Before I start this essay, let me take a moment to reflect, to look back at my life and see if I’ve ever profited from exploiting stupid people.
Thinking. Thinking. Trying to remember big sums of money rolling in at the expense of people who don’t know any better.
Nope. Looks like I’m good. I’ll continue with a clear conscience.
And with a clear conscience, I want to ask people like Jerry Springer and Maury Povich and the rest of their ilk how they sleep at night. How do you go home at the end of the day and pretend you’ve made some contribution to society?
I wouldn’t have any idea what goes on on daytime television if I didn’t occasionally go pick up my 15-year-old daughter on a weekday afternoon. Her taste in art, entertainment, and leisure time is still in its formative stage, so many times when I’m over there one of these horrific shows is blaring across three rooms. (Yeah, she could use a job, but that’s another story.)
What amazes me is that these shows always seem to be about someone denying that he’s the father of someone else’s baby. The wronged teenage mother yells at the baby’s father, he yells back, the audience yells at both of them, someone gets called a ho, four out of every five words are bleeped out, the young man’s girlfriend runs on from backstage and tries to attack the baby’s mother, and Messrs. Springer and Povich act surprised that this is happening despite the fact that from what I can tell it’s the only thing that ever happens on their stupid-ass shows.
I’m curious about the audition/selection process. I’m curious about how they find people stupid enough to believe that going on television to tell the same story that’s being told on every other channel is somehow going to make their lives better. What are they promising these people? Do they get paid? If they aren’t getting paid as much as Maury Povich, then they’re being used. Thrown to the wolves. Exploited for someone else’s gain.
I’m curious about how the guests on these shows act when they get back home. Do their friends treat them like TV stars? Or do their friends say “Yeah, I always knew you weren’t very bright and that you sleep around with other morons—but now the whole country knows it. Congratulations”?
Maybe they just want their fifteen minutes of fame and don’t expect their lives to be altered one way or the other when it’s over. Maybe they’re just happy with a free trip to wherever these shows are taped.
Maybe—and here’s where the word exploitation gets its capital E—maybe Povich and Springer and their producers encourage their guests to be as vulgar as possible. Maybe they encourage the surprise guest girlfriend to come on stage ready to throw a punch. “And there’s an extra $50 in it if you can rip the other girl’s top off at some point.”
I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, nor do I know why these shows exist. But I do know that putting economically disadvantaged, poorly educated people on display for profit is about as low as it gets.