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Cam Keizur
Professor Bachelder
Pop Culture
11 February 2015
Learning Through Observation: The Jerry Springer Show
TV shows have become widely popular throughout the United States, it seems that
everyone has their own personal favorite, or list of personal favorites, that they follow every
week. Some television shows such as Glee, Lost, and The Walking Dead seem to have a cult like
following; resulting in fan groups, web pages, and blogs. With these television programs being
so popular, a question that arises is how do these television shows shape the way we see the
world? For example, how do the images we see on television effect the way we feel about
women, and their role in society? The Jerry Springer Show is a classic example of a television
series that could unfairly represent a population and cause the general public to form stereotypes
about those populations. For those that are unfamiliar with the show, The Jerry Springer Show is
widely known as a low quality day time television program that exploits people and families
with serious relationship problems for the entertainment value of the audience. The show
chooses its participants through screening phone calls that come into their hotline, they choose
the participants that seem to have the most familial and psychological issues. The show is filmed
in front of a live studio audience that is there for the sole purpose of antagonizing the
participants. The show over represents minority families and couples, they show women who
are often victims of domestic violence in a comical way instead of a serious manner, and when

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describing white participants on the show they use terms like white trash which have powerful
connotations.
The first problem with The Jerry Springer Show is that is that it over represents minority
families on the show, and shows these families in a very bad light. While there is no statistical
analysis reflecting over representation of minorities in The Jerry Springer Show, it is clear that
certain population groups are severely over represented in this show. Because there are no
breakdowns of The Jerry Springer Shows participants, we decided to do one of our own; after
watching and analyzing 10 episodes, we found the show depicts Black and Hispanic families
nearly 60% of the time. This number potentially is skewed by the episodes selected, however, the
episodes were chosen as randomly as possible. 60% may not seem extremely overwhelming, but
when compared to U.S. Census data it is shocking; the African American and Hispanic
populations only comprise 29% of the United States population. This over representation could
contribute towards negative attitudes towards these populations. Over representation wouldnt be
a huge problem if the show was showing these populations in a positive light, however The Jerry
Springer Show depicts these populations in an extremely negative light. Participants on the show
are often unemployed, strippers, or hookers, and that obviously does not portray these
populations in a positive way.
The second problem with The Jerry Springer Show is that it depicts domestic violence in
a comical manner rather than in a serious way. In the show domestic violence is often used for
entertainment value rather than a serious act of violence. For example, the show will often use lie
detector tests in order to provoke reactions from both the audience and the participants on the
show. One of the most common questions on the lie detector test is have you ever pushed or hit
______? When the answer is yes, the crowd usually erupts with negative feedback, however

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that is where it ends. There are no follow up questions, or actions taken against the person, it is
always on to the next question; implying that domestic violence is something that should be
brushed off. The show claims to offer services for these victims, however there is no action taken
on the show in order to help them. The show also tends to portray women who are victims of
domestic violence as offenders themselves. When discovering that a woman on the show is a
victim of domestic violence, they often ask the offender why they did this; as if there is ever a
legitimate reason for hitting your partner. The offender will often respond by trying to alienate
the victim, saying that they cheated, or were asking for it in some way. This gives off the
impression that there is a possibility of an answer that would warrant domestic violence, which
we know there is not. The show depicts women as liars, cheaters, and unworthy or unable to live
their own lives without being controlled by a man. The show has been running since 1991 and
since then has aired 3,891 episodes; how can a TV show that is so controversial remain on the air
for so long? The answer to this is simple, the show depicts these peoples lives and problems as a
joke, and they turn serious matters into entertainment for the public. The show presents these
serious issues such as domestic violence in a way that is comical and in the process takes away
from the fact that domestic violence is a serious issue around the United States. In Anne
OBriens article Men Own Television, OBrien claims that because women have been so
unfairly represented in television programs, women dont want to work jobs in the television
industry, this is one of the many reasons why the television industry has become so male
dominated (OBrien, 2014).
Lastly, the show uses terms like white trash which is severely detrimental to the people
in the show, but also has some very racist undertones to it. The term white trash is often
applied to white people who are struggling financially, its typically used to describe those who

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are not cleanly presented. The term may seem harmless or maybe even funny at a first glance but
when you think about the actual meaning of the term it becomes a lot less comical. The term
suggests that the person is not good enough to be white; that being white is a privilege and that
person doesnt fit the qualifications of being white. The term also attempts to distance white
people from anything that is considered bad, it suggests that white people are unable to be poor,
or unpresentable, or criminal in any sort of way, and someone is then theyre not white, theyre
just white trash. The show depicts all sorts of races and ethnicities, however when a white
person is on the show they are usually labeled as white trash. Using terms like this on such a
popular television show can only generate negative effects on peoples thinking. This is reflected
by the fact that the term white trash has become a commonly used term throughout the United
States today.
Television series are a huge part of American culture; often times they are a main source
of entertainment and even knowledge. The world has seemed to move away from books and
other written literature, and moved towards television. Our lives seem to be consumed by
television, television series in particular. We use these shows for entertainment but we also use
television shows as a source of knowledge; we learn from the interactions on the screen. We
watch the interactions between people; the interactions between different racial or cultural
groups and we learn from these interactions. We are constantly learning from television whether
we are actively seeking knowledge or not. The Jerry Springer Show is a classic example of a
television show where we could absorb information that could be detrimental to us. For example
we may learn that domestic violence is a laughable subject; that it was used for entertainment
value so it must not be a serious issue in the United States. While The Jerry Springer Show may
not be actively attempting to degrade women, or over represent minority populations on their

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show, they need to be a lot more careful about what they portray on their show. They need to
understand the power that television has over people and understand their responsibility to limit
biases. Finally and most importantly, it is the responsibility of the viewer to make good decisions
about what they are watching, they need to be aware that television shows may have biases or
agendas that they are trying to fulfill. Viewers ultimately are in control of what is put on
television; if there are no viewers, then there is no television show.

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Works Cited
United States. United States Census Bureau. 2010. Print. <http://www.census.gov/data.html>.

OBrien, Anne. "Men Own Television: Why Women Leave Media Work." Media, Culture &
Society 36.8 (2014): 1207-1218. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.