It’s been a while since Oprah Winfrey found herself embroiled in a controversy and now this time it looks like she has a whole country upset with her.
The problem stems from her recent Oprah’s Next Chapter two part special Journey Through India chronicling her trip to India this past January, a trip that Oprah was later quoted as saying that it was “her greatest life experience”
However the show has been met with criticism from the Indian media saying that it repesented a destorted view of the country.
In the show Oprah traveled across the country visting famous sites, Indian celebrities, rich and poor families, Munbai slums, festivals and even attended a Bollywood party in her honor, However a visit with one well-to-do family in Mumbai caused some ire. During dinner Oprah asked her guests: “I heard some Indian people eat with their hands still?”
That enraged Rituparna Chatterjee, of the CNN-IBN network who wrote on the network’s website: “Oprah, your comment about eating with the hand is really not that big a deal to us; we are used to gross Western ignorance regarding our ancient country. But as a responsible public figure about to air a show that will be beamed across the world, you should have done your homework. Using our hands to eat is a well established tradition and a fact none of us are ashamed of. Our economic distinction has nothing to do with it. A millionaire here eats the same way a pauper does. You have been to Asian nations. You should know that. ”
Another attack on the show came from writer Rajyasree Sen who said the show was “…myopic, unaware, ignorant and gauche. This was Middle America at its best worst.”
Sen was especially upset with Oprah’s tour of the Mumbia slums where she met a family of five living in cramped quarters.
Sen wrote: “And the slum is where Oprah’s ‘oh-my-god-how wonderfully-pathetically-quaint-to-be-so-poor’ avatar stepped out in full glory. .. Now I’m not surprised that Oprah was surprised to see an entire family living in such tiny quarters. Although I’m sure she could find cramped ghettos in the U.S… 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.”
And it doesn’t stop there folks.
Newspaper writer Dainik Bhaskar wrote a piece attacking the show under the headline: “Snobbish Oprah Mocks India.”
In it Bhaskar wrote that: “In a typical American snooty style, the talk show queen tried to portray a superficial ‘sob story’. Oprah was anything but a good guest when she went around the small room interrogating the family members about their ‘poor’ living style and ‘miserly’ living.”
And wait there’s more
India Real Time, which is considered to be the Indian Wall Street Journal, published a negative op-ed piece about the show: “The smell of incense (tick), the sari fitting (tick), the aspirations of slum dwellers (tick), and the glitz of Bollywood (tick). Let’s not forget arranged marriages and the fact that Indians, even rich ones, “still” eat with their hands (tick, tick). India as Westerners imagine it, one stereotype at a time.”
However, there were those who defended Oprah’s show saying that it reflected reality in India: One online poster commented that:
“The views Oprah presented are cliched BUT TRUE! I am an Indian who lives in the U.S… To many middle and upper class families, the India Oprah presents simply does not exist. I was shocked to speak to members of my family and they denied that people are dying of malnutrition and starvation below their very ivory towers. Oprah showed what she saw in India. What’s wrong with that? If we can’t clean up our act, then we have no business feeling offended,”
Did you see the show? What did you think?