While “The End” was scheduled to happen on May 21 (and didn’t), for some, the true End is coming on Wednesday, May 25. Prophesied more than eighteen months ago, Wednesday will mark the day on which The Oprah, our One True Media Queen and Talk Show Guru, will take her final bow and then ascend into the cloudy realms of her OWN cable network. While many of us will pretend not to notice Oprah’s absence from syndicated television, for her most faithful followers—the true Ovangelicals—life without their daily O is going to feel like a—wait for it—Opocalypse.
If you think I’m being extreme, that’s only because you don’t consider Oprah to be one of your best girlfriends, somebody you’ve stuck beside through thick, thicker, and thin. Sure, you’ve probably caught more than a month’s worth of episodes over the last twenty-five years, but you’ve not tuned in enough to develop a personal relationship with O. You’ve never asked her to come into your heart via email three times a week. While you might have an appreciation for O’s influence and success, you’ve never gone the extra mile and purchased a dual-year subscription to her magazine or stood outside of Harpo Studios in frigid Chicago in hopes of catching a glimpse of O, and if you’re truly blessed, touching the hem of her tailored pantsuit. And chances are, you probably still send and receive text messages while driving. Sinner.
O’s true followers know and understand the sacrifices that a strong relationship with the Omighty demands. They’ve walked with her through the valleys of weight gain, depression, abuse, James Frey, and Dr. Phil, and they’ve also climbed with her up the mountains toward weight loss, truth-telling, recovery, Jesus, Maya Angelou, and Dr. Oz. And all along, through support groups and online therapy, they’ve learned how to tolerate Gayle.
For many of these devoted fans, meeting Oprah changed, and for some, even saved, their lives. Which is why they trusted O when she told them which books to buy or what movies to see or which presidential candidate to vote for. Without O’s daily wisdom about topics like wellness, relationships, and a good bra, her followers would still be eating at Applebee’s three times a week, pursuing deadbeat significant others, and walking around in public with their boobs sagging down to their belly buttons. That alone might be a reason for all of us to sing a chorus of All Hail the Power of O.
But on Thursday, after The O’s final new episode, who will the Ovangelicals turn to for wisdom about all the various aspects of life? Dr. Phil? Sure, he knows a thing or two about healthy relationships and perhaps a bit about parenting, but has he ever worn a pair of panties that will CHAAAANGE... YOUR... LIIIIFFFFE? I hope not. Maybe some will turn on Ellen. Certainly, she can offer advice about entertainment choices and insight on celebrity gossip, but is she capable of telling somebody that he or she has diabetes? Dr. Oz could do that, of course. But can one live on daily advice about cancer, heart disease, and weight gain alone? I don’t think so.
Which is why I think millions of people love and trust O. She surprises us. We didn’t tune in because of the knowledge and wisdom and celebrity that she brought to her stage but rather the knowledge and wisdom and celebrity she engaged and learned everyday on her stage. Oprah’s best and most enduring quality was “being Oprah.” And because of that quality, we rarely felt un-included. Sure, she took herself too seriously from time to time, and no doubt we took her too seriously at times, too. Heck, I know I have, and honestly, I can’t remember the last time I watched a full hour of her talk show.
Still, even though I don’t consider myself an Ovangelical, I do plan on tuning in on Wednesday to watch her give her benediction.
And all O’s people say... amen.