LEONARD QUART: Oprah at the Golden Globes – rehearsal for the White House?

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By Tuesday, Jan 9 Viewpoints  7 Comments
Oprah Winfrey after receiving her Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards.

The significance of the Golden Globes usually derives from its offering a preview of what film and stars are ahead in the race to win an Oscar a couple of months later. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association — a non-profit organization with about 90 members from approximately 55 countries — votes on the awards. Its members are international journalists based in Southern California, and they are correspondents few people know — no major film critics among them. And I have often had problems with their award choices, which more often than not lean towards conventional mainstream films at the expense of more complex and imaginative work. Still, the awards ceremony has an extremely large television audience, and most Hollywood stars participate and take the proceedings seriously.

Golden Globes host Seth Meyers.

Normally, it’s a loose, unpredictable affair hosted by comedians like the very funny, sarcastic (contemptuous?)  Ricky Gervais, but this year it carried a serious theme –- female empowerment — that most participants were committed to and made reference to. Most of the actresses who attended were dressed in black in support of the Time’sUp movement, standing in solidarity with victims of sexual assault and harassment. And late night television’s Seth Meyers, who hosted the ceremony, set the tone in his opening monologue — one that got in a dig about Harvey Weinstein, saying: “Don’t worry, he’ll be back in 20 years when he becomes the first person to be booed at the annual In Memoriam.”

Nicole Kidman at the 2018 Golden Globes.

But Meyers took a back seat, subordinating himself to the actresses, who from Nicole Kidman to Barbra Streisand, in different ways, forcefully affirmed women’s demand for justice and an equal place in the movie business and American society. For example Elisabeth Moss who won Best Actress for the dark, dystopian The Handmaid’s Tale (based on the novel by Margaret Atwood) gave a shout-out to Atwood and all the women “who were brave enough to speak out against intolerance and injustice.” She then quoted

Elisabeth Moss at the Golden Globe Awards.

Atwood’s stirring poetic words: ““We no longer live in the blank white spaces at the edge of print. We no longer live in the gaps between the stories. We are the story in print, and we are writing the story ourselves.”

The culmination of the evening was Oprah Winfrey accepting her lifetime achievement award and, as is her wont, skillfully telling a moving story about the powerful effect on her as a black child of watching Sidney Poitier win an Oscar for Lilies in the Field in 1964. She then launched an eloquent, optimistic sermon, which almost stopped the evening’s business — award giving — in its tracks. “I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”

Oprah Winfrey on stage at the Golden Globe Awards.

Oprah is a charismatic, commanding speaker, who easily arouses an audience. She has the gift of being both intimate and declamatory, and at the Golden Globes was treated as show biz royalty talking to her fellow professionals who adore her.

Soon after the ceremony, there was predictable talk about her running for President. Oprah is another celebrity billionaire thrust into the political arena without political experience or I presume any mastery of policy, but she is infinitely more knowledgeable and appealing than our compulsively tweeting, volatile incumbent.

In a media saturated age, someone who is smart, articulate, and seductive, like Oprah, can evoke passionate support. She may be more fluent than other actresses and show biz personalities, but her gift is still for expressive rhetoric not crafting a political agenda or making foreign policy decisions.

I understand the political appeal of charisma, especially of a woman like Oprah who can bridge the racial divide, at least among women. But like the other actresses at the ceremony, she emanates privilege (even if they all pay lip service to working women), and as much artifice as authenticity.

But that’s what one expects from show biz politics — a lot of stylish dazzle, more than a touch of eloquence, and in this case a commitment to what is just and necessary. Does that make for someone who should think of running for president? Only if brilliant surfaces, rather than substance, have become the touchstone of our politics?


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7 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Susan P. Bachelder says:

    Shiny Surface? you bet. Except that Oprah Winfrey to my knowledge has not declared bankruptcy – fleeced thousands with educational schemes, endorsed hate groups – or gotten into a pissing contest with the Terminator. ONE – Winfrey’s cable network – has just been heavily invested in by Discovery this winter. Buy stock now. Her development and promotion of shows is moving her into the ranks of serious money – as if she hasn’t already been there, responsibly and ethically developed. Glitz yes. It is her business. But quite a bit of substance supporting an intelligent and savvy business operator who brings as much to the table as most white males I know in business who decide to run for office. We don’t elect professional politicians – in fact we make it a point of electing amateurs. Too our distress these days. We hope that the office will bring out the best.It is what every Republican I know assumed would happen with the present occupant of the Office. Remember we wanted to elect Schwarzenagger? but he wasn’t born here, just a muscle builder who married a relation of a family who made their money flipping Hollywood studios. Had it with Charisma candidates? Do you really think we will elect Bernie? or Joe at 80? or someone who has no charisma? what is your gripe with Oprah really?

    1. Lois Reynolds says:

      Love your comments…..hit everything right on the spot….wish I could add to your opinions but there’s nothing left to add….except that Oprah is Honest and also more than willing to not put up with any less than honest policies for all of us and our country…..even though I know she is probably not going to run….but she would be a definate asset to our country in many ways and Honesty would be at the top of her agenda…..I’m sure along with many other admirable attributes….

  2. Lquartl says:

    No gripe with her personally, but I don’t know where she stands on innumerable issues. Yes, eloquent rhetoric and positive thinking may be appealing, but I am skeptical that is sufficient to run a county on. But I see no reason for your anger.

    1. Susan Bachelder says:

      Not angry in the least, just curious to know how you could reject her when you have just pointed out why I don’t know if I support her – she has not put out any position papers on any issue a President should know about. I think many of us are aware that wariness is necessary going forward but as David Brooks pointed out today on NPR, where do we go from Trump? It won’t be the same old same old – the times have changed. So why not Oprah – at least her track record in corporate finance is solid, and she has a better vocabulary than the present occupant.

      1. Leonard Quart says:

        Yes she has a better financial record than Trump, and I am willing to look at candidates who aren’t traditional. I am still wary of a brilliant show biz. career and financial success as criteria for the Presidency. Of course, she may surprise us all, and put out sophisticated position papers and policy proposals.

    2. Lois Reynolds says:

      Well, we would have to see where she stands on innumerable issues…but I’m sure she would definately choose honest, intelligent, admirable people to work with her to deliver our country from the hell it’s in now…..but this is just a bit of talk at this time….no use to really get into it….lol

  3. Carl Stewart says:

    Oprah Winfrey will not run for the Presidency in 2020 for a number of reasons, but mainly because she is intelligent enough to know that likability and stirring speeches are not enough for a job that is overwhelming in its demands. What Oprah can do is work, both in the upcoming midterms and in the next 4-year cycle, to overcome the appallingly low turnout to vote among people of color. (Turnout is pretty terrible among all voters but an increase of only a few percent among the black and Hispanic demographic would have changed the result last year.). And has anybody noticed that Mike Pence is keeping an extraordinary low profile? He will ultimately distance himself from his boss a c at that point, he will probably be the favorite for 2020, as distressing as that is.

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