Talk Shows Essay, Research Paper
Raping Morality ?:
The Effect of Talk Shows on American Society
“You are too hot to be a mom!” “You took my man!” These are just some of the topics one would run across while watching Jenny Jones, Jerry Springer, or one of the many other daytime talk shows otherwise known as dysfunction forums. Fortunately, these shows are not representative of our society as a whole. Rather, they represent the underbelly. Talk shows do not accurately reflect our society, but affect it adversely by making immoral situations seem common place.
Talk shows are meant to get ratings, and they do this by discussing sensational and inflammatory topics. They neither reflect nor give a fair representation of American society as a whole. Phil Donahue admitted that he was torn between wanting to cover important issues and the need to get high Nielson ratings (Day 55). Interestingly, he feels that the more outrageous the subject, the better the ratings will be. This need for sensationalism can be seen in all of us to one degree or another. Why is there always a group following the ambulance or the fire truck as they speed their way to a crises? Any traffic slowdown on the freeway clears immediately as cars pass the accident. That slowdown was just morbid curiosity. While these incidents are natural outcomes of our busy society, sensational television is not.
Rather, this kind of program caters to the baser instincts in most humans.
Two researchers from the University of Georgia, Patricia Joyner Priest and Joseph R. Dominick, conducted an interview of people who had appeared on Donahue. They found that the majority of the people interviewed were not part of our main-stream American culture. People who would be considered different in our society, such as, transsexuals, AIDS victims, rape survivors, gay parents, and prostitutes constituted the guest list (Day 43). Most of these shows do not pay their guests. Guests are recruited by a trailer at the end of each show. For example; Is your mother sleeping with your boyfriend? Who would one expect to respond to this kind of question? Obviously, the majority of people never encounter this or any of the other sensational topics used to recruit guests. This only serves to re-enforce the point that talk shows are not representative of our society.
Vicki Abt, Ph.D. and Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D., researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, believe that talk shows actually corrode society’s moral boundaries by confusing right and wrong. Abt says that the 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 (Day 53). We as a society are getting so used to hearing about adultery, incest, or whatever the big topic of the day is that we are starting to accept that type of behavior as normal. It makes it seem as if the underbelly constitutes a much bigger part of society than it actually does. There are not an infinite number of subjects to fill these shows. This will only lead to stranger and more abnormal topics in an attempt to sustain ratings (Kurst 64).
Some talk shows seem more like the World Wrestling Federation. Jerry Springer for example has security guards sitting right in front of the guest to maintain the peace. It rarely helps though, usually, to the audiences delight, the guest get in brief rumbles that are as pointless as they are stupid (Kurst 65). The audience definitely enjoys these brief moments of mayhem. But are they healthy? Do they promote good values or do they teach us to solve our problems with our fists? They are not healthy. They only disguise a rating ploy as a way to solve one’s problems.
In 1995, on the Jenny Jones show, Jonathan Schmitz was soon to meet his secret admirer. He seemed somewhat excited. After all, this could be the woman of his dreams. But, to his shock, out came a gay man Scott Amedure. Jonathan, wearing the new clothes he had bought especially for the occasion, was humiliated. He had been embarrassed in front of a national audience. Unfortunately, he was so ashamed and enraged that he turned to murder. He was convicted of killing Scott Ammeter (Kurtz 185). This brought Jenny Jones’s ambush tactics under fire. She exploited a man she new to be heterosexual in an effort to get ratings.
Talk shows do not properly represent society as a whole, but they can have a great effect on it. They convey a message that makes the abnormal and wrong seem acceptable. They tell us that something is terribly wrong with the country ( Kurtz). One must wonder whether these shows are good for our society. Many Teenagers and children who are home from school watch these shows. Do we want them to think that it is appropriate for an adult to act the way people act on these shows? By making immorality seem normal these shows are slowly chipping away at our society’s sense of decency.
Thesis: Talk shows do not accurately reflect our society, but affect it adversely by making immoral situations seem common place.
I. Talk Shows are meant to get ratings.
A. They must be sensational, not truthful.
B. The majority of people on talk shows are not part of main- stream society.
II. Talk shows confuse society’s idea of right and wrong.
A. Society gets used to the topics.
B. Jerry Springer glorifies violence on his show.
III. Ambush techniques and guest exploitation are often used.
A. A Jenny Jones segment turned a man to murder.
B. Exploitation is not fair for hosts to use.
IV. Talk shows do not represent society, but they can have a great effect on it.
A. They make the abnormal seem acceptable.
B. Children watch these shows.
C. Talk shows have an adverse effect on society.