Why Do We Love Oprah? Because We Also Love McDonald's
Now I'm trapped. Although I've spent much of my adult life trying to avoid knowingly crossing paths with Oprah, the media beast is only about five miles away. Maybe less.
By now you've guessed I harbor a modest dislike for the big-haired one. Well, not really for her--Ms Winfrey supports some worthy causes and her book list does encourage people to read. Rather, my refusal to join her worshipful throng has something to do with a dictum inspired by her life: the less talented you are, the more money you make.
Now, as far as homilies go, it's not perfect. Still, there are many interviewers out there far more capable than Oprah stuck with five figure salaries (the low five figures, at that). There are many vocalists better than Celine Dion, many cooks less annoying than Rachael Ray--examples abound, especially in the realm of food.
Think about it this way: work hard to craft a perfect margarita out of fresh lime, good tequila and orange liqueur, only a few will appreciate the effort. Pour sweet and sour mix over a shot of Everclear and Dallas multitudes will rave. Open up a great Mexican place--La Palapa Veracruzana, say--and you'll die a slow, empty death. Turn out average fare and call the place Mi Cocina, however, and you'll rake in both crowds and profits.
So the less you pursue perfection, the greater the odds for success. Tim Byres ran a good place--Standard--that showcased his talents well and failed. In the same location, Nick & Sam's Grill aims far below Samir Dhurandhar's abilities and thrives...albeit thanks to a great bar.
Or, to put it another way, do you think turning out a great burger will earn you as much popularity as Snuffer's, much less McDonald's?
Yeah, I know--there are plenty of examples to disprove my statement: Sharon Hage's York Street, Suze, Bolsa...I said it's not perfect. What amazes me is just the following one can achieve by aiming low, by dumbing down, by stopping at 'just good enough,' and by whipping up a marketing frenzy to make up the difference. A number of small, inexpensive restaurants take the time and effort to make their own dips. McDonald's throws commercial goods together and promotes a 'special sauce.'
We actually create and support this path: school systems where no kid can fail, reality contests to manufacture the next Food Network star and so on. We want the familiar, the stuff we don't have to think about.
Guess it's not really Oprah's fault, really. Hell, I hardly live up to high standards myself (I'm known to spend weekends living on Cheez-Its and inexpensive booze). But, damn it, if I have to single out someone as an example, might as well be her.
Can't go around blaming everyone, including myself, for this love of mediocrity, can I?