power. I think it says something that even though so many people are calling for her to be in politics (and the US presidency), she's adamant about not getting involved in that. She knows where her power resides - and that it probably goes further, if in different ways, than it would in politics.

I actually really like Oprah for her belief in educating people, emotionally and intellectually. But the argument that she's a "narrative authority" is worrying. I don't think she'd call herself that, but it's obvious that so many fans "believe" in her - a kind of Mother Theresa of emotional rescue, perhaps. e.g., today she's talking about childhood molestation - this wasn't talked about, especially on internationally-seen tv, in these heartfelt ways, before Oprah. Her way of dealing with such issues goes beyond "empowerment" to actual validitation (and hence her huge concern with "truth").

Anyway, I think she/her empire does deserve this academic attention - any powerful body should be carefully scrutinized. And we know what they say about power and corruption... Yes, totally fascinating.
rrrobyn / February 1, 2006 at 05:02 pm
Of course, then Oprah goes and does things like give the whole audience brand-name croissants plus cupcakes that "Barbra" sent her. wtf? Yeah, I get bothered - it's the fine line here (media-education-wise) btwn choosing for yourself and having someone choose "correctly" for you, with your "best interest" in mind. hrm.
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