I’m not a TV critic, because I don’t watch television anymore. But when I was in a place late Thursday afternoon with a television blaring the “Judge Judy” show at me, I became a critic — not just of a television show, but of our society.
I was vaguely aware of who the woman is, but I’d never watched the show. I remember the old “People’s Court” show and I knew she was a bit like that, but more like a stern grandmother than the kindly and wise man Judge Wapner was supposed to be. Still, I wasn’t prepared for her. It was like watching the judicial version of a shock jock.
If you’ve seen the show and you’re disgusted by it, I don’t have to tell you why. The woman is rude. She interrupts. She says things that don’t make sense and then treats confused people like fools. She’s just plain nasty, and she seems to revel in her rudeness. If you’ve seen the show and like it, well, I don’t guess you’re going to get what I’m saying.
The show doesn’t bother me as much as I’m bothered by the fact that people watch this garbage on purpose. Why would anyone be interested in watching people share details of their personal lives — in ways that sometimes embarrass them — and then seeing this hyena tear into one of the parties without apparent reason? Why is that entertaining?
Is this the modern version of a gladiator match, but dumbed down even further to degrade the participants and then send them on their way with nothing hurt except their egos? What kind of person wants to watch that? What does it say about the values of our society when this woman is so popular that she’s paid $45 million a year to be rude to people and make rulings that defy logic?
I’m not simply making fun of low-brow television. I’m truly disturbed by what I’m seeing, because the fact that she’s the top-rated daytime program says something about our society that scares me. This is more of a visceral thing than it is a rational thing. There’s just something in my gut that screams that this is emblematic of a sick society.
I’ve made it clear that I don’t watch television these days — and I’ve talked about why — but this feeling goes beyond a simple dislike of certain programming. It goes to the heart of the way people think and feel today. On a gut level, I feel as though I don’t want to live in a society where this is the sort of entertainment people want. More than that, though, I don’t want to live in a society where people who think and feel like this get to decide the rules by which I have to live.
Things of this nature redouble my resolve to find my island or free city or mission to another country, because this frequently feels less and less like a society where I want to live.