Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Barbara Walters on Oprah

How could I not watch? Two alpha females - savvy, headstrong, controlling and accustomed to getting their way (aka, divas).

Barbara is out the box. Partially due to being old and maybe just not giving a shit anymore. But hard to believe that its not strategic in some way.

Especially since she started by dishing dirt on Star and Rosie in a way that deliberately made her look like the saint. Star was "so obese she could barely walk onto the set” and “was lying to our audience” about how she lost weight. Rosie has rage issues because “you know her Mom died when she was 11” and “she suffers emotional issues, she’s said in her book she has depression”. Meow.

Oprah was not happy with someone being negative about other people on her show. She was looking at Barbara like “you really need to stoop that low?” She even said to Barbara “But don’t you think these are small issues?”

In reality, Barbara said, she wrote about Rosie and Star and is talking about them because that’s what people, including Oprah’s audience, want to hear. Which is honest and less hypocritical than Oprah asking her to dish then getting righteous when Barbara does.

But in the second half Barbara was more honest about her own shortcomings, though still defensive. She talked about how she dated a married man – defending herself by saying the marriage was a sham. Then about her sister who was autistic, who embarrassed her and whose death she missed because of work.

The underlying message was that Barbara felt guilty for having ambivalent feelings towards her sister and bringing about the end of a politician’s career. She “had to support” her sister all her life but she was “embarrassed” of her. Which is what made her ambitious and driven. And she couldn’t feel purely good feelings towards her.

Which makes sense. And is honest. We all feel ambivalent about family, friends, lovers. That is because the world is not black and white, good and evil. We all have positive and negative feelings and qualities. To deny them is escapism. When we say we love, it doesn’t mean we always feel positive things about that person. As was said in a classic 40’s film whose title I’ve forgotten “I’ve hated him often, I’ve even wanted to leave him at times, but I stay because I love him and that never changes.”

So it seems Barbara should be given credit for exposing some truths about herself. Self-awareness from ambitious, powerful people is such a rarity that it deserves to be noted. But kind of disturbing that she attacked Rosie and Star in such a harsh, bitter way based on weight and childhood trauma issues. I think that’s where old age comes in. She just doesn’t try as hard to be politically correct. Which makes for great television.

The interview was also a reminder that the ambition that fuels success is borne of pain and insecurity. I think most “successful” people prioritize external accomplishment because of deep-rooted issues. People who are happy with who they are and what they have don’t need to prove to the world that they are worth something. Having the intense ambition to be hugely “successful” is not the blessing the American Dream implies.

Barbara said her book title is “Audition” because she has always felt that she was auditioning. For all the accomplishment, how sad to live a life never realizing that your moment on the stage is now and that the curtain could come down at any minute.

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