Oprah Winfrey ended her show after 25 years on Wednesday by addressing her audience solo from her studio in Chicago, recounting the life lessons she learned from the show through a mixture of laughter and tears.
So what did the critics think of her farewell? Needless to say, there were mixed opinions about the amount of religion that infused her final address.
“The hour perfectly embodied how complex it is to analyze or critique the woman behind the message,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman. “On the one hand, it’s hard to argue how deeply Oprah has touched her massive audience and how much good the self-help emphasis has done for so many people, celebrities included. On the other hand, for those outside the sphere of influence that Oprah holds over her worshippers (they are too numerous to be a cult), it’s impossible to miss some of the God-complex patina that she wears so proudly.”
The New York Post’s Michael Starr also called out Winfrey’s religious undertones. “And On The Final Day, she wept,” he wrote. “Oprah Winfrey signed off yesterday after 25 years as TV’s reigning daytime queen — sounding more like an evangelist than a talk-show host. Coming out to a standing ovation from her rapturous, squealing studio audience, Oprah held court on stage, alone, for the show’s full hour, striding back and forth and spewing fluffy, New Age-y aphorisms offset by occasional clips from past episodes.”
The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn lauded Oprah for her religious leaning. “Oprah’s final show was a sermon. She finally came out as a true religious leader, an image she has skirted around for these last 25 years. She is America’s high priestess. …This is ministry at its best and something that more religious leaders should pay attention to. She managed to touch something in a lot of people and changed countless lives by giving her audience a spiritual message that they could apply to their own lives. Her message was inclusive and pluralistic rather than exclusive. Everyone belonged. Everyone had value.”
“The pope couldn’t have done better,” Quinn concluded.
Meanwhile, the U.K. Guardian’s Hadley Freeman didn’t think Oprah spent enough time on “any of the new age baloney she has increasingly peddled” — and she was grateful for that. “The celebrity dazzle might have brought more media attention but that is not her true appeal,” Freeman also noted of her decision to not have guests on her last show, which aired after two-days of major celebrities wishing her farewell in Chicago’s United Center, packed with 13,000 audience members. “There were plenty of needlepoint truisms – ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you’ – but she keenly emphasized the social issues she has focused on over the years (sexual abuse, alcoholism) and the words ‘Jonathan Franzen’ were not mentioned once, nor, thank heavens, was any of the new age baloney she has increasingly peddled,” wrote Freeman.