Subject: Entering Jerry's World
Date: Sat 25 Jul 1998 - 14:44:57 BST
"Update: Transsexual Secrets Revealed" was the topic of yesterday's Jerry
Springer show, a recap of five men who found out that the women they were
smitten with were "really men." The responses were expected, down to the
throwing of a chair. Only one of the transsexuals was not of color, and her
beau pinged my gaydar so much I suspect it was a hoax. It's true -- people of
color have diferent challenges in dealing with transgender.
We just got Jerry Springer here in Smallbany and I find it compellling
programming. It's so incredibly primal -- no thought or maturity is allowed
on the Springer stage or even in the audience. Go with the gut and don't be
surprised if what comes out smells like the contents of the colon, splattered
everywhere. Watch the people just go off, all that emotion without any
constraint of civil order, except of course for the buff t-shirted bouncers
who halt flying attacks across the stage as one ex lover tries to attack
Admittedly, Jerry Springer is not urbane, upscale programming. It's not full
of people who have been civilized and socialized, rather it's full of people
who are immersed in the drama of the moment, visceral and pungent reactions to
everything and everyone. Even the audience joins this frey, people who travel
from all over and get to sing the praises of Jerry at the end of shows, people
who feel empowered to make raw and ripe judgements in the moment.
To me, Jerry Springer is emotional TV at it's best and worst. At it's best it
is incredibly compelling. Even if we see the emotional manipulation and games
of someone who would bring a partner onto a gladitorial TV show to tell them
their deepest secrets, ones that will kick them in the gut, these people are
kicked in the gut and their emotions are pure and raw. Their unhecked fury is
powerful to watch, juicy and invigorating, pure life force.
Yet, that pure life force is channeled into the petty and the vicious, the
destructive and the mindless, without context or undrestanding, without
thought. The ludicrous irony of "Springer's Final Thought" where Jerry
piously delivers up a sermon that might even consist of him saying he would
not air his laundry on TV, and that maybe the best thing that the show does is
to give them a tape of themseves which allows the combatants to see how they
look in context, see themselves from a more rational viewpoint. Of course,
though, the producers of this entertainment want to keep rationality off the
stage -- much better that the participants see it in hindsight, and we see
rationality as the reason we can watch the show, are better than the people on
stage, because we understand Jerry's final thought.
I recently saw "The Truman Show." I was haunted by Christof's comment that
"he likes it here. If Truman actually wanted to leave, we would not be able
to stop him." I watched the same viewers who delighted in Truman's captivity
cheer for his attempt to leave it. They were able to not see themselves as
people who moments ago were against him because television had taught them to
think in the moment, to go with the gut which can be manipulated and tortured
in any way.
This is, to me, the hallmark of Springer's World, a world where manipulation
is rampant because the brain is secondary to the emotion, where strong
emotions can always overcome rational thought. As I look at Springer's
ratings, I know that world is attractive to many who love the ease and the
drama of those momentary feelings, the pull of raw emotion over decency, order
and rationality. To paraphrase Dean Martin's comment about Sinatra, "It's
Jerry's world and we just live in it."
I watch the people who are hurt on the Springer show, poor souls just looking
for some love and being betrayed by those who play out family dramas, who are
tormented by the unresolved lives of the parents and therefore carry that out,
and I feel real sympathy. I was one of those people searching for love by
following the rules, giving until it hurts, thinking more pain would cleanse
me of my sins in some way.
What does that mean? It means that on some level, I too wish I lived in
Jerry's world, where emotions are unfettered by thought, where there is no
thought of consequences, no complexity of identity other than the connections
we feel in our gut. It's a world where people can be strippers, have affairs,
screw around, just be flat out crazy, a world celebrated in lots of
pornography, soap operas and trashy novels. Unfortunately, it's also the
world that much of the TV series "COPS" takes place in, the men and women of
law enforcement intervening to restore some order and grace to a world gone
We know that, as a race, the civilized higher behavior of thought is the only
thing that stops us from forever slogging about in the mud & feces that are
Jerry's world, where rudeness and nastiness is justified by the simple
expedients of humor and "emotional truth."
When it comes to my life, I guess what I fear is that, no matter how open and
caring some people are, in many ways It's Jerry's world and we just live in
it. I believe that the boys whose words rudely assaulted me in my car live in
Jerry's world, where humilation is the key to humor, where people feel
entitled to publically judge others just on how they feel about them. They
had Jerry Springer on their side. If I want to or not, in that moment I was
pulled into Jerry's world -- a world that even Jerry works hard to keep
himself outside him by claiming a distance frm the show with his name on it.
I understand the appeal of Jerry's World, but I also know that Jerry's World
is not a place where we can grow and live in diversity, in support and
Yet, everyday I fear that this is Jerry's world and we just live in it.
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