Oprah Winfrey began the 25th and final season of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” yesterday, topping her car-giveaway a few years back by giving out free plane tickets to Australia for all 300 members of her studio audience. Oh, my!
One might argue that Oprah is being magnanimous and generous in giving away all this free stuff. But I think her bouts of gift-giving don’t help us as a society (and for some in the studio audience, paying the taxes on plane tickets aren’t exactly a welcome gift either). What really irks me about Oprah’s publicity stunts is that they create a culture where good things come to those who get lucky.
In an economy where people are struggling to pay mortgage bills and buy enough food, people will run to anything that looks like an oasis in this desert of desperation. And winning free stuff given out by Ms. Winfrey seems mighty nice in today’s economic climate. Never mind that those in the studio audience have the freedom (and money) to spend time away from work or other obligations to wait to get into her show. Never mind that, even if a studio audience member is one of the economically-disadvantaged, a trip to Australia is not the relief they really need.
And that is the point. The economic mess was partially caused by people buying things they don’t need to get a slice of fleeting happiness instead of saving up for the things they truly need that can be a source of blessing for years to come. I don’t need a trip to Australia, but I do need help with my bills. I don’t need a shiny new car, but I could sure use help maintaining the one I already have.
What about you? Do you think we’ve spun into a culture reliant on Oprah’s free stuff? Does Oprah’s magnanimous spirit inspire us or hurt us? And what would we do if we were in the studio audience and got a free trip down under or a shiny new car?