Oprah's had a pretty rough run of it recently — her OWN network hasn't been doing too well and, as a result, tales of a behind-the-scenes power struggle with Rosie O'Donnell were spread far and wide by gossip troubadours. Now it seems that people are criticizing Oprah's journalistic integrity in light of her India-centered series Oprah's Next Chapter, which aired over the weekend.
What are the folks saying it about it, you ask? For starters, many Indians have criticized Oprah for only offering a superficial, caricatured view of a one-dimensional Epcot India to the rest of the world. Tweeted one dismayed Indian, "The avg American thinking of India as a place with snake charmers and elephants as main mode of transport, I can understand. But Oprah???" Indeed, Oprah is not infallible, which ought to make everyone rethink all the time they spent perusing her book club for summer reading suggestions (j/k, Oprah's Book Club is legit).
Others described Oprah's series as giving Westerners only "an unflattering, outmoded, selective and clichéd representation" of India as a place marked by the sort of stark poverty Western moviegoers went wild for when they filed into theaters for Slumdog Millionaire. Not everyone was so scathing, however — a writer for the Business Standard named Gargi Gupta, though she acknowledged how Oprah's portrayal of India's slums would make Indians "groan," said that Oprah's series was marked with a sensitivity "that television anchors in India… would do well to learn."
India's an enormous country that has adopted and exaggerated a lot of America's economic characteristics. It's true that India's prosperous are thriving in places like Mumbai, the country's entertainment capital, but there are a lot of people living in India (and in glamorous Mumbai) and not all of them are having an awesome time riding around in luxury cars. Poverty is still a serious problem in the country, especially as the gap between rich and poor grows wider, and Oprah's focus on India's poorer citizens isn't in itself naive. However, she apparently makes a point of saying that Indians still eat with their hands, which prompted one Indian columnist named Rajyasree Sen to jeer, "I don't know what people in America are eating their hot dogs, pizzas and tacos with but perhaps Oprah's home has evolved cutlery for all that." Wait, am I the only one who eats tacos with a spoon? Jeez, everything makes so much more sense now...