Oprah and Apple TV+: A New Place for Psuedoscience?

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This week, Apple held an event in which they revealed a new streaming service called Apple TV+. This wasn’t exactly groundbreaking news since most people already knew it was in the works, but there was a new tidbit (also known previously) that I had missed thus far. At the end of the keynote, they revealed a special guest star: Oprah Winfrey!

Now, I have an opinion of Oprah and that opinion has generally not changed over the past fifteen years, but I accept that what started out as an “unpopular opinion” has probably matured into an actual “toxic waste opinion” that no one wants to get within ten feet of. My opinion is this: Oprah is a terrible person who has given our society so many of its worst fads and, unfortunately, mainstays. Oprah is the reason we have the psychologist quack Dr. Phil, the all-around medical quack Dr. Oz, and she’s the reason anyone ever cared what Jenny McCarthy has to say about anything. She had McCarthy on her show first to talk about her child Evan was a “crystal child” and that Jenny herself was an “indigo child,” otherworldly beings who came to Earth to bring peace and light. Yes, really. And when Jenny changed her mind and decided Evan actually was autistic and that vaccines caused it, Oprah still had her on and promoted her.

Oprah promoted disgusting “psychics” who preyed on grieving people, like John Edward. She single-handedly introduced “The Secret” into the national conversation — that’s the belief system that if you want anything you just have to believe you already have it, so the reason children die of cancer is because they didn’t wish hard enough to not have cancer.

Oprah is fucking vile, and for decades upon decades no grift was too disgusting for her to promote to her audience of millions if it meant getting that money. Her empire has only grown, and so now she has a deal with Apple TV and everyone is so excited because it’s Oprah! How could you not love Oprah?? And it’s true, because she’s so inspiring in other ways: she worked her way up from nothing, she cares about books and films and black voices, she gives to charity, she’s smart and funny. But she is where she is today by peddling dangerous bullshit to the general public and we’re all worse off for it.

Last year Apple announced the deal they’d made with her, a multi-year partnership to create original programming for their service. This week she got a little more detailed, saying that she had two documentaries she wanted to make: one about workplace harassment and the other a “multi-part series focusing on mental health.” And maybe these will both be good, or maybe it’s going to be more of the same: bullshit. Do we really want Oprah telling people about mental health? Oprah, who created Dr. Phil? Literally, created him, like in a lab where she picked out his stupid mustache and his accent. She met Phil McGraw, had him on her show as a relationship expert, and then eventually gave him his own show. Here are some facts about Phil McGraw:

He’s no longer licensed to practice psychotherapy and never has been licensed to do so outside of Texas.

The FTC investigated him for selling weight loss products that he claimed had ingredients in them that would change your behavior to make you eat less. He eventually settled a class-action lawsuit over the products for $10.5 million.

Finally, and perhaps most fittingly, The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill went on record to say that Oprah’s favorite psychologist Dr. Phil is “incredibly irresponsible” and “unethical” and that he should have been investigated by a license board and received legal sanctions for practicing medicine without a license when he invited a 9-year old child on his show and pronounced that he was a serial killer in the making.

Is Dr. Phil going to be featured in this multi-part mental health series? Will he be giving his “expert” opinion?

Honestly I do not know! Sometimes Oprah gets things right, but when she gets them wrong, god damn they go really, really wrong. Like, “bringing back the measles” wrong. And she’s so rich, and so powerful, is there anyone around her willing to tell her when she’s wrong?

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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