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HOWARD ROSENBERG

Men and the Shows That Bash Them

March 30, 1994|HOWARD ROSENBERG

How many days later did he sleep with another (of your) friends?

--A "Sally Jessy Raphael" booker on the phone with a potential female guest, as shown in an NBC News story about daytime talk shows.

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Don't let your children read this. It could terrorize them.

This is a horror story about society's vilest creatures. Steer clear of them or else. They're awful. They're selfish. They're untrustworthy. They're evil. They're maniacal. They're amoral. They're vicious. They're violent. They're your worst nightmare.

You know who they are. You see them every day. They're the most bloodthirsty of animals, the most despicable of minorities. Beware of . . .

MEN!!!

What's especially insidious is that the little boys you see, even the sweetest cherubs of the lot, will grow up to be them.

Men lie. Men cheat. Men run around on their spouses. Men rape and pillage. Men murder. Men beat their wives. Men beat their kids. Men sexually molest. Name it, men do it.

All men? Just about. You learn this from watching daytime talk shows. Day after day, these profitable, produced-on-a-shoestring hours symbolically do to men what Lorena Bobbitt did to John.

It's true that the dysfunction they regularly focus on extends to all areas of life, creating the broad impression that just about everyone is in conflict and miserable, except the inevitable psychologists and other experts--usually women--who are brought on to advise the deviant misbehavers and their victims how to live better lives.

And yes, men are not the only ones getting clobbered. There are other bashees. A recent topic on Maury Povich's show on KCAL-TV Channel 9: "Women Imprisoned for Murder." A recent headline from Montel Williams' show on KCOP-TV Channel 13: "Girls Who Beat Their Mothers." Another from "Jane Whitney" on NBC: "Freeloading Relatives."

And hardly a week passes without a talk-show dose of battling lesbians or battling nuns or epic-breasted women getting screamed at by other women who accuse them of willingly becoming sex objects.

If there is one thread connecting daytime talk shows when it comes to gender, though, it is the relentless depiction of males as victimizers, and, by extension, the portrayal of women as eternal, helpless victims. On just about any given day, there is a talk show somewhere beating up on men.

It's a given that humankind would not be as screwed up if not for men, and that the globe's historic patriarchy of power has often shoved us to the edge of disaster. Moreover, perpetrators of violence in some of the today's hottest, bloodiest spots--from South Africa to Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip--are almost always triggermen, not triggerwomen.

Even so, maledom is hardly the monolith of wickedness that you'd believe from watching much of daytime TV. As the daytime audience is predominantly female, these shows obviously believe that what follows is exactly what women on the home front yearn to watch.

Last week, for example, found "The Montel Williams Show" doing a two-parter on a man claiming on the air to have raped more than 90 prostitutes (although he later issued a denial to police). During a station break, the show advertised a coming topic: "Women Confront Men Who Date-Raped Them."

Meanwhile, KCBS-TV Channel 2's "Geraldo" last week was headlining "Women Who Take Back Their Unfaithful Husbands." Viewers of "The Bertice Berry Show" on KTTV-TV Channel 11 were introduced to "Murder and Rape on College Campuses." Guess who was doing the murdering and raping?

On to last week's "Jane Whitney" and "Former Wives Confront a Bigamist." Then to "Sally Jessy Raphael" on KNBC-TV Channel 4 and "A Couple Believes Their Son-in-Law Murdered Their Daughter." Then to KCOP-TV's "Jenny Jones" and "Indecent Proposals Lead to Divorce."

As for this week's monstrous males, Monday found Oprah Winfrey commiserating on KABC-TV Channel 7 with a woman whose daughter was clobbered by a teen-age boy: "This is a boy you trusted?" Male trustworthiness is obviously an oxymoron in this environment. After the commercial break on "Oprah," viewers met the mother of a 15-year-old girl fatally shot by her boyfriend.

On Tuesday, KABC viewers saw this promo: "Is your dad causing your man problems? Watch the next 'Oprah.' " And Sally Jessy was plenty mad at "Men Who Teach Their Sons to Be Sexist." Nor was she letting up today, scheduling "Pregnant Women Abused by Their Spouses." No, not gay spouses. That was another show.

"Geraldo," by the by, was tackling "Teen Mothers and Deadbeat Fathers" this week. Bertice Berry was back with "Four Divorcees Discuss Their Common Former Husband," "Jane Whitney" promised lots of heat with "Women Who Believe Their Mates Left Them Because They Were Pregnant" and Montel Williams was scheduled to deliver the goods on "Gigolos."

Meanwhile, just who is behind all of this? Who controls the television industry that encourages this nasty, spiteful daytime programming that so often unfairly targets one gender? Who runs nearly all of the stations that run these programs and profit from this bullying of males? The familiar villains.

Men.

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