First Shot: Ebert’s balcony scene
by Steve Schneider

OK, so I watched Oprah’s ballyhooed interview with Roger Ebert. And no matter what any of us might feel about the guy’s critical acumen or his pre-cancer professional persona, it’s hard not to be touched and inspired by his trip to the brink, and the triumphant walk back from it he seems to have made with the help of some very supportive and courageous loved ones.

The interview? Meh. Somebody needs to tell this alleged queen of compassion that just because a guest is staring back at you through eyes that only seem maniacally pronounced because cancer has turned his jaw into an unmoving Halloween mask, you do not have to speak to him as if he’s – well, as if he’s retarded. Every time she patronizingly leaped to pronounce Ebert’s every anecdote “a great story” — before his voice-emulation software was even done telling it — I found myself pining for the intellectual engagement of Tom Snyder.

Worse, as she did in her first Palin sit-down, the hostess once again proved herself fixated on Hallmark narratives and lifestyle issues – and either unwilling or unable to place those issues in a meaningful social context. Let’s be honest here: Love alone doesn’t save anybody from the kind of cancer this guy had. And at a time when the shocking unaffordability of health care is such a widely recognized epidemic, it would have been nice for someone to have acknowledged the simple truth that Roger Ebert is alive today largely because he’s Roger Ebert.

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