Thursday, May 01, 2014

Dr. Phil and Bullwinkle: A love story

Yes, I know much is happening in the news, and I probably should use this space to discuss current events. But right now, I'd rather bitch about my day. (As in Thursday.)

This morning, I fired up the internet and checked out this piece in Time. It's an article about privacy and it's not bad. But this line pissed me off:
So I downloaded Tor, a private browser that routes your traffic through foreign servers. While it has a reputation for facilitating elicit activities...
Not too long ago, a sentence like that might have illicited a reaction from an editor. Downward ran standards until reeled the mind.

But the real lesson in lowered standards had yet to arrive.

A friend had to visit the doctor, and I had promised to accompany her. Result: I spent nearly six hours in a waiting room -- watching daytime television.

Good god. Do people actually immerse themselves in this sewage on purpose?

The line-up included two soap operas. Please don't ask me for the names of the shows. All I know is that the first one involved a young guy who was obviously cast because women like the way he looks without a shirt. The writers tasked him with the job of delivering exposition for viewers who might not know the storyline. Now, we're talking about an actor who can just barely sell "Hi." Yet this was the guy given long freight trains of dialogue stretching from here to the next state: "No, I'll never forgive you for pretending to be the long-lost daughter of my best friend's father shortly after he had been abducted by the Chinese mafia in retaliation for exposing your brother as the masked man who seduced the Mayor's aide while posing as the Prince of Lichtenstein."

The next soap opera had a subplot involving a young couple who decided to visit the animal shelter. Fun date, right? The episode featured some actual location shooting with lots of heart-tugging shots of doggies in cages. The animal shelter workers delivered long and hideously didactic lectures about responsible pet ownership, and even though they spoke without a script, the actors tried to react in character: "So what I hear you saying is that the public needs a lot more education when it comes to spaying and neutering!" Maybe tomorrow's episode will feature our handsome duo on a trip to the dentist's office to learn about Mr. Tooth Decay.

The next show was a knock-off of The View in which the regular panelists spent a lot of time heaping opprobrium on an aged sports franchise owner who made some racist remarks. (You may be familiar with the case.) The audience applauded loudly every time the self-congratulatory scolds proved their virtuousness by tossing verbal vegetables at an old fart placed in a figurative stockade. And I'm thinking: "Cah-MON. We live in a world in which twenty to thirty million actual slaves toil in daily misery. Has anyone on daytime teevee ever addressed that issue? We also live in a world in which our Secretary of State seems intent on starting a war with a country armed with nuclear fucking missiles. Am I really supposed to believe that our biggest problem is an 80 year-old bigot?"

And then...then came the most horrifying thing any television screen has ever inflicted on my eyeballs (and I've seen video of autopsies).

The abominable Dr. Phil.

Although I knew of Dr. Phil, mostly via his appearance on Frasier, I had never seen an entire episode of his show. Basically, he spent an hour prying every last fleck of scab away from a suppurating wound of a family -- a family in which the blonde teenaged adopted daughter accused the father of rape. It soon became clear that the girl was lying. After an Official Gummint Polygraph Guy said that he had found evidence of deception, blondie confessed. Tears all around.

Being new to all this, I'm not entirely sure how Dr. Phil's show works, but it seemed very staged and scripted. I couldn't tell if these people were actors or just camera-addled ninnies with no sense of privacy.

What really bugged me was Phil himself. He gave the impression that the next episode would also be about rape and incest, just as many previous episodes had been about rape and incest. This was his shtick. He runs Dr. Phil's Rape and Incest Show. He has transformed rape and incest into cheap entertainment, designed to please an audience of sleazeballs addicted to a kind of emotional pornography. He pretends that his studio is a temple of healing, but to me, it seemed more like a den of iniquity presided over by Jabba the Rape Counselor.

The only way I could keep my sanity -- the only way I could stop myself from grabbing a rifle and climbing the nearest bell tower -- was to visualize Dr. Phil himself being raped.

By Bullwinkle.

"Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!"

"That's not a hat, Bullwinkle. And it's also not a rabbit."

"Yeah, and I'm not pulling it out!"

Folks, it has been a tough day. The outside world sucks. The doctor's office sucks. Most of all, teevee sucks. I'm never leaving the internet again.

I'm home. Home! And this is my computer, and you're all here. And I'm not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and -- oh, Auntie Em, there's no place like home!
There's always Jeopardy.
Just call it American exceptionalism.
Joseph, you're beginning to grow on me!
Six hours? You're tougher than I am, Joseph. After 45 minutes I would have torn the accursed thing loose from its moorings and hurled it through a plate glass window. Weaned myself from the glass teat (thanks Harlan Ellison) twelve years ago, and I have no regrets.
There's worse out there. Try the murder porn channel Investigation Discovery or Dr. Drew Pinsky's program on HLN if you really want to gag.
I liked Jay Ward's animation and humor but it's been three days now and I just can't get this picture out of my mind. Rocky and Bullwinkle will never be the same again for me. At least you left Boris and Natasha out of it.
Most people watching daytime teevee don't realize that "Dr. Phil" is not a trained therapist. His professional expertise is jury selection. Yet now he administers televised spankings to people who need thoughtful and customized counseling.
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