Thursday, 4 September 2014

Bullying in popular culture: Gordon Ramsey, Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos, Judge Mliian and Judge Judy, Dr. Phil,

We are all aware of the unbearable bullying which some children in schools ( K -12 ) have to endure; in many cases cruel, vicious and dangerous verbal bullying via various "social media" services.

We are less aware that such bullying continues in College and University life -  very often perpetuated by Sororities and Fraternities by means of (often illegal) "hazing".

Many of us have also encountered bullying in the workplace; or in married life.

I suggest that popular T.V. condones a bullying culture.  I watch some of it during afternoons, but I am coming to believe that it can be toxic.

I think of that British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey, with his restaurant makeover shows.  That man uses the F word as if it were a comma or semi-colon in a sentence.  He screams and yells at hapless restaurateurs who often cower under his abuse and seem unable to tell him that his behaviour is out of bounds.  And for that he gets paid.

Jerry Springer lives in Sarasota.  In a recent local newspaper article he claimed to be so liberal that he could not run for office.

His alleged liberalism does not extend to his T.V. show.

That show often features "cat-fights" in which young women pull each others' hair, and/or wrestle each other to the ground.  And he has the shows in which some young man has dated a woman who, on the show, declares "I am really a man".  Then the "real man" attacks the "trannie". (Nice Mr. Springer has recently announced that he will no longer use the word "trannie" ).

I think that most of the guests on the Jerry Springer show are in fact very bad actors.  But the message is clear -  young women resolve their differences by fighting, and trans-gendered people are to be beaten up.

His audience consists of frat and sorority types who bay with glee when guests are discomfited. They are  like Roman Empire citizens in the Coliseums.

Hey there Mr.  Springer  -  that's not very "liberal".

Steve Wilkos  (once a bodyguard on the Springer show) now has his own show which deals with the darker side of human life.  Wilkos can sometimes be very funny and he is quite good at exposing human hypocrisy.    But, boy oh boy, he is a dreadful bully.

See this for a Wikipedia article which illustrates my point.

Judge Marilyn Milian,  a former judge at the State Circuit Court, Florida presides over "The Peoples' Court" (the original "Court" reality show). The Peoples' Court was, for a long time, presided over by Judge Wapner, of whom Wikipedia writes "On the show, he ran a respectful, serene courtroom and was known for his stodgy, easygoing manner".

Not so Judge Milian. She specializes in screaming at litigants. Such bullying behaviour would surely lead to disciplinary action in a real court. "Real Judges" are not allowed (or should not be allowed) the luxury of such self-indulgent bullying.

I was, for a while, a fan of Judge Judy, (once also a real Judge)  With a roll of the eyes, or the uplift of eyebrows she can be very amusing.

But she is incredibly moralistic and politically right-wing in some of her opinions, and she is an expert in her "put-downs" of litigants who are ill-prepared, or nervous, or even foolish.

She often screams "that's outrageous", or "I don't believe you", and she rarely explains the legal theory which underlies her opinions.

She comes across as a hectoring moralist rather than as a dispassionate Judge.

Finally there is Doctor Phil.  He first surfaced as a rather folksy "advice giver" on the Oprah Winfrey show.

He now has his own show.  It's a fairly self referential, and often plugs his books.  It's one of those shows which purports to "solve"  complicated problems in the space of one hour (less times for commercials).

Dr. Phil comes across as an expert in human relationships.   But he is utterly capable of yelling at his guests in a way which no honourable Psychologist would find acceptable.

It's hard to know whether Dr. Phil sees himself as an entertainer or as a Psychologist. I suggest that he cannot have it both ways.  Certainly if any of the Psychologists with whom I have consulted had addressed me in the angry or patronizing way which Dr. Phil displays on his show I would have walked out.  He too often comes across as a bully.



In short, I see the culture of bullying as the curse of these popular T.V. shows.  I worry about their "trickle down" influence.

So, why do I watch them?

1.  Sometimes because as a preacher I need to be aware of popular culture.

2. Sometimes because I am bored and have nothing better to do.

3. Sometimes because I am as susceptible to titillation as the best of you.

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