The Great Oprah Debate, Tyler Perry, and “The Obligation”

 “I got the hook-up, holla if ‘ya hear me, uhhhhhh,” Master P circa 1998. Everyone loves a hook-up, or being “put-on.” For those who aren’t sure what these terms mean, they reference a beneficial act done for you by someone else and usually it’s done at no cost. For example, my bff hooks me up with a grande white chocolate mocha, (three expresso shots, four pumps of white chocolate, hold the whip), any day of the week when its just one of those days I can’t function on my own. Another example, which leads to my post, you may know someone who works at a company you’re vying to get a position, so you ask that person to “put you on”- “let me know when someone is available and put in a good word for me.”

I thought of this post idea when I recently read that the head of Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, Christina Norman, was dismissed from her duties. Now, if you don’t know, Ms. Norman is formerly the President of MTV Networks, and she is also a sista. I immediately thought, “well damn, she didn’t last long, did she?”  

When one thinks of Oprah, they think, modern day Midas, the ultimate entrepreneur, talk show Queen, etc., etc. Despite her multitude of success, Oprah has had her fair share of controversy, some of which has left many in the black community off the Oprah fan train. In general, there has always been the idea floating around that Oprah has a “disconnect” from the black community. Some say that her pioneering talk show, as well as her magazine, only caters to middle-age, stay at home white women and many in the black community cannot relate.

I’ve often heard many in my family and my circle of friends who’ve expressed either their disdain or love for the talk show Queen. I personally love Oprah, I think she is a genius. However, I do understand the sentiments of those who feel that Ms. Winfrey can do more to connect to her black audience. There have been episodes of her talk show when an artist is performing and Oprah is dancing like her family didn’t get down inMississippi, like where is this child’s rhythm? But off my stereotyped-laced rant, ultimately, these sentiments really boil down to the question of, do blacks in power have the obligation to support their own?

 I do believe that at a certain status as either an entertainer, politician, etc., at some level of clout, one should consider how can they help to contribute to the betterment of their people. I am not saying that Oprah should have a black guest on her talk show everyday, but if you were to look at her magazine, there could be some more women of color thrown in the mix, fo sho for sure. Sure, she hired Norman as the head of OWN, but she was quickly dismissed from the position. And I couldn’t help but to wonder if she had any more black staff members as I watched her behind the Oprah show episodes. Without question, Oprah Winfrey represents the epitome of African-American success, but can we REALLY say she’s paving the way for anyone to come behind her and do the same? Dr. Phil, Rachel Ray, Suze Orman, Dr. Oz, Nate Berkus, Dr. Iyanla Vanzant.….need I say more?

In opposition, we may have our love/hate relationship for Tyler Perry, (Spike Lee), but you can’t say he isn’t putting his people on. While his movies may be considered sub-par to some, and some characters are stereotypical, at least Perry knows his demographic and in general has helped many black actors and actresses get more work in Hollywood, in addition to hiring black writers. Since the success of Tyler Perry, we have seen more black faces on the big screen and small screen, which is always a good thing, and as his success increase, the task that lies ahead is producing better work as his demographic grows. And not just in the case of Tyler Perry, but in all films that feature black actors.

So CT, what do you think of this issue? Should blacks in power have the obligation of supporting their own?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Brett
    May 13, 2011 @ 16:31:53

    Oprah’s only obligation as the head of OWN is to the business. It is her responsibility to the organization to ensure it runs smoothly and profitably. Most people in her position would say the most important decision you can make as a business owner is a personnel decision. Perhaps Ms. Norman’s and Ms. Winfrey’s ideas were on how she wanted her business ran turned out to be incompatible. Perhaps Ms. Winfrey is a raging bitch and a horrible boss. The only people who know are those two.
    Let’s try something else. What if I were to say that Ted Turner or Steven Spielberg have an obligation to advance the careers of white people? I think we all know the shit storm that would create. Of course no one would say that.
    When it comes to the work place you should only be judged on your accomplishments and what you can bring to the organization. There should be absolutely NO weight to your race, sex or creed. BTW who replaced Ms. Norman? Is Oprah running it herself now, or did she hire a replacement?


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