Oprah Winfrey has started a documentary club. To some observers, this is cause for alarm. After all, look at what she’s done to books! Mysterious, important things like books are now being manhandled by the great unwashed, with big decals on them no less.
I’m fond of old fashioned things, but the attitude that some things should be above the mass market is beyond stodgy. It’s simply unrealistic to suggest that certain things should be kept in box A or B when the way we access most cultural information is boundless. Any way to help certain films or books or conceptual art projects reach an audience has value.
Boundless access also means that no matter how many resources go into OWN, it does not “hurt” other films. It’s much more likely that increasing documentary awareness among Oprah’s audience will allow other filmmakers with subjects or styles appropriate for the OWN audience to take advantage of the marketing going into the general programming.
And filmmakers who are seeing the license fees OWN is paying are likely not unhappy, either.
When new things come along, try exploring how the new thing can be useful before trying to put the cat back in the bag. Pet the cat a little.