Monday, April 30, 2007

i am three thousand percent sure!

I suppose I can understand people being baffled by my love for America's Next Top Model, Dirty Dancing, or even Philip Seymour Hoffman. Even some of my closest friends still raise an eyebrow when I wax nostalgic about the sense of security that comes from being engaged in conversation with Professor M. But nothing gets criticized more than my awed respect for The Maury Povich Show. Almost every weekday, if I'm free at noon or 2pm, I turn on Maury.

Types of Maury episodes typically break down into the following categories: paternity testing, unruly teen girls, lie-detector tests, abusive husbands, makeovers, obese toddlers, and sensational events caught on tape. The first three categories form a sort of Venn diagram, and air more frequently than the others. Rarely, there will be an exceptional episode about people with debilitating deformities or strange phobias, but these are few and far between.

A lot of people think of Maury as base entertainment cashing in on the problems of society's trodden-upon -- perhaps going to so far as to liken it to a modern day race-unspecific minstrel show. I can't entirely disprove this, but I'd like to argue that most forms of mainstream entertainment which are popular with the same demographics as Maury's audience are the same way. A lot can be asked about the ethics of a show which parades the sorrows and tribulations of its guests for profit, but the women who bring their fatherless children and cheating husbands onto the show are deeply yearning for answers.

On a basic level, Maury is providing services to people which are too expensive for almost everyone in the population. A trip to NYC to answer the questions that have been plaguing them is very desirable to a lot of people (as evidenced by the show's continued success), at the cost of being exposed on television in moments of vulnerability.

I watch the Maury show for a couple of reasons: it entertains me, and it makes me feel better by giving me the perspective to understand that other people have worse problems than I do. I also tend to think that Maury highlights how chronic some of society's problems are, like infidelity, unprotected sex and the resulting unplanned pregnancies, deadbeat dads, abusive husbands, rebellious teens, obesity, &c.

As a result of the reach Maury has over so many Americans, however, I believe that he has a social responsibility. On a small scale, he helps the individuals on his show, but does nothing to address the problems his show gives light to. This is my one concern, and I am baffled as to why Maury doesn't stress the use of condoms or other forms of birth control on his show. I have never once heard him mention that people wouldn't be going through such trauma if they just took better care of themselves. And I don't know how much a trip to prison and a tongue-lashing by D West is going to help a teenage prostitute in the long run. So though I enjoy The Maury Povich show, I do think it is past time for his audience to recognize the trends they watch on TV every day.

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