Like most Australians, the biggest issue confronting me in my day-to-day life is that of how to overcome my innate and overwhelming feelings of pointlessness. “This is a great country,” I often think to myself, “but it is a shame that our existence here is so utterly futile and lacking in purpose”. Statistics show this is a common sentiment among Australians, whose deep love of and pride in their country is matched only by their crushing sense of inferiority and fathomless sorrow that they were so unlucky as to be born here.
And so it is always nice when something happens which actually validates our existence and allows us to feel important for a little while. I speak of course of the visit to these shores of Oprah Winfrey, perhaps the most important cultural event this country has seen since George Eads presented a Logie.
Over the next few weeks we are to be treated to a massive nationwide boost in self-esteem, the kind of positive reinforcement that can only come from a powerful celebrity temporarily occupying the same landmass as yourself.
And what’s even better is that even while Oprah is here, inspiring us, sharing her wisdom, giving away fabulous prizes and elongating vowel sounds for no particular reason like the all-knowing, all-loving sky-being she is, we can actually be educating her. About Australia, and our way of life, and why we’re so much more than just a place that disappoints everyone who comes here.
And let’s be frank, we are off to an absolute flyer on this front, with The 7pm Project’s Carrie Bickmore, or as she is known in the business, “the female Bob Woodward”, already providing a useful little guide to Oz for Oprah and her entourage. This gives us a substantial headstart, since Bickmore has already covered the most prominent aspect of Australia: our love of McDonald’s. Lucky Oprah knows this now: she may have otherwise been disconcerted by the way Australians are always rushing off to McDonald’s, the way our men insist on doing their business deals over an apple pie; the way our women while away the hours drinking the delicious coffee and gabbing on and on about womanly things, like shoes and orga-ms and such, but not about business obviously, you know how women are. Yak yak yak, am I right? Oprah knows what I’m saying, she’s a woman herself, in a way.
Anyway, the point is, now Oprah has been alerted to the way we “Aussies” like to live, how our “blokes” and “sheilas” love nothing more than digging into some “tucker” at our fancy “McCafes” we can move on to subtler nuances of the Australian character. Like our love of the beach — or as we call it in Australia, the “Sand-Park”. Or our devotion to football, or “Kicky-Dings”, as it’s known “Down Under”, which is what we call Australia, or as it is better known, “New South China”. Yes, there are all sorts of delightful customs — or “thing-doin’s” — in store for Oprah to learn about our great nation. Just wait till she attends her first barbecue, or to use the Aussie terminology, “yer Virgin Beef-Crackle”.
But beyond the chance to improve our self-image and educate the world, the arrival of Oprah for her shows at the Sydney Opera House (known locally as “The Big Fiddle-Barn”) presents with an invaluable opportunity to follow in Carrie “Brenda Starr” Bickmore’s and make the whole exercise a very lucrative one for us all.
Because what Oprah is all about, besides empowerment and following your bliss and every now and then wasting millions of dollars on a horrible boring cinematic vanity project, is selling. Already, thanks to her, Americans are booking flights to Australia in their millions, eager to try out these exciting new “McCafes” that have got the Aussies so a-twitter.
But it isn’t just affordable coffee and relaxed atmospheres that Oprah can sell. Look at her book club. Every time she says she likes a book, it rockets to the top of the bestseller list, regardless of its content. Books about gross old men, books about how you can get rich through magic, everything sells when Oprah reads it. The last four or five books she put on her book club didn’t even have any words in them — they were just blank pages with the occasional obscene charcoal sketch of Dr Phil — but they sold like hotcakes (or as we say in Australia, “Flapwangles”).
And look at Dr Phil himself. He’s become a millionaire, thanks to Oprah’s imprimatur, the seal of approval that prevents the general public from noticing that he is essentially a gibbering hillbilly with a sex pest’s moustache and a creepy interest in other people’s marriages.
Now that she’s coming here, Australia can be like Dr Phil, or one of her books. We could be the first entrant in Oprah’s Country Club, which is admittedly a confusing name, but we’ll let Marketing sort that out. But consider the possibilities! Think of the worldwide sales of Australian wine (or “Silly-Sauce”) once she visits the Barossa Valley. Contemplate the skyrocketing profits of Melbourne’s fashion boutiques once Oprah goes shopping. Picture the surge of the Australian flake industry once a shark takes her leg off in Sydney Harbour. The possibilities are, literally, endless.
But wait, some of you might say. Do we really want our nation to sell out in this way? Do we want to become a corporate product? Do we want Australia to go hawking itself to the world with celebrity endorsements like a common whore, the way New Zealand does? Is it seemly?
Perhaps not. But we have to face the facts: we’ve got no choice. We’re in the machine now. Once Oprah draws you into her vortex, you have two choices: spruik your product, or be ground into the dust like a terrified cockroach. It’s happened before. Haven’t you ever wondered what happened to Geena Davis?
It’s time to get on board the Oprah bandwagon, or be crushed beneath its wheels. There’s a killing to be made out of this, Australia; let’s not waste our chance. Let’s all of us embrace our inner Bickmore, down a hot, strong cup of fine McCafe coffee, gather the blokes and sheilas together, and pitch ourselves to the world!
Or, as Australians like to call it, “The Ol’ Spinny-Space-Ball”.