Review Of Ruthless: A Tell-All Book, by Keifer Bonvillain
Copyright © by
Jessica Schneider, 8/12/08
If you are laughing upon sight of this review, I can say that I join you in your laughing. I’m going to be upfront and say that I’m no fan of Oprah Winfrey for many reasons. Yet, one would think that I’d be giving this trashy anti-Oprah book positive reviews then, right? First, a bit of background.
Keifer Bonvillain worked as an office manager at Harpo Studios when he decided to tape record Oprah and then write a tell all book about it. I’m not going into the details as to what prompted him, since that’s not really that important, and if you really want to know you can buy the book yourself. But chances are after reading my review you won’t bother. The problem resides in so many discrepancies and so many he said she said gossip that one can only take this account as seriously as one does the National Enquirer. Much of the information the author provides, for example, is told second hand though a guy named “Todd”. Some of the “juicy” tidbits revealed are as follows: Oprah is a racist, a lesbian, a liar, a greedy wench, and while all or none of this may be true, even if it were true, it’s not like one can trust that the author is telling the truth.
Just to give an example, he spends a good deal of time discussing the many ways in which Oprah is a racist, specifically how she chooses to discriminate against black males, either by portraying them as violent “wife beaters” in the films she’s been involved in, or having hardly any black men on her staff, to very little black male authors in her book club. In the film Their Eyes Were Watching God, for example, the actor who played Tea Cake was actually a light skinned black male, rather than the dark-skinned man Hurston describes in her novel. The author then believes this to be another piece of proof in the Oprah racist puzzle. Of course, any Oprah fan could undermine his claim by the mere mention that Oprah endorsed Barack Obama for President. In fact, there were many places online that were calling Oprah a racist, yet in the other direction—simply because she backed up Obama because he was black. So which is it?
So now onto the book club. I have no problem criticizing Oprah’s mawkish, dumbed down book club selections, but if one is going to do so, one also has to have his facts straight. Bonvillain provides a list of the author names Oprah’s chosen for her club, and has divided the authors up between male and female and also into races. He lists Carson McCullers, the author of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, as a male author, when just a simple Google search could have fixed that problem. Also, his complaint isn’t that the many books she chooses are equivalent to the Beavis and Butthead of literature (many are, not all) but that she doesn’t choose enough black people.
Also, did you know that Oprah and Gayle King are lesbians? How does he know, you are wondering? Here’s what he says:
“Gay partners enjoy traveling together. Oprah and Gayle have seen the world through each other’s eyes.”
“Gay couples enjoy fine dinning [sic]. Oprah and Gayle have dinned [sic] at some of the finest restaurants in the world.”
“Gay couples enjoy going to events and parties together. Oprah and Gayle have been photographed thousands of times at events and parties.”
“Gay couples enjoy planning things together. Oprah and Gayle have planned balls, parties, charity events, trips, shows, and much more.”
Are you laughing yet? Ok, even if this were real and true “evidence”, what does that matter? I can’t stand Oprah for her phoniness, her materialism, and her New Age psychobabble, yet even if she was a “lesbian” that isn’t anyone’s business, and frankly I don’t care. And neither should you.
The book then has over a hundred pages of typed transcripts, all with hyperbolic headings like, “Oprah’s Attorney has called and he is scared!”
For as much as the author wished to “expose” Oprah as the phony and liar she is, he certainly didn’t succeed with this book. Yet he does mention the point about when Oprah and Gayle went on their cross-country trip together and “crashed” two weddings and then later aired them on her show. The book claims they had crashed four weddings—yet two of them had asked the pair to leave. This little point was left out when the show aired. Yes, Oprah is a megalomaniac who believes she can “crash” anyone’s wedding and will thereby be welcome simply because she’s a rich celebrity. This selfish feeling of entitlement is something that her fans continually overlook.
It is impossible to take this book seriously, and it only succeeds in backfiring, giving Oprah fans more ammo in her defense. I would invite anyone to actually write a serious anti Oprah book that discusses the hypocrisy she represents, from her silly endorsement of “The Secret” to the spoiled brat author Elizabeth Gilbert and her childish “advice” in Eat, Pray, Love, to Oprah’s endless preaching and fluffy interviewing style, to the “promotion” of Hallmark Card doggerelist Maya Angelou. (I was sickened when I happened to see when she had Sting on her show a few years back to discuss his memoir, and instead of asking the musician serious questions about his career, she asked what he and his wife did in bed together—had this been a man asking this of a woman, you can bet there’d be complaints, but coming from a woman it’s okay).
A while back I looked up an old Donahue episode on You Tube, where Ayn Rand was a guest. Say what you want about Rand’s belief system, Donahue actually challenged her, and it was an intelligent discussion. Imagine daytime television actually discussing Aristotle and Objectivism. We don’t get that anymore. We get Dr. Phil (and you know who you have to thank for that).
And yes, I know she has donated much of her money to various charities, as do many rich celebrities (it helps when tax time comes along and it also gives her more padding in her defense). But this doesn’t exempt her from criticism. Yet, if one is going to criticize, one has to at least not resort to tabloid trash gossip (because then one is just lowering one’s self to her level, i.e. remember the pregnant man?)
Anyway, so don’t bother with Oprah, or this book—that’s my advice. And before you go calling me “jealous” of her “success” I’d like to mention that at least I don’t exploit people on national television and I also look better in jeans.
[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the Blogcritics website.]
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