Oprah ‘Gets’ Us

Oprah‘s strategy has always been to make complicated things simple through personal stories, and she has done no differently with her homosexual topics. Even though she sometimes asks rhetorical questions like “Why are some gay men flamboyant and others aren’t?” that might seem banal or even a bit offensive, in fact Oprah is doing us all a service by depoliticizing the discussion and making it accessible to even her most narrow-minded viewers.

Oprah Winfrey

She has received flack (rightly, in our opinion) for the way she has portrayed black gay men on her show in two episodes, one on the “Down Low” lifestyle and the other on author Terry McMillan‘s (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) gay ex-husband. Both episodes featured black gay men who lived a lie, but rather than focus on the cultural factors that forced them into that unhappy life, the emphasis was placed on the victimization of their wives, thus painting the men as “bad guys.” This disappointingly unnuanced approach caused ire in the black gay blogosphere and elsewhere, but as far as we can tell did not cause anyone to abandon Oprah.

Oprah missteps like all people (remember her “Crash moment” at Hermes?), but she has somehow managed to win the hearts of Middle America without abandoning the gays. AfterElton takes a look at exactly how she has done it with an in-depth article on the various gay episodes throughout the twenty year run of her daytime talk show.

Oprah Gets the Gay Thing, Mostly [AfterElton]

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  • Mike

    Both episodes featured black gay men who lived a lie, but rather than focus on the cultural factors that forced them into that unhappy life, the emphasis was placed on the victimization of their wives, thus painting the men as “bad guys.”

    — Huh? They WERE bad guys. Just because one is gay, does not mean that same person can’t be selfish and evil. Yes, there is a cultural issue present, but is the “Society’s to blame” argument for one’s poor choices viable?
    To paint these men as victims of society is to imply that their adultery would have been justifiable had it been with women.

  • Michael

    I would say, from everything I’ve seen and heard, that Oprah is at best simply “not our friend” and much more convincingly “dosen’t like the gays.” She has never made any real statements supporting our rights, or condemning homophobia, and tends to skirt the issue. She also gets really jittery when the gays come up as a topic.

  • Alex Hatfield

    –Just because one is gay, does not mean that same person can’t be selfish and evil. Yes, there is a cultural issue present, but is the “Society’s to blame” argument for one’s poor choices viable? —

    Society is to blame, for most likely, if he wasn’t forced into a wrong marriage by society, he would not have been in an affair. If Men could marry Men, as we should be able to, then the marriages that end in divorce due to the fact they are gay and living a lie, because society says that’s way life’s supposed to work, would not be ended, they would be married to the person they want, and should be married to.

    I have known several men in my life that were married to women due to the pressure of family, and society, and they life their life miserable and divorced, which causes harm and pain on not only themselves but their children and the women they marry. There’s nothing evil about it, on the part of the man, society and religon are the evil ones at play here.

  • Robguy

    I can’t say I have any sympathy for closeted gay men that marry. I have sympathy for men that marry and later realize they’re gay, but they need to respect their wife and be honest about it. It’s still an affair.

  • Tom C and John T and Oprah are Gay

    Oprah is “living in the place where God exists.” Lesbian please!

    She gives out diamonds at her “Legends Ball” as gifts, when in reality, broadcasting the tacky affair on ABC paid for everything.

    She is no much in touch with the gays than she is with herself. When she was a young girl she lied to Aretha Franklin, said she was homeless and hit Re-Re up for cash! 1 Billion dollars later, sister girlfriend is still a scam artist.

    Except now, she lies mostly to herself.

  • isaison

    Oprah was the first really influential person to reach out the gay community. Even back in the 1980s Oprah took her hugely influential show to West Virginia to confront a town that had austracized a gay man living with HIV. She scolded the audience by saying “I hear this is a God fearing town. Where’s all that Christian love & understanding?”

    When Oprah did a 1990s show on gay marriage a woman in the audience yelled that gays were always flaunting their sex lives and she was tired of it. “You know what I’m tired of,” yelled Oprah “HETEROSEXUAL MALES RAPING AND SODOMIZING YOUNG GIRLS! THAT’S WHAT I’M TIRED OF!” The mostly gay audience stood up screaming with applause because Oprah so rarely gives her opinion.

    In the 1980s Oprah did an entire show where every member of the audience came out of the closet one by one.

    Oprah even played the therapist to legitimize Ellen when she came out of the closet, and Oprah’s recent show about how Nate Berkus lost his gay lover in the tsunami caused an outpouring of compassion from middle America.

    According to Yale sociology professor Joshua Gamson, the tabloid talk show genre Oprah so brilliantly popularized in the 1980s did more to make gays, bisexuals, and transgender people mainstream and socially acceptable than any other development of the 20th century.

    Shows like Oprah & Donahue & Ricki Lake puts gays in the living rooms of TENS OF MILLIONS of Americans every single day, at a time whne no other media would touch them, and desensetized the public to the point where gays are now everywhere in media. And it was because of Oprah’s massive immediate success that tabloid talk became a HUGE industry.

    Oprah is the best friend the gay community could ask for. Obviously she’s not dumb enough to be in your face with her support. She’s much more subtle and effective.

  • Pieter

    In re Mike @ 2:06PM:

    It’s interesting. Black men in the closet are “downlow”, or, “as you say, “selfish and evil” and “bad.”

    Former Gov. James McGreevey is in the closet, cheats on his wife, is blackmailed, gives his BF a job and gets a million dolar book deal. Oh yeah .. and let’s not forget “Brokeback Mountain.” Two men cheated on their wives for 20-plus years. So are you saying that McGreevey is selfish and evil? And, are you saying the two main “BrokebacK” characters didn’t deserve all the sympathy from the gays? If they didn’t then the movie didn’t deserve any of those awards.

    We all know that there are social and cultural pressures to get married, have kids, or even to hope being gay is a phase. Not everyone can wake up and move to WeHo.

    And yes, for the record, Oprah seems more critical of black gay men that white gay men, probably because she has never done a show on positive black gay men per se, just those silly down low shows. And yes, she’s done many, many positive shows on gay people … who were not black. It’s a side-issue but still importnat to many people.

  • quesz

    How was Oprah criticial of gay black men? I have her DOWN LOW show on tape, watched it many times.

    The only critical think she said about the blacks on the DL was “Does DL stand for DEniaL?” LOL!

    Oprah was just encouraging these black men to wake up and admit they were gay. When the guy claimed he’s not gay, he’s a man, Oprah replied by saying “gay men are men.”

    Oprah wasn’t critical at all. She’s just encouraging gay black men to accept thier homosexuality instead of getting caught in a descructive double life.

  • isaison

    Both Oprah’s hair dresser and her makeup artist are gay black men and they help her get ready every morning.

    Both have appeared on her show. Oprah’s makeup artist showed her audience how to put on makeup & put much on himself to demonstrate.

    Oprah’s hairdresser was on with his white boy-friend and they were decorating Oprah’s house. Oprah’s hairdresser & makep artist both promoted books on Oprah.

  • Michael

    RE: Pieter
    — It’s interesting. Black men in the closet are “downlow”, or, “as you say, “selfish and evil” and “bad.”

    I did not say black men in the closet were or are selfish and evil. What I said was “just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you can’t be selfish and evil”. Herman Goering was gay – does that mean he was a good guy? Not all gays or lesbians are good people and not all Christians are bad people. Judge a person by the colour of their flag at your own risk.

    As for social pressures to marry: if you are getting married for your family, for a new rice cooker, for anything like that – you may be setting yourself for trouble down the road. There are only two reasons you should be getting married in the Western World, in the 21st century and that’s for your partner and for yourself.
    If you stick your dick in someone other than your partner and still go home every night, kiss him / her on the lips and say “I love you” and pretend she / he’s the only one in your life, then you are selfish and evil in my book – that goes for heterosexuals and homosexuals.

  • Dominic P. Lucarelli

    Let’s not forget Oprah’s enthusiastic support for Tyler Perry, who uses drag for his character Madea, but then turns around and donates money to a homophobic preacher. She considers Perry a comic genius. Oprah has always been uncomfortable with gay issues; why else would she have Tyler Perry on the same show as the cast of Brokeback Mountain? You would think with all the controversy and publicity about Brokeback Mountain that it would merit a full one-hour show. If that closet queen Tom Cruise can get a full hour, well……

  • isaison

    I seriously doubt Oprah even knows where Tyler Perry sends his money. She has him on her show because as the world’s ONLY black billionaire, she’s under preasure to promote black people all the time.

    I’ve always found Oprah to be the most supportive of the gay community, even back in the 1980s gays were on her show every week. In fact Oprah’s original staff consisted of only two women and a gay man, & she bent over backwards to help him as he died of AIDS.

    Oprah’s also constantly promoting WILL & GRACE and she even had the cast of QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY on for an entire hour.

    And who cares about BROKE BACK MOUNTAIN anyway. I haven’t even seen it, & it sounds like it portrays gays negatively (as liars & cheaters).

    Oprah donated an entire show to her decorator Nate Berkus and the loss of his gay partner in the tsunami. Oprah even sent an entire platoon of search & rescue people to Sri Lanka to search for him & was criticised for doing so.

    Obviously Oprah can’t appear too political in her support of gays. That’s part of the secret to her power. Unlike other hosts, Oprah’s never dumb enough to get political because all that does is ailienate the very segment of the audience you need to reach most. Oprah understands the power of television as a subtle but EXTREMELY INFLUENTIAL force for social change.

    Read FREAKS TALK BACK by Yale sociologist Joshua Gamson. It was the tabloid talk show genre that Oprah so brilliantly popularized & revolutionized in the 1980s that provided much needed HIGH IMPACT media visibility for gays & other sexual noncomformists. It was following the success of Oprah that entire industry of tabloid talk shows emerged and gays were in living rooms all over America every single day. This development desensetized the public to the point where gays began coming out of the closet in record numbers, gay suicide rates dropped, shows likle Will & Grace, Queer Eye, & films like Broke Back Muntain were suddenly possible, gays are totally accepted by younger generations.

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