Become a Fan
This article is about the phenomenon of the Jerry Springer and other such television shows, and addresses why they have such broad appeal. What we are seeing are ourselves, except without the protective layer of civility and pretense. Like a piece of fruit that has been peeled, these people lay exposed, stripped bare and we love every minute of it, despite our protestations to the contrary. Though we decry such depictions and the perpetuating of racial stereotypes, I contend that what we are really fascinated by is the reflection of our own lives, to a lesser extent, mirrored on these shows.
I am not a decent person. What I mean is, I’m decent enough, but not REALLY decent. I’m not imbued with the type of decency that would cause me to step outside of or to inconvenience myself in order to empathize with the pain and plight of others. Not enough to truly care or want to do something about their situation. THAT is real decency. I am just decent enough to say things like “I understand what you are going through, “I’m so sorry to hear about that” or “Call me if you need anything.”
The first 2 statements don’t require much effort and the last is said with the hope that the individual won’t really call! When I am asked to lend the occasional hand, do the odd chore or render some requested aid, it is done with quiet reluctance and ultimately for my own satisfaction, to make ME feel good. Those prior sympathetic mutterings take on their true negative connotation when uttered loudly in my mind:
“I don’t understand what is the matter with him or her?” “Its their own fault for getting themselves into this mess!” and “People like that get what they deserve!”
Yeah, what they deserve! Isn’t that what we say about the parade of pathetic clowns, the menagerie of dysfunctional misfits in the center ring – on TV?
I suspect that most people are like me, voyeurs of the pain of others. Like spectators in the theaters of Ancient Rome, we clamor for me! This realization occurred to me as I watched the tortured and tormented lives on display in all their lurid, yet tantalizing splendor, on the ‘Jerry Springer’ show. I became incredulous as it suddenly struck me like a thunderbolt – This is REAL! This is really their life!
Like many of you, I never considered the spectacle that is ‘Springer’, ‘Rickie’, ‘Maury’ or ‘Sally’, to be anything other than entertainment, albeit of the lowest form. They MUST be actors, because no one is crazy enough to put on display for the world to see, the intimate details of their lives. Sadly, their stories are true and we lap it up greedily. We take a sampling of their pain for our pleasure and then discard the rest as so much refuse.
Never mind the focus on the seemingly over-the-top component of perpetuating racial stereotypes; what we should be asking is: How did they get here? How did this sad commentary on the human condition become such a media phenomenon? Are we so thirsty for the blood and tears that spill from the hearts of these poor souls because they are not our own? It must be akin to the morbid wonder and fascination we display when watching a train wreck – we just can’t avert our eyes, no matter how horrific the scene.
The truth is, I have never really given much thought to what happens to these people after their 15 minutes of shame. Just imagine the affect their appearance must have on family and friends, co-workers and neighbors? What a whirlwind of chaos they must reap upon their return!
However, could we withstand this kind of scrutiny on our lives? What secrets lie beneath our façade of temperance? If the switch is flipped on in our dark closet – who knows what they will find:
The lies that we have spoken,
The betrayals we have contrived,
The hearts that we have broken
The sorry few that have survived
Of course, if you or I were called to be a guest of one of these shows, we would decline without hesitation. Never would we voluntarily invite the World to view ‘our world’. The light might reveal the truth. Show us up as pitiable and parasitic, despicable and decadent, selfish and self-absorbed sociopaths.
Isn’t this what we are really seeing? The difference is that these people are more honest than we and make no apologies for what they are. However, some of them view shows like Jerry Springer as their last hope, as their last resort to effect change, because they want and need change. They are so tired of the lies and the betrayals, of being broken-hearted and miserable, that it seems their only recourse is to expose it to the world. The irresistible pressure of ‘everybody knowing’, may act as a force to give him or her the strength to abandon futility, break the bonds of self-pity (or lethargy) and dare to dream of something better.
Yes, I saw the truth and Jerry showed it to me. What is more, he held up a mirror and I saw my own reflection in the lives that lay strewn on the stage. I believe that if we all saw this same truth, confronted our own ugliness, we might no longer find these shows entertaining. We may instead, become Decent people.