Sunday, July 08, 2012

Obama Works His Magic On Oprah

She used to matter. Now, she doesn't.
[F]our years ago, the House of Oprah made an epic decision: It chose to endorse Barack Obama. Oprah featured Obama on her show, with Michelle, and put the celebrated Oprah muscle to task for his campaign. It was a truly momentous event — the most powerful woman in entertainment endorsing a presidential candidate.

The move was timely. Obama had not yet crested to the great heights of adulation that marked the later stages of his campaign. Oprah endorsed him when it counted, then — having made her point — withdrew from the stage. I can’t think of a more significant moment in the modern intersection of the worlds of Hollywood and Washington, celebrity and power.

Was Oprah’s benediction a “tipping point”? Was it the moment when Obama jumped from being just another candidate to being a star in a class of his own?

Perhaps, but that was then. What of now? Well, something strange has happened. Oprah    has lost her chi. She ended her long-time relationship with mainstream television and decided that she should have her own network. It is one of the very few examples of a person ordering her own self-exile. And the result is that she has simply ceased — in television terms — to be. I cannot recall a more precipitous drop in status, and in the influence status bestows, than Oprah’s almost complete fall from entertainment eminence.

Who speaks of Oprah now, save in valediction? Is she endorsing Obama this time? Who cares? Had her “fall” something to do with breaking her tradition of staying out of politics?  I think the answer is simpler than that: Fame is frail, celebrity is a bubble and the spotlight passes.

I’m sure Oprah’s absence won’t cast a shadow on the dinner in Switzerland, not will Mr. Clooney raise a glass to the departed queen. Oprah will be an unacknowledged ghost at that banquet. No star, and no president, wants a reminder of glories that have faded, or of stars than shine no more.


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