Why I Did Not Appreciate Oprah's "200 Men" Show
Last week, the Oprah show attempted to tackle the problem of male sexual abuse. The premise of the show (see link below) was to bring together 200 male survivors and broadcast to millions in order to "lift the veil of shame."
I do not watch Oprah, nor any other talk show hosts. Of all of them, I probably respect Oprah the most for her willingness to address large societal issues.
But, with this show, I was left severely disappointed as well as seriously triggered.
Many of the statistics were affirmed, like 1 in 6 boys have unwanted sexual experiences or abuse, that more than 9 out of 10 abusers target children they know, that many boys (and indeed girls) are abused by more than one abuser, and that male on male abuse often leads to sexual orientation conflicts in victims.
Oprah had an opportunity to do something really admirable, and the opening image of all the men holding photographs of themselves as boys was extremely compelling and moving. But the show missed the opportunity. The show did not focus on lifting the stigma. I found the show to be unnecessarily sensationalistic. I did not like many of the messages. They were almost uniformly negative. The focus was mainly on dealing with graphic abuse details. The only rationale I could come up with it being done in this way was that it was felt that it was more important for viewership to sensationalize over having frank, perhaps more boring, discussions of the issues.
The guests came off only as victims. That was somewhat predictable. There was no hopeful message from any of the guests. Everyone talked only of the perspective of what was done to them and how hurt they are now. And their lives being taken away. Nothing about moving through and healing. There was no hope. For me, that was the huge disappointment and I found myself getting angry.
There was a segment where two brothers who were abused by priests told their story. That was hard for me to watch and I did not know what to think, probably because a lot of what was said was so similar to my abuse. Perhaps had that segment not been so needlessly graphic, I would have had a slightly different take on the whole show. But, knowing a bit about the clergy abuse scandal reports, I know she chose a rather extreme example. What was the point of choosing an extreme example?
Oprah went on to say she hoped that people watching "will release the guilt and shame they hold." Tyler Perry, one of the guests, talked in a brief comment about men taking back power and healing. And another guest, I think Dr. Fradkin, talked a bit about shame. But those sentiments were clearly not what Oprah wanted the show to focus on. She appeared to be more interested on the shock value of the stories.
While they talked about drug and alcohol addiction and failed relationships, they focused on only the stereotypical male maladies and nothing more. There was no talk about mental health disorders stemming from abuse. There was a passing mention of depression. Nobody mentioned suicide. Nobody mentioned dissociative disorders, other than in the descriptions of abuse which used phrases such as "leaving my body" when abuse occurred. And nobody talked about any kind of path to healing. Nobody.
In what I considered her worst offense, somehow Oprah chose to have a guest, of all the possible guests she could have had, be a man who regularly takes his own children to his mother who still lives with his father who was his abuser. It was as if she did this for a purpose, to call out the man in what I perceived to be a hurtful way. I wondered, as I was watching, how that particular guest was viewed by the 200 men in the audience. Probably he was vilified. I thought it was a poor choice. Surely one of the other 200 men would have made a better choice.
Sadly, nobody asked me!
Of course, I am curious to know what you all think.
Dr. Kathleen Young, a therapist blogger I greatly respect, adressed the show on her blog post: 200 Men: Standing Together to Lift the Veil of Shame.
The link to the full Oprah show can be found at: 200 Adult Men Who Were Molested Come Forward. But beware that the show can be triggering.