Monday, November 16, 2009

Oh Oprah (said in a disappointed tone)

I am sure no one expects that when The Oprah Winfrey Show does those "Women around the World" episodes that those women represent everyone in their country. No one expects Oprah, from Chicago, to tackle complex issues like human trafficking, exploitation and social stratification in foreign lands.

But I think we do expect a show with such a broad reach, with what has to arguably be one of the most experienced talk-show production staff in the business, to at least do the slightest bit of fact checking. To perhaps Google the place they are talking about.

I heard the promos for the recent episode where Dubai was included for days before it screened. "Is everyone in Dubai rich?" Oprah could be heard asking.

Has the woman read a newspaper? Good lord. Anyhoo, while I wasn't expecting a labour camp expose or anything like that, I was pretty shocked to watch as Dr Lamees Hamdan, an Emirati woman living what is clearly a pretty sweet life, told Oprah that in addition to not paying any taxes (true) people in the UAE don't pay for electricity or health care. Not true. Women here were also not happy that in talking about not wearing the traditional sheila (head covering) and abaya (clothing covering), she called it a "cultural" and not religious decision.

And the story travels. Today Oprah officials apologise to Dubai in a story in the New York Post: "It was never the intention of the 'Oprah' show to misrepresent the people of Dubai," a spokesperson for the show said. "Dr. Hamdan appeared live on our program to speak about her personal life experience as a citizen of Dubai. We apologize if any of our viewers were offended."

The paper also pointed out an interesting side angle:

"Another issue was that the interview was conducted via Skype: The Web-based phone system is banned in the UAE, though the rule was waived for Oprah's segment."

PS: No one else has talked about two of my favourite moments from that show. A) A woman living in Copenhagen says people there often leave their babies sleeping in carriages on the sidewalk. And for different reasons B) Dr Hamdan's husband talks about his long white khandoura and calls it a "T-shirt, business suit and tuxedo, all in one!"


rosh said...

...and ignorance peeks its head, yet again, in the lovely burb of Chicago, Oprahville.

As for the Emi woman on Skype, I wonder if she's ever been to SHJ / AJ, where fellow citizens are in need of jobs and / or live pay check to pay check on the average income. I guess the only difference between her and them, she's got the Vitamin W aplenty perhaps?

All said, I do think often, when are the folks back home going to understand, fuloos isn't a measure of progress. Of all the ignorance / empathy in America, I'm rather compelled to say, I have not lived with a more accepting and 'progressive' (relative, I know) bunch of folks. Despite the wars, the capitalistic greed, Sarah Palins, Paris Hiltons, the Holy bible versions, Republicans, Democrats, GM cars and the McDonalds -- there's a lot of genuinity, substance and a lot (a lot I say) of values in the everyday folk in this country. So, I think in stead of some Emi lady, dishing out her fortunes to the Oprah women, how about the Oprah folk show the Emirates and most of the GCC, the 'imperfections' of her country which makes it the most disliked, but also the one place majority of the folk would love to move, raise a family and call home.

Dayo said...

hi.i got to your blog by googling oprah misrepresnts uae.

Nice blog.

I've got one question about this though, what did they do to get an apology out of her? I am a Nigerian (born and bred) and was very offended when i heard that she refered to ALL Nigerians as being dubious. Thinking of it still makes me mad!!!! And she is yet to apologise.

What gives?!!

Dayo from Lagos Nigeria

Anonymous said...

Very well said, I was shocked to hear her ask 'is everyone rich in Dubai?' in the promo, so disappointed that I didn't watch the show. I thought the woman has some substance to talk about, but to be so dumb about the place she was talking about... Oh Oprah it was so disappointing.

Al-ain Rose said...

Lamees was bullshitting alot in that episode.

How to be a happy expat

Because a cloud wall makes you want to take a selfie.  After 10 years living in the UAE, some of that time happy, some miserable and ...