Oprah Winfrey’s visit to India has been in the news from the moment she landed in the country and her security ruffed up Indian paparazzis trying to take a picture of her. Now months later the “Oprah’s Next Chapter” TV special that resulted from her visit to India is also in news because some say it was a show full of “sterotypes and cliches.”
“It’s all the stereotypes and all the clichés the West has, between the elephants and the palaces and the snake charmers and cows,” Aseem Chhabra, a freelance journalist and columnist for the Mumbai Mirror, told ABC News. “That exists in India, but it’s this imagery of India that some people seem to have, and I think I expected a lot more from somebody like Oprah Winfrey.”
TV critic Rajyasree Sen agrees with much of Chhabra’s criticism of the show. On the Mumbai based Firstpost.com, Sen deconstructs one of Oprah’s segments and points out how she calls attention to all the things “poor” when she visits a family’s home to illustrate the family is poor but fails to mention she’s sitting in front of a big flat screenTV:
She asked the children how they could live in such a “tiny” room and actually wanted to know, “Don’t you feel it’s too cramped?” She also asked the six-year-olds whether they were happy. Which must have made them wonder why they shouldn’t be. She then interrogated the father about whether he was happy and satisfied. He got teary-eyed and said that he wished he could earn more and provide for a more comfortable life for his children. After making him weep in front of his family, Oprah said that she knows how awful it is for children to see their father weep.
She did look for a shower head in the toilet and seem amazed to hear they bathed with a bucket. And she marveled at how all their clothes fit onto a small shelf. She pointedly avoided any mention of the massive LCD TV which adorned their wall. That would have killed the sob story. When their older daughter told Oprah that she’d like to go to London to study further, Oprah also played her role as American ambassador to the hilt and said, “No. Come to America, it’s a lovely country. It’s the best”.
Sen goes on to call the show “myopic, unaware, ignorant and gauche. This was Middle America at its best worst.”
A spokeswoman for Harpo, the company that produces “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” said in a statement, “The intention of the program was to explore the beautiful culture and spirit of the country. We enjoyed the time we spent there and were touched by the people who so generously shared their stories for the show.”