Opinion | Dr. Phil, reality TV use tragedy as entertainment

By Maii Rashed, Columnist

Reality television shows like Dr. Phil often bring light to serious topics like abuse, marital conflict and misbehavior of children. But the show often lacks the conviction to address the situation. The entire concept of the show is sensationalized, and any hope for a healthy solution is extinguished. 

Although most of the time, the episode’s premise is to reestablish peace ostensibly, there have been multiple instances of the show’s lack of tact and outright escalation of existing problems. One episode, easily accessible on YouTube titled, “Gina Says Her Husband Raped Her When She Was Pregnant,” portrays a woman admitting to the viewer, Dr. Phil and the accused that she was physically, emotionally and sexually abused.

The abuser in question goes on to admit that he did rape her and abuse her in all the ways she listed. The follow-up video titled “When Love Hurts” goes on to show Dr. Phil reprimanding the victim about her low self-esteem. He then goes on to proclaim that while her husband “is behaving like a jerk, I did not say he is a jerk, because I don’t believe that. I don’t think this is a bad, evil man.”

I would think that a man who abused, maimed and raped her would be a jerk but, more importantly, a criminal. There is a severe lack of accountability when it comes to the gravity of the situations these television hosts get involved in. For the most part, many of these television hosts and series can use their platform to spread awareness about serious topics such as domestic abuse and sexual assault. 

Unfortunately, that is rarely seen when it comes to most of these series. In fact, what is more often seen is a blown-up version of these issues, using these sensitive topics for sport and entertainment. 

This is not to say that all reality television is terrible. For example, ‘The Undateables,” a British reality television show, demonstrates how finding true love is not limited by our abilities. A dating agency sets people up who would otherwise find trouble dating in everyday life. Their diagnoses do not define people with Down syndrome, Tourette syndrome, extreme social anxiety and autism. It cuts out all of the apparent fluff that reality television would otherwise present to us and shows us a more human side of what media could do for everyday people. 

Perhaps instead of having a television host give his opinion about an abusive relationship, the police should have been called. Neither on his website nor YouTube was a reprimand of the abuser seen. Instead, phrases including “What does Jeremy say happened, happened?” are broadcasted to egg the viewer on to see the outcome. However, with this instance and unfortunately, many more, there is no solution. Just a hollow shell of woman, an abuser and a man making millions on her suffering can be seen, but only right after a commercial break!

Maii is a freshman in LAS. 

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