Talk Shows Essay Research Paper If social

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Talk Shows Essay, Research Paper If social order is not a given, if it is not encoded in our DNA, then to some extent we are always in the process of producing “virtual realities,” some more functional than others. Habits, routines, and institutions are the patterns that create the “world taken for granted.” Knowledge of how to behave is contained in cultural scripts that are themselves products of human interaction and communication about the nature of “reality.” Shame, guilt, embarrassment are controlling feelings that arise from “speaking the unspeakable” and from violating cultural taboos. Society is a result of its boundaries,of what it will and won’t allow. As we watch, listen, and are entertained, TV talk shows are rewriting our cultural scripts,

altering our perceptions, our social relationships, and our relationships to the natural world. TV talk shows offer us a world of blurred boundaries. Cultural distinctions between public and private, credible and incredible witnesses, truth and falseness, good and evil, sickness and irresponsibility, normal and abnormal, therapy and exploitation, intimate and stranger, fragmentation and community are manipulated and erased for our distraction and entertainment. A community in real time and place exhibits longevity, an interdependence based on common interests, daily concerns, mutual obligations, norms, kinship, friendship, loyalty, and local knowledge, and real physical structures, not just shared information. If your neighbor’s house is on fire, you are motivated to help put

it out, or at least interested in having it put out, because you care about your neighbor and the fire is a threat to your own house. Television talk shows create an ersatz community, without any of the social and personal responsibilities that are attached to real life. Therapy as entertainment is the appeal of these shows. The so-called hosts rely on the cynical use of the therapeutic model for psychological sound bites. The need to educate and inform the audience is the voiced rationale for getting the so-called guests to give ever more titillating details of their misdeeds, or of the misdeeds done to them by family or friends (often not on the show). The underlying assumption — that most social pathology is the result of a medical problem beyond the control of the so-called

“victim” — encourages, at least indirectly, people to come on to these shows confessing outrageous stories of anti-social behavior to millions of strangers. Rather than being mortified, ashamed, or trying to hide their stigma, “guests” willingly and eagerly discuss their child molesting, sexual quirks, and criminal records in an effort to seek “understanding” for their particular disease. Yet these people remain caricatures, plucked out of the context of their real lives, unimportant except for their entertaining problem. (In real life someone might question the benefits of publicly confessing to people who really don’t care about you or don’t have the expertise to give advice. Exploitation, voyeurism, peeping Toms, freak shows all come to mind.) The central

distortion that these shows propound is that they give useful therapy to guests and useful advice to the audience. And that they are not primarily designed to extract the most riveting and most entertaining emotional displays from participants. This leads to such self-serving and silly speeches by hosts as: “I ask this question not to pry in your business but to educate parents in our audience” (Oprah, trying to get graphic details from a female guest who claims to have been sodomized by her father) and “Do I understand, Lisa, that intercourse began with your dad at age 12, and oral sex between 5 and 12? Do I understand that you were beaten before and after the sexual encounters? (Phil, reading from prepared notes, to a crying teenager). The audience at various points in