Baring Our Souls: TV Talk Shows and the Religion of Recovery - Social Problems & Social Issues S. (Paperback)Kathleen S. Lowney
Paperback Published: 31/12/1999
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Although TV talk shows are a recent phenomenon, their roots go back to the itinerant circuses and religious revivals of the 19th century. Just as circuses made their money by displaying "freaks," so today's talk shows emphasize only the deviant aspects of their guests' lives. And like the revivalists of old, talk show hosts, such as Oprah Winfrey, Sally Jesse Raphael, and Montel Williams, attempt to "convert" their guests through healing powers. Guests who have been victimized bear witness to the pain and suffering they have endured at the hands of their victimizers. The liturgy of these salvational talk shows builds to a moment of conversion, when victimizers see the error of their ways. The hosts, victims, experts, and audience each play their part in the conversion drama that unfolds daily on the screen. After framing the genre in this way, Dr. Lowney's book raises the essential question, conversion to what? The faith preached on talk shows is based on the principles of the Recovery Movement, among whose tenets are that care for one's self is the highest virtue and that psychological wounds that endure from childhood into adulthood create troublesome and addictive behaviours or "codependency." The only "cure" is to join a therapeutic 12-step group. Such groups, however, often consist of individuals talking at rather than to one another, like the guests on the talk shows. Beneath a fictive sense of community, each member is out to maintain his or her own equilibrium by whatever means possible. This examination of the roots of the genre in the religion of recovery holds both up to the scrutiny of sociological inquiry. Through analysis of transcripts and ideological presuppositions, Lowney examines the consequences for public discourse about social problems when the media usurp the dialogue by psychologizing the social. She argues forcefully that Americans need to be able to discuss poverty or discrimination rather than simply blame the victims of such adversities. In espousing the religion of recovery, talk shows make such public discourse difficult indeed. This will be a welcome supplementary text in courses in social problems, media, and civil religion.
Publisher: Transaction Publishers