Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon

By Kathryn Lofton | Go to book overview

Epilogue
Political Spirituality, or the Oprahfication of Obama

First, you need a name. Not just any name. An unusual name: a biblical misspelling, maybe, or an invocation of some distant land. No matter what, the name needs an O. The O will come in handy when you need to summon a common sphere, encourage chanting, or design an expansive logo. Never deny the utility of its replication, never avoid its allusion, and never miss an opportunity for its branding.1 An O is a space anyone can fill with anything.

Second, you need a life. Not just any life. A life that is ready to be a story, prepared for metaphor, assembled in advance by memoir, by professional mode or by fictional expectation. If Aaron Sorkin or Alice Walker is not available for its incantation, you must be prepared to tell your story yourself again and again, mentioning its familiar bits like tired icebreakers to loosen the uncomfortable, the unfamiliar, and the closet racists. It helps if you can redistribute your tale by media cultures, through Web sites, television specials, and periodicals. The more you say it, the more it will become the new normal. Advertise your chronological or genealogical messiness: the hardscrabble youth, the absent parent, the nonnuclear family, the experiments with drugs, the cultural patois that produced your singular self. Tell the story as if it is utterly improbable that it happened, even as you knew, you knew from the beginning, that you were destined. Your small, sweeping, rural, urban, abusive, tender, confusing, and familiar tale of ascent is what they have been waiting to hear. The American Dream is no conjure. It is you.2

-213-

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