I’ve never liked Oprah Winfrey. My dislike dates back to the first time I saw her show many years ago. The great humanitarian, giver of free cars and defender of worthy causes devoted that episode of the program to a “lighthearted” look at Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). A panel of so-called experts was assembled and following the usual format both Ms. Winfrey and her guests took questions and comments from the studio audience and from callers. The tone was one of amusement at the illness and ridicule of its sufferers. The mood changed abruptly however with one phone call. The caller shared that one manifestation of her OCD was the compulsion to lie down in the middle of the street and turn herself around several times so that she faced respectively all four directions. One day as she lay in the road, a car approached at full speed, and the driver could not see her until it was too late to stop. She was run over and lost a leg. As Ms. Winfrey and her panel and audience absorbed this information in horror, the studio suddenly became eerily silent. All the laughter and murmuring stopped. The program then took on a completely different character as the seriousness of OCD was finally grasped by everyone listening.
Since then we have seen the proliferation of what I call “Mental Illness as Entertainment” programs. Hoarders, addicts, dysfunctional families and those suffering from every psychiatric illness have now become lucrative grist for the eager mill of the entertainment industry.
Not everyone is amused.