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Oprah Winfrey, an Example of the Modern Zeitgeist?

Updated on October 30, 2012

Zeitgeist is defined as:

Zeitgeist - the spirit of the time; the spirit characteristic of an age or generation 

The Zeitgeist captures the spirit of the times and Oprah Winfrey is an excellent example of the modern Zeitgeist. After all, what public figure more than Oprah represents the things that the average American is interested in or worried about in today’s society? Oprah demonstrates a combination of qualities unique to the early twenty first century and chooses to express those qualities in ways that are unique to these times.

Oprah manages to harmonize the dichotomy of her capitalistic entrepreneurial drive with her genuine concern for the well-being of others, the successful combination of which often eludes the average American today though he strives for it in his personal life.  In other words, Oprah makes a whole lot of money while still helping others and she does it while enjoying work that she loves. That speaks to the true spirit of the American today, someone who wants to work for himself successfully while still having concerns about the larger social world.

Oprah communicates her beliefs in a fashion which takes the personal and makes it universal, a trend which is characteristic of the present time, and she does so through modern technological advances in the media, changing with the times as necessary.  Oprah is a motivational speaker and an inspirational character, as well as a strong managerial personality. She has qualities that we value in our society today – social skills, a backstory, emotional empathy, business savvy and an ability to stay true to herself while keeping with the times. Who knows how she does it but she does.

Oprah embodies many of the qualities desired by today’s Americans. This is the basic characteristic inherent in the Zeitgeist and one that’s worth mentioning again because she does it so well.  Americans today struggle with a desire for self-improvement and a drive to propel themselves forward into successful careers, yet they are also in a unique position right now in that they want to balance this ambition with a concern for the larger world. This concern is increasingly prevalent because of the expanding globalization of the world.  Technological advances, particularly the rise of the internet, have created a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of all people in the world, making international concerns a primary issue for many Americans. Look at the green movement for one key example. Oprah is an example of a figure who has risen above personal adversity, struggling with many diverse issues, to become successful by the modern definition of the world.  Yet, Oprah has done so in a way which gives back to the community, inspiring others to forge ahead with their own pursuits but not at the expense of those around them.  This is exactly the combination of traits sought after by Americans today.

Oprah’s successful combination of these seemingly contradictory traits exemplifies the spirit of the times even more so because she is an African American woman.  America has always stood for the belief that all people should have an equal opportunity to achieve their dreams.  We may not have always done this well but we’re getting better at it. As a woman in her field, and as an African American, Oprah stands out as a person who shows that these dreams can indeed come true.  She is an example of the ideals strived for throughout the history of this country.

Oprah’s success is due in part to her charismatic personality and her ability to inspire and motivate others.  It is also due to her great skill with business. As Oprah has demonstrated through establishing her own television show, book club, magazine and non-profit foundation, she has excellent managerial and motivational skills and is able to use her abilities to organize others around important issues.  The spirit of the times is exactly this – let’s do good business and make money without compromising our social values to do this. That’s why Oprah is a great example of the modern zeitgeist.

Surely there are better examples though? Who would you say is a modern zeitgeist?


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  • Cathi Sutton profile image

    Cathi Sutton 3 years ago

    To me Oprah is the perfect example of a mega-ego manic. I can't stand this woman, who says we don't need the Christ for salvation. Who said recently a whole generation of old white people need to die to end racial problems. Who says Obama is disrespected because he is black, when in fact he is bi-racial, raised by a white mother, and rarely seeing his African father. Oprah is a racist, and gets by with it!

    I wouldn't wipe my feet on Oprah. She is a deceiver. A mind manipulator. And in my opinion has done more to degrade the values we need in society, instead of helping, more than anyone in recent history.

    You are welcome to your opinion about this woman. But I hope you and millions like you who look up to her will research her motives more.

  • profile image

    jaoyingkaty 6 years ago

    great oprah,Thank for shar :-)

  • profile image

    Meaghan S 7 years ago

    I absolutely love oprah! she is a very inspirational women to teens, young women and all women alike!

  • ashleyyoung profile image

    ashleyyoung 7 years ago from United States

    Very interesting addition to my vocabulary. :) Kudos

  • reinalisa1 profile image

    reinalisa1 7 years ago

    Thanks for doing this on Oprah, I absolutely LOVE HER!

    In answer to your hub title ... I THINK SO. Few Others achieve this. My two others (to me) are Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley . . . and also, I read some of your other hubs. Their really good. I hope you don't mind if I just became a fan/follower. Can't wait for your new ones! Take Care. Reinalisa1

  • Katrina Ariel profile image

    Katrina Ariel 8 years ago from The Highlands of British Columbia, Canada

    Oprah is such a strong, big hearted, generous and empowering woman. It's wonderful that you've honored her here.