Oprah 2020: The Problem of Celebrity and Politics in America
From the minute Oprah Winfrey became a national television star, fans wondered if she would ever run for President of the United States. Winfrey herself consistently replied that she had a better pulpit to change the world. The last two years of national politics has led her, and many political and media commentators, to rethink her certitude. This talk considers Oprah's role as a moral leader and religious figure within the long history of American presidential politics in order to decide whether there are good precedents -- or indicating predictors -- advising for or against such a run. American presidents become celebrities, but what kinds of celebrities become presidents?
Kathryn Lofton is Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Yale University. She has written extensively about capitalism, celebrity, sexuality, and the concept of the secular. Her first book, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (2011) used the example of Oprah Winfrey’s multimedia productions to evaluate the material strategies of contemporary spirituality. Prof. Lofton is also author of Consuming Religion (2017) and is editor-at-large for The Immanent Frame.