Tuesday, April 20, 2004

If You Think Jerry Springer Is Trashy ...

Harry Stein in City Journal on US daytime TV and the morality (or not) of the shows :

Maury Povich

A woman, usually very young and very often black or Hispanic, comes onstage and declares, either angrily or tearfully, that she knows a given man fathered her child. After a couple of minutes of this drama, the accused male walks out—often, depending on how he’s just been characterized, to audience jeers—and just as vigorously denies that he is the father. The denial routinely involves the guy pointing toward a large picture of the kid in question, which is displayed at the back of the set, and emphasizing how dramatically the child’s features differ from his own. He’ll often cast aspersions on the mother’s character, too, peppering them with variations of the words “slut” and “whore.”

At this point, Maury says something along the lines of, “Well, let’s find out.” Ripping open a large manila envelope, he withdraws a sheet of paper and solemnly pronounces, “When it comes to two-year-old Jadiem, Corey, you are the father,” or, just as often, “When it comes to ten-month-old Treasure, Earnell, you are not the father.”

If the woman finds herself vindicated, she is apt to leap to her feet, exultant, and berate the man. One mother I saw spun around, thrust her backside to the camera and, pointing, screamed at the newly established dad, “Kiss my ass!” When the man is victorious, he is likely to strut, or throw up his hands in triumph like an athlete, while the woman, bursting into tears, runs backstage, Maury trailing—and both followed by a cameraman who records the host consoling her.

And the 'real Justice' shows - US courts are routinely screened and some judges are big stars, like Marylin Milian :

One show I saw involved a woman who’d stiffed an appliance store on a refrigerator and then had the gall to sue it for harassment when it tried to collect. Milian’s patience with the woman, already thin, evaporated entirely when the woman refused to stop talking out of turn. “Get her out of here,” Milian tersely instructed her bailiff. Moments later, after finding for the store owner, Milian addressed the woman’s counter-suit: “and you, madam,” she shouted, loud enough to be heard in the adjacent room, to which the woman had been banished, “get a big, fat zero.”

Or Judge Joe Brown :

Judge Brown’s manner is laconic, and usually he hears a fair bit of evidence before passing judgment. But this time he couldn’t contain himself. “She didn’t do too well, did she?” he countered. “You turned into a junkie.”

“But I got back on track,” the women retorted. “I don’t think I owe her money. I think she owes me money,” she continued, returning to the case at hand. “I spent thousands of dollars raisin’ her, so I opened up a couple of credit cards in her name to reimburse myself.” Anyway, she added in yet further self-exoneration, she and her daughter fought quite a bit, and “I was very angry with her when I did this.”

This spiel proved the final straw for the judge, who lashed out at the mother like an avenging angel. “Do you know the worst adversity she’s had to face in her life?” he asked rhetorically, nodding toward the daughter in the plaintiff’s box. “It’s you! You are one of the reasons the inner cities have gone straight to hell,” he thundered. “It’s kinda hard to come up with language, lady, to describe your despicable conduct. You are a disgrace and a bloody shame to the human race. You ought to be in jail. . . . You might run into some of your old junkie friends.”

Couldn't we swap Judge Brown for Lord Justice Woolf ?

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