Idol Chatter

oprahpicforic0808.jpg“I have my coffee, and I sit and watch Oprah,” a woman tells The New York Times in a story today. “It’s my favorite time of day.” Not exactly front-page news you say? The woman in question is a Saudi, and like many of her female compatriots, she looks to Oprah for clues on how to make life seem worthwhile in a society dominated by conservative Islam. In a country where women can’t vote, drive or show their faces in public, the Times story says Oprah has become an icon with almost mystical attributes. “The idea that she will come and help them is a dream for them.”

While Oprah, through her show and magazines (which, I should mention, I sometimes work as a freelancer), counsels women in the United States and around the world on how to find happiness–battling family issues, weight gain, and low self-esteem, it’s not surprising that she’s found her most devoted audience in a nation where these problems are most acute, and discussed least openly. Veiled Saudi women also appreciate Oprah’s modest dress and values-laden ethic, even as she shines light on taboo topics like sexual abuse.
Though the most popular women’s magazine runs a regular page on Oprah, according to the story, the star has achieved her renown among Saudis only on the strength of an edited version of her daily talk show, and completely without benefit of her magazines, which are not sold in Saudi Arabia. They call Oprah’s media reach an empire, but it could be that history will remember it more as a rebellion.

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