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Television: The Oprah Factor:

In an ongoing series of what appears to be almost a lifetime’s obsession and meditation on all things Oprah, it’s time now to look at Oprah’s subtle and not-so-subtle activist ways. This was one afternoon where Oprah was hosting Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker to help promote a movie she helped produce called The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington.

Washington and Whitaker, two Oscar winners, are amazing talents, to be sure, and they’re given the full rollout, Winfrey style. Is there any singular event these days more powerful than an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show? Books, fashion, decorating, food, finances, film: you name it, Oprah helps sell it. If she is on your side, your career is made.

One of the ways Oprah’s influence is felt is in the Oscar race. And, coincidentally, the presidential race. Oprah has put her passion and her influence behind The Great Debaters for Oscar and Barack Obama for president. Whether it will have any impact or not is tough to say. An Oprah and Hillary combo might be unstoppable. As for the Oscar race, we’ll have to wait and see. But in the meantime, Oprah is headed on the campaign trail to help support Mr. Obama for the big win.

Oprah has never really taken sides politically, and in fact has remained quite mum over the years where controversial subjects were concerned. Her shows about gun violence, for instance, weren’t necessarily shows about gun control. You don’t get to be as powerful as Oprah by alienating half of your audience. And we know God is big on Oprah. God is almost always the invisible guest on the broadcast, as no one thinks twice about saying God told them to do this or God blessed them with wisdom on this particular day. Even Oprah has very publicly admitted to feeling as though she was here for a specific reason and a big part of that is God.

You probably won’t find God discussed, in fact, as freely as He is in between discussions of the latest Cormac McCarthy novel or the latest Botox substitute, and did we mention Spanx? God must love Spanx. If I were God, every piece of clothing anyone ever wore would be made of Spanx-like material that sucks everything in all of the time. Alas, I am not God. I suppose if I were I’d probably be a regular guest on the Oprah show.

But Oprah has very rarely gone as far out on a limb as she is doing this year with her embrace of, and endorsement of, a political candidate. She has, however, campaigned for Oscar winners and many of them, like Hilary Swank or Forest Whitaker, have gone on to win those Oscars, and certainly Oprah’s enthusiastic support of Crash didn’t hurt that film’s success.

How influential Oprah really is will come to play in the race for the Democratic nominee. Hillary is currently ahead of Barack, but that could change with Oprah taking her flock in a different direction. One imagines somewhere a campaign official is wondering whatever went wrong between Hillary and Oprah?

Oprah is currently the most powerful female influence on television. It is going to take more than that, though, to push Barack Obama towards being the first black presidential candidate. What’s interesting about it is that it’s history in the making. They probably know he can’t win this thing, but he can come closer than any African American male ever has. Now all Barack needs is a black female running mate. A very popular and beloved one. That, my friends, is truly the audacity of hope. Oprah for vice president!

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