Imagine that millions of people swear and live by your opinions. If there’s a certain restaurant you like, everyone patrons there. If there’s a particular product you enjoy, everyone purchases it. Your word is the verdict on all issues and has massive influence with people across the country. Sound enticing? Welcome to Oprah Winfrey’s world.
Winfrey has been influencing her fans across America ever since her talk show debuted in 1986. As the mounting of the Broadway production of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple surfaced in early 2005, hype was low. However, well into the last legs of the show’s creation, Winfrey signed on as one of the principle producers. Almost quicker than Tom Cruise could jump up on that couch, advanced ticket sales for the show increased drastically and suddenly Purple was making headlines.
The Color Purple premiered at the Broadway Theatre last Thursday night with a gala turnout of red carpet celebrities. Ask any fan of Winfrey’s talk show and they’ll express desire to see ‘her musical.’
Everything Winfrey touches turns to gold. This is quite an impressive power. However, because this power is purely based on suggestion, it is important for people to examine why they entrust their opinions (and bank accounts) with her.
It is a non-debatable issue that Winfrey is an extremely intelligent woman, in such areas as business, entertainment and public relations. Not to mention she was also nominated for an Academy Award in 1985 for her role in the film version of The Color Purple. The woman knows what is quality and what the public likes. It stands to reason that her recommendations carry validity.
Winfrey started her notorious book club in the late 1990s. Whenever she selected a book, the work would instantly rise to the top of the best-seller list. Even if people didn’t know anything about the literature, just the subtle seal of “Oprah’s Book Club” on the cover would warrant a purchase. When her club returned in June 2003 after a brief hiatus, John Steinbeck’s long-dormant novel East of Eden soared from six feet under and to the top of the book lists. Winfrey has the power to revive even forgotten works of classic authors!
As well as the power to endorse, Winfrey can just as easily boycott. In a show about mad cow disease that aired in 1996, Winfrey said, “It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger.” This statement unintentionally sent a shockwave across the country that struck a deep blow to the beef industry and inspired cattlemen to slap her with a lawsuit.
Even when Winfrey appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, ending a supposed 16- (and a half, reminded Winfrey) year “feud” on the night of Purple’s premiere, the show’s ratings reached a nine year high with 13.5 million viewers. Letterman’s average is 4.3 million.
Despite The Color Purple’s favorable reviews, the show would have never received such a glamorized opening night if it wasn’t financially backed by Winfrey. Broadway shows rarely open with such lavish affairs. Purple’s hype is nothing more than commercial hyperbole over an endorsement that doesn’t even include much of Winfrey’s help.