Terry McMillan and ex-husband Jonathan Plummer's much-promoted Oprah reunion was not at all what we expected. While Terry's trademark head- and eye-rolling dominated the show, she only raised her voice occasionally. Jonathan was given a warm welcome and allowed to explain his story; he was cross-examined, not demonized. Terry smiled when her now gay ex-husband walked onto the stage, and spent much of the next hour laughing and joking with him, touching and playing with the man she once-called a "sociopath." This was much like any normal hour of couple's counseling. The highly-anticipated, WWE-style smack down was nowhere to be seen.
Another fine example of Oprah's amazing powers to heal?
Hardly. The talk show hostess strategically disclosed another motivation at the very end of the show, as credits rolled and sponsor tapes were cued. You may have already been in the bathroom or flipping to another channel.
As hinted here yesterday, Oprah has purchased the movie rights to Terry McMillan's latest novel, The Interruption of Everything. At the very end of the show—not unlike a college student footnoting a term paper just minutes before it's due—the talk show hostess hastily made the announcement. "I liked it so much, I bought the movie rights. We're in pre-production right now."
Well. That interrupts everything.
The book was never mentioned until that 11th hour ethical disclosure. We timed the mention at eight seconds. Oprah apologists will certainly argue that the show was under no obligation to reveal the financial interest until the mention. That argument assumes that (a) McMillan and Plummer's miraculous "reunion" had absolutely nothing to do with McMillan's current book tour, or that (b) Oprah had no financial and creative interest in maximizing sales of that book. Sadly, neither assumption is correct; movie rights for an author of McMillan's
stature level reputation are usually sold when book deals are cemented. Even if the rights were sold later, the "pre-production" refers to the stage beyond what is normally called "development", where projects can languish for months or years. Pre-pro implies the deal was locked months ago.
That off-hand, oh by the way, "I liked the book so much, I bought the movie rights" is a direct solicitation for the book to climb the charts because Oprah's influence in the publishing world is legendary. The buried disclosure causes speculation that the appearance was required by the movie deal or even the divorce decree. Much of the past several months may have been pre-movie fanfare, culminating with this reunion on Oprah at the height of November sweeps.
But once you're over those ethical hurdles—that would be after the show, because remember, the financial disclosure is at the very end—you would probably say that it was a fascinating hour of television.
The show starts with Terry on the set. Her story is almost a fairytale. She met Jonathan while in Jamaica and fell in love. The sex was great because "it surpassed different levels of orgasm." She admits that the 23 year age difference was appealing. "He was young, I thought that he's make a good learner." She says that he sexually satisfied her in almost every way and she was completely happy until the last year or so of their six and a half year marriage.
Then McMillan's bitterness comes across: when he revealed that he was gay, she was outraged. "How can you not know you are gay?" she demanded. She also said that Jonathan explained that he thought he was gay, but had never tried gay sex. "That's like saying you're an alcoholic but never had a drink."
Hardly. Psychologists, psychiatrists and most gay men and women (as well as alcoholics and recovering alcoholics) would probably disagree with the crude and inaccurate analogy. Oprah and the audience laughed at Terry's remark; a gentle correction would have been appreciated, even later from the usually fabulous Dr. Robin Smith. But this was Terry's show, so no one challenged the remark.
At the time, McMillan says she became outraged and threatened Plummer. "I feel like taking this halogen lamp and bashing your face in," she recalled. "But I didn't. Thank God." The harsh tone and threats of violence escalated as Oprah asked Terry to play down-low detective: "Did you ever see any signs" that Jonathan may have been gay? Terry repeats insults that she's made before: "He was not the most masculine man that I had met. ... He spent more time in the mirror than me." Then she borders on the petty and vindictive: "There were these nice things that he used to do for me, but then it got boring." And the coup de grace: "I had to take an HIV test. Thank God I tested negative. If I hadn't, I'd be in jail right now." The audience broke into applause.
We're going to keep this recap serious, but just a momentary break.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Two other statements are worth mentioning. First, Terry said that she "never thought" that her marriage would "be happily ever-after." "Happiness is as long as it lasts." We actually feel the same way about relationships; it is what it is, nothing is guaranteed, right? Assuming that's also how she feels ... why become enraged when the seasons change? Also, Terry once again described Jonathan as young, docile and impressionable, comparing her young husband to a pet. "You get a new puppy, you give them unconditional love, they will lick you and love you back." (Ladies and gents, we love ya dearly; it may seem fun to compare men to dogs, but if you want a k9, get one. You cannot "train" men. It never will work. Never.) That last comment is probably the root of McMillan's anger; she feels that Jonathan's "betrayal" is like a dog biting the hand that feeds him . In an earlier comment, our friend Pamalicious sums it up nicely: "This really ain't about 'sexuality' - this about a 'dream deferred' "
Jonathan was introduced by a taped package that was cleverly edited. The lighting was harsh; the extreme close-ups to his face (obviously made-up for the camera, standard industry practice) and slo-mo of the couple's wedding video made his movement appears fluid and feminine. As a producer, we would have encouraged him to dress ... less sporty. However, he was warmly welcomed on the set. Terry smiled and the ex-couple instinctively sat near each other.
Amazingly, they continued to sit near each other during the entire show. You would assume that a couple that had just endured such an acrimonious, heated divorce would be apart; not here.
Their body language spoke volumes; Terry was smiling, playful. At time they would interrupt each other, and often touch each other. Jonathan's arm was almost around Terry. He admitted that he had loved Terry and still did. That was obvious. "I think that Jonathan loved me," the author later said. "And he still does." It appears that she feels the same; "I wished that he would still love me the way he did before. I am in love with the man that I met." Much later in the show, Terry admitted that the night Jonathan revealed his long-repressed sexuality, she held him all night and rocked him to sleep. Those scenes were quite touching, and you almost feel sorry for her.
Oprah's tone ranged from soothing to prosecutorial; one certainly wonders why Jonathan agreed to the show
unless it wasn't required by the divorce settlement and generous payments from Terry and the show. He appeared nervous and sad, almost like a child being scolded by both mama and big mama. At times he held his own with Terry; a few times he had the upper hand in arguments—as much as a husband could when arguing with his wife. But obviously he could not win with the Queen of Talk. During the second and third segment she once again wore her now-patronizing "downlow detective" badge. "How can you not know that you are gay at 20 years old? I have many gay friends who say that they knew at four and six years old."
We're not the biggest Oprah fans—depending upon the topic, she can be extremely supportive or extremely irritating, but she's far from the messiah that many of us would like her to be. Oprah's self-appointed "gay girlfriend" status reminds us why we only watch the show for entertainment. For the record, lgbt can come out at any age. Sometimes younger, often much older. We came out at 20 years old in college, but, it's not uncommon to come out in the 30s, 40s ... or not at all. We would have appreciated a pro-gay voice, but her show (like most talk shows) popularizes notions that (gay) men are predators. Terry McMillan took no ownership for any part of the saga.
There was an expert on the show. Unfortunately, Dr. Robin Smith, the psychologist seated in what we call "special audience", is essentially on the show's payroll. She did not counter Oprah's claims nor Terry's ridculous comparison of homsexuality to alcoholism. Both Oprah and Terry interrupted the psychologist while she was talking—the talk show host in a dramatic "STOP RIGHT THERE!" hands movement akin to a crossing guard. For more on Oprah, Terry and the doctor's non speaking role, go to Being Bobby Brown Jr. for his recap at Terry vs Jonathan.
Oprah also made a dramatic flourish of forcing Jonathan to admit that he had cheated and slept with men. He finally confessed that he had several encounters, all safe sex, and had fallen for a man. This counters his earlier public assertions.
Okay. He lied.
We're not giving him a pass, but it's not uncommon for cheating spouses to lie. (Duh, they're ... cheating.) Oprah has done (too) many shows on infidelity. Let's look at this show in the same manner. We would have preferred if more attention had been paid to why Jonathan cheated and why his sexuality had been repressed. But the dramatic Oprah moment was just that ... a moment of television. It's almost unbelievable that with a simple question, Oprah could find out what Terry's army of lawyers and private detectives could not. Obviously the information was fed to producers and the revelations were contrived. (It's also probably the reason why Jonathan lost his lawsuit.) Again, Oprah morphed into the DL detective: "So you were DL?" Oprah demanded twice, and explained the downlow to her audience. "You were on the DL. Just say it." **SMH**
A later segment began with another "Oprah exclusive": she had information that Terry and Jonathan recently spent the night together. More coincidences: An Oprah camera crew was at the McMillan mansion when flowers were delivered from Jonathan. Terry explained that recently, Jonathan had came over to "take a bath" and they actually ended up sharing the bathtub, "holding and caressing." The couple waffled on revealing that sex was involved. Oprah finished for them. "If he's gay, he wouldn't!" Not necessarily; Terry admitted earlier that Jonathan had handled his business faithfully for six years. But as we said, if sex were involved and Terry admitted to it, her victim status is in jeopardy.
Even though this was Terry's show, the producers didn't totally stack it in her favor. Several of McMillan's infamous answering machine messages were replayed, replete with obscenities and "faggots." Oprah made no comment on these; neither did the psychologist Dr. Robin Smith. But Oprah did comment on Jonathan's lawsuit to her author: "Do you regret that? ... Sleeping with another man, lying to her and then suing her for money! 'Cause that's when I turned against you." At least Oprah was honest and admitted that bias ... before the show was over.Terry Loves Gays, Hates Saddam Couldn't I See the Signs? "How Do You Not Know You Are Gay?" More Filed Under Terry McMillan Publicity Stunt