I realize I am going against conventional wisdom in saying this, but I think “The Jerry Springer Show” is good for America.
In case you are not up on your “pop culture,” either because you do not watch television or because you are from Canada, I will explain who Jerry Springer is. He hosts a syndicated talk show, the purpose of which is to give regular, every-day people an opportunity to beat each other up. Where 10 years ago two guys involved in a dispute might say, “Let’s take this outside and settle it like men,” they now say, “Let’s take this to ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ and settle it like a couple of wet-diapered babies.”
Generally speaking, the show features a person who has some terrible secret to tell his or her love interest. The terrible secret is usually on the order of “I’m a night-club stripper,” or “I’m not actually a woman, but rather, an armadillo,” or “I’m a Unitarian.” They will tell the audience the secret first, and then their partner will come out and be the last person in the whole country to know, which, you can imagine, must soften the blow quite a bit. If there is a third party involved — the owner of the night club, or the head of the Unitarian church, for example — that person and the person who has been surprised on national television will usually wind up fist-fighting while the audience hoots and hollers and Jerry Springer stands in the back and discusses his upcoming book deal with his best friend and personal manager, Satan.
Many people have said that this show appeals to the base instinct, and that it’s moronic. And I agree with those people. I will state unequivocally that every single person who has ever appeared as a guest on “Jerry Springer” is stupid. There are no exceptions to this. For most guests, just the things they’ve done are stupid enough, but having a desire to go on TV and tell everyone about them compounds the stupidity exponentially (by a factor of four, if you want the exact equation). Then the way they behave when they get on the show — dressing like trash as if they had no idea they’d be on TV when they got up that morning, swearing at each other, throwing punches, saying, “Talk to my hand,” etc. — all of that makes the stupidity almost palpable, to where it almost becomes an entity, and you have to capitalize it (e.g., “The Stupidity oozed out all over the stage, and the janitors had to mop it up after the show was over”).
And as for the husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends whose partners invite them to come on the show so they can reveal some big secret to them — what’s up with these people? If you are ever involved in a relationship in which the other person wants to discuss a matter of major import on national television, rather than just telling you what it is — RUN, do not walk, away from that relationship, for you can know immediately that whatever it is they have to tell you, it can’t possibly spell anything good for you.
(Actually, men, maybe it’s our aversion to discussing relationships that has driven the women to this: Knowing that if they say, “Let’s talk about ‘us,'” we will flee the scene, they are left with no alternative but to drag us on TV and thereby FORCE us to talk. It’s something to think about, at least for maybe one second or so.)
Anyway, back to the stupidity issue. This is why “Jerry Springer” is good for America: It helps us identify the stupid people in our society. Now, being stupid, in and of itself, is not particularly heinous, because most stupid people are also nice, which sort of makes up for it. But “Jerry Springer” people tend to be stupid AND belligerent, which is a bad combination. Because if someone is dumb, that already limits their potential to contribute to society. But if they’re obnoxious, argumentative and militant on top of that, well, that pretty much eliminates all hope of them doing anything productive other than working at traveling carnivals, or Denny’s.
And so by letting these people appear on TV, it helps us identify them. Many of them, if you were to see them on the street, would not immediately appear stupid. You might make the mistake of asking them for directions, or entrusting them with a secret treasure map, or something like that. But if you recognize them from their “Jerry Springer” appearances, then you know instantly — “Stay away from this person! He or she can do me no good, and I might even have to talk to his or her hand!” “The Jerry Springer Show” is sort of like “America’s Most Wanted,” alerting us to the people whom we should be on the look-out for.
Eventually, every stupid person in America will have either appeared on “The Jerry Springer Show,” or will have a talk show of his or her own. Then the rest of us can sleep easy at night, knowing that the stupid ones among us have been clearly marked and can’t cause us any trouble. I’m sleeping better already, even as I write this.
I didn't usually write much about national affairs like this. I generally stuck to issues that more directly affected my readers (i.e., BYU students, mostly), but I couldn't pass this up. Ever since one of the local stations began showing "The Jerry Springer Show" a few months earlier, I'd been hooked. I didn't watch it every day, and I don't think I've ever watched an entire episode. But I'd seen enough to be appalled at the low state of humanity, and to be completely enthralled. There were times where I could not have changed the channel if I'd wanted to, so fascinated was I by the proceedings. "Jerry Springer" was unique in that no matter what you thought of his guests or their topics of discussion, it made for absolutely riveting television. I usually felt like I want to wash my hands afterwards, but still.
The day this was published, I got a cautionary e-mail from a lawyer in South Carolina. He did not indicate how he happened to read the column, but these are his remarks:
Eric, I would caution you to not name other churches, etc. in your opinions that are published by newsnet.(Jerry Springer article) I have very good friends who are Unitarians and would be highly offended by your inclusion of their faith as an example of stupidity. There are in fact Unitarian converts in the South Carolina area. Evidently you have grown up as a sheltered Mormon in the Wasatch front...
Thanks, [Some Guy's Name]
Attorney Offices of [So-and-So],
P.A. Spartanburg, SC
I actually grew up neither sheltered nor on the Wasatch Front. But you can hardly blame a lawyer for making invalid assertions that support his already-jumped-to conclusion; I think there's an entire course in law school devoted to teaching that.
Of course I meant no offense toward the Unitarians. I used it merely as an example of something that might surprise someone if their friend announced it to them on TV. But you probably knew that.