could have imagined, letting her “experts” push ideas such as “diet
will prevent you from catching HPV, so don’t worry about the vaccine”
and otherwise encouraging her viewers to take health measure that will
actually degrade their health and work against their interests. It
also functions a neat examination of the sort of motivations that keep
health woo alive, despite all evidence and common sense against it. I
somewhat disagree with the authors, who seem to think that the emphasis
on woo on Oprah’s show is all about her massive ego. It actually seems
to me that it’s ratings-grabbing pandering, and Oprah just has, for
whatever reason, a real ear for those things that will trip up her
audience’s wishes and anxieties. Health woo tends to rely on a few
principles to keep people’s interest and money flowing:
1) Bad things don’t happen to good people.*
2) There must be a way of understanding the body that doesn’t
involve actually gaining difficult and often embarrassing knowledge.
3) The world is out to get me.
4) There must be a quick, easy solution out of any problem, and it’s just a matter of finding out what it is.
in their sense that the world is out to get them. But the reasons for
this and the ways to fight it that Oprah offers are fucked up. Yes,
people routinely discredit women’s intelligence. But the solution is
not, as Oprah protege Jenny McCarthy suggests, to claim a special
female-only “mommy knowledge” that automatically trumps evidence and
Emphasis mine, because I think there’s a step farther to go here: Bad things don’t happen to good people, and I am a good person. That’s the assumption. You hear it every time someone is featured in the news as being poor or unfortunate, the subtext (or, increasingly, text) that “she should have done this, that, the other thing,” that “I would never make that mistake.” You’d evacuate before the hurricane, you’d sell some bling to buy health insurance, you’d refuse a cheap mortgage if someone dangled it in front of your face and told you to take it, etc, etc, etc. Nothing bad would ever happen to YOU, because you’re smarter, more virtuous, you’re destined to be okay.
And then. My years doing weekend cops reporting taught me nothing but the randomness of horror: the couple on their honeymoon pasted all over the freeway, the father out getting milk who got shot in a drive-by, the lightning strike, the swimming accident, the disappearances and deaths and illnesses all preceded by the absolute assurance that everything was fine. When bad fortune whallops you one, you always wonder, once the little cartoon birds have stopped circling overhead, where on earth everybody is who’s supposed to be taking care of you? And they’re off doing what you did once: picking your life apart to see where you went wrong to deserve what you got.
Then you realize, if your’e remotely
self-aware, that the world is full of random shit designed to blow your
life to smithereens, and that we need to take care of each other because you never know when it can happen. Or you don’t realize that, and keep looking for a way to make yourself tragedy-proof, maybe through eating acai berries or something. If you find that way, would you drop me a line? Let me know, if you run across something that works.