A recent airing of “Oprah’s Next Chapter” has the queen of television under fire, having been accused of stereotyping and cultural insensitivity during a trip to India documented by the show. Originally shot in January, Winfrey’s trip to India aired this week on her OWN channel. During one scene, Oprah sits in Mumbai with the Somani family for a traditional Indian dinner, where the 58-year-old media mogul’s comments drew criticism from viewers.
“I heard some Indian people eat with their hands still,” Oprah asked as the family explained the spread laid out across the table. Under traditional Indian customs, it is customary to eat with only one’s right hand, but Oprah seemed to struggle with the concept, being corrected as she used her left hand. Eventually, she seemed to give up on the idea of following tradition entirely.
“So I’m going to use both hands, or I’ll be here all night,” Winfrey announced to the table.
The scene has drawn intense criticism from Indians internationally, who viewed Oprah’s display as insensitive of Indian culture and traditions. Aseem Chhabra, a freelance journalist and columnist for the Mumbai Mirror, spoke to ABC News regarding the program: “It’s all the stereotypes and all the clichés the West has, between the elephants and the palaces and the snake charmers and cows,” Chhabra said. “That exists in India, but it’s this imagery of India that some people seem to have, and I think I expected a lot more from somebody like Oprah Winfrey.”
Oprah’s Next Step documented Winfrey’s first trip to India, including visits to the Taj Mahal and Jaipur Literature Festival. At one point during the January filming Oprah found herself involved in a minor incident, when three of her bodyguards were detained by Indian police after a rough encounter with local journalists. Though no one was heart, the bodyguards were accused of damaging equipment.
Unfortunately, the program seems to have missed the mark with its Indian audience. “As a responsible public figure about to air a show that will be beamed across the world, you should have done your homework,” said blogger Rituparna Chatterjee in an open letter to Winfrey. “A millionaire here eats the same way a pauper does. You have been to Asian nations. You should know that.”