Winfrey's special program on India drew the ire of several Indian media outlets
on July 21, who called
the show "myopic, unaware, ignorant and gauche." The program was featured in
the "Oprah's Next Chapter" series, which has the long-time talk show star
traipsing around outside the studio for "enlightening conversations with
newsmakers, celebrities, thought leaders and real-life families."
foray in India aired in the United States in April but premiered in India this
weekend. The two-episode special featured a trip to some Mumbai slums, the
Jaipur Literature Festival and the glitzy homes of Bollywood stars.
was criticized for reinforcing exotic and backward stereotypes of India,
particularly when she commented that she heard that Indians "still" eat with
their hands. "I don't know what people in America are eating their hot
dogs, pizzas and tacos with but perhaps Oprah's home has evolved cutlery for
all that," commented
Rajyasree Sen, a columnist on Firstpost, an online Indian newspaper.
Chatterjee, a blogger on the CNN-IBN website, slammed Oprah's comment, saying: "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... You should know that."
interviews with slum-dwellers in Mumbai also provoked backlash. Sen notes:
And the slum is where Oprah's 'oh-my-god-how
wonderfully-pathetically-quaint-to-be-so-poor' avatar stepped out in full
glory...She asked the children how they could live in such a "tiny" room and
actually wanted to know, "Don't you feel it's too cramped?" She also asked the
six-year-olds whether they were happy. Which must have made them wonder why
they shouldn't be. She then interrogated the father about whether he
was happy and satisfied. He got teary-eyed and said that he wished he could
earn more and provide for a more comfortable life for his children. After
making him weep in front of his family, Oprah said that she knows how awful it
is for children to see their father weep. 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
The OWN has not commented on the attacks from Indian media, but Winfrey had
remarked earlier that the trip to India was "her greatest life experience."
Looks like the feeling wasn't mutual.