After watching talk shows on a regular basis, I realized that each one varies in style and format. I, along with many others enjoy watching the sometimes trashy subject matter found on Jerry Springer. This show reassures me and others that our lives are not as screwed up as some of the guests. It convinces us that we are not slobs and that we are decent, upright, generally moral beings. We watch it because it projects moral weakness onto others. It gives normalcy to our lives by allowing us to see those lives that are more chaotic and disordered. It's basic moral message is how not to act. Although, others might prefer the more light-hearted feel of the Oprah Winfrey show. She and her guests model the morally upright behavior that we should strive to live by. The goal of her series is to give viewers information and solutions to improve their lives and to provide us with positive role models.
However, some may disagree. After reading five authors views I have learned that one author thinks talk shows are a "pollution of the human environment" (Bennett 25), while another one thinks of a talk show host as her "personal psychiatrists" (Gaines 30).
Two of the authors that I read about think that talk shows corrupt our lives. William Bennett stated many things that are wrong with talk shows. However, he based everything on his opinion and not facts. He said that he had asked his staff to provide a list of some of the show's topics which concludes that he never really 2 watched any of them himself. Bennett also puts all talk shows in the bottom of his so called "television barrel" because they go over the line of decency. Personally, I do not think that all talk shows are bad at all. (Bennett 24). I think that Bennett should get facts and also he should view the shows content before he offers his opinion on television talk shows.
The other authors that I read about were Vicki Abt and Leonard Mustazza. "Pornography" is the word they used to describe talk show messages. They also gave readers a list of things to watch out for, little things that we may have never noticed. Some of them include: poor grammar, wild audience cheering, incomplete information on guests, and interruptions of emotionally devastating stories for commercial breaks. They based all of their opinions on facts and on personal observations. As a viewer, I would take their advice before Bennett's. (Abt, Mustazza 26-27) The other authors that I read about viewed talk shows as being morally right and not harmful to us. Donna Gaines was having trouble with her husband so she turned to Jenny Jones for guidance. She thought of her as her personal psychiatrist. Talk shows might help with life's everyday struggles but Gaines was too involved with the show. She gave up her life to watch and listen to the advice that Jenny was giving her. In part of her story she stated that "Bennett's morality squad may see talk shows as carnival freak shows, but all that means is that the shows have the power to drag us statistical outcasts in from the margins. They also loosen things up for the majority of folks back in the dull normal range of the bell curve" (Gaines 32).
3 The last author was Ellen Willis. She looks at talk show as a part of our social culture. She does not disagree with them however, she doesn't agree with them. Her opinion is based on the reason for their popularity. She feel that more and more talk shows are allowing people to express their opinions and talk about their sex lives and family fights as opposed to discussing political issues. She stated" Our problem is not the excess of talk shows but the brutality and emptiness of our political culture" (Willis 35-37).
As we watch, listen, and are entertained by TV talk shows, we are dramatically altering our views about normal and deviant behavior. I myself have viewed and have come to a conclusion about the following talk shows. I think that talk show do not corrupt our lives as long as we know how to view them. If we watch Jerry Springer and think that what the guests are doing is normal behavior then we are viewing it the wrong way. Watching a show like this we must understand and teach others that their behavior on talk show are not normal and may be considered devient.
Jerry Springer could easily be considered the king of "trash talk." The topics on his show are as shocking as they get. For example, the show takes the common talk show themes of love, lust, sex, sexuality, adultery, cheating, guilt, hate, conflict and morality to a different level. The list of talk material goes on from dangerous love triangles, broken homes, pregnant strippers, teenage prostitutes, adult film stars, devil worshippers and the members of the Ku Klux Klan. Clearly, the Jerry Springer show is a display of society's moral catastrophes, yet people are willing to consume the interesting situations of other peoples lives. We must wonder whether these shows are good for our society. There are times when Jerry Springer has made an effort to help the troubled people on his show. The 4 most notable is when he helped extremely obese people get to the hospital and help them turn their lives around. The entire process is still taped for its entertainment value, but at least something good came out of it. Jerry also ends every show with a "final word." He makes a small speech that sums up the point of the show. This is the part where the show expects most people to learn something very valuable. Jerry Springer's crude and vulgar topics may be looked down upon, but no other talk show comes close to the raw exposure of its guests. It is unlikely that you will find a guest on Oprah that has committed adultery, have sold their souls to the devil, or are part of a racist hate group.
Like Jerry Springer, the Oprah Winfrey show takes talk show TV to its extreme, but Oprah goes in the opposite direction. Oprah Winfrey was once a follower of the trash TV layout, but her long running popular TV talk show has since been improved. The show focuses on the improvement of society and an individual's quality of life. Topics range from teaching your children responsibility, managing your work week, proper etiquette, getting to know your neighbors and entertaining interviews with celebrities. Not many talk shows are interested in taking time to teach children right from wrong, or give techniques to get along with people better. The Oprah show's top priority is to educate first, and then entertain. Oprah Winfrey was able to break away and create a unique and highly successful talk show.
Even if Oprah is as pure as it is, the show is not for everyone. Each talk show caters to a different audience but both have a strong following from many fans. The main audience for Oprah's show is the working middle class American women. Oprah tends to 5 focus on issues that a women would be more interested in than a man. A majority of these people usually have the time, money, and stability to deal with life's tougher problems. Jerry Springer, on the other hand, has more of an association with the young adults of society. These are your 18 -21 year olds whose main troubles in life involve love, relationship, sex, pregnancy, money, peers and influence. These issues seem to catch a man's interest before its catches a woman's. As you can see these show not only cater to different social classes they also cater to different genders.
While these two talk shows are as different as night and day, both have ruled the talk show world for many years now. If we were to mirror people on talk shows then we would be living our lives somewhat as a fantasy. No ones life is as perfect as the guests on Oprah. However, no ones life is as horrible as the guest on Jerry Springer. Talk shows have become the new sideshows, and we watch them to validate our values and beliefs; if not for those values and beliefs, we would act just as the people on these talk shows do. Therefore, we would not be living our own life rather, a talk show life.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOW TO CITE THIS ESSAY: "The Battle Over Talk Shows ," Loadstone 15 March 2002: 11:00:22, http://www.CheatHouse.com (c) 1995-2002 Loadstone.