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Kennedy Center Honors salute Oprah, Paul McCartney

The annual Kennedy Center Honors have hit a home run with two of their 2010 honorees: Oprah Winfrey and Paul McCartney!

Oprah Winfrey

We never thought we’d see the day, but people are actually challenging Oprah’s place on the list.

In modern culture, Oprah is the closest thing we have to a deity. With one mention on her book list or her “Favooorite Thiiiiiiiing!!!!” millions of dollars are made. We have her to thank for everything from “The Ah-Ha Moment” to Dr Phil (yeah, thanks for that one, O), and her farewell twenty-fifth season is being heralded and mourned by fans with reverence beyond anything daytime television has ever seen.

So why is Oprah suddenly weathering backlash after being named one of this year’s five Kennedy Center honorees?

Each year since 1978, the Kennedy Center Honors fete five artists, occasionally six when there’s a duo to be praised, and it’s considered the highest tribute to American artists. This year, tribute is being paid to Oprah Winfrey, Sir Paul McCartney, country crooner Merle Haggard, and two Broadway talents, composer-lyricist Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles) and choreographer Bill T Jones (Fela!).

Funny bit of trivia, Paul McCartney was already named to be honored in 2002 but when he decided he didn’t feel like attending the ceremony, Paul Simon was named instead.

The award, which will be given out on December 5 and aired on CBS on December 28, has sparked a maelstrom of online debate over Oprah’s inclusion.

According to the organization’s website, the Kennedy Center Honors are “given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture.”

There’s no denying her impact on culture, but the debate that’s raging is over Oprah’s impact in the performing arts arena.

Talk show hosting isn’t exactly a category at the Academy Awards. Granted, Oprah did earn Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her performance in The Color Purple, and she’s produced movies like Beloved and TV movies such as Tuesdays with Morrie and The Women of Brewster Place, but some feel that’s not enough. In the past, Johnny Carson received a Kennedy Center Honor but in a field that includes folks like Wendy Williams, Geraldo Rivera and Rachael Ray, we can see why it might be hard for Oprah to seem as credible as, say, one of the founding members of the Beatles.

But there’s no denying the force that is Oprah.

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