Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hopefully Spitzer Won't Follow In His Footsteps

This past week's episode of This American Life, called "Leaving the Fold". The main story in the episode was about Jerry Springer. Yes, that Jerry Springer. It told the story of how he became a politician, paid for a hooker with a personal check, then went on to become a very popular mayor, moved on to become an even more popular anchor on the local news, and then morphed into the Jerry Springer show.

I think part of the reason why I liked this episode so much was that it proved to me that I'm not crazy. Or at least, anyway, my memories of Jerry Springer aren't all in my head. See, I grew up watching his nightly commentary on TV, and I distinctly remember when he started his talk show. It was very exciting to me, and I remember commenting to my friends that it was nice to see a talk show that was at a little more intellectual level than most of what was on network TV. I'm not sure when the words "intellectual" and "Jerry Springer Show" became polar opposites, exactly. I worked full time during the day, so I didn't get to see the show very often. In my mind, therefore, the change was overnight. I agreed with the sentiment expressed during the piece that this change is somewhat mystifying to those who "knew him when". Who is this guy, and what did he do with the real Jerry Springer?

The end of the segment was most interesting, and kind of sad at the same time. It detailed Jerry Springer's interest in getting back into politics. There were clips from a speech he gave that allowed you a glimpse into what is surely an intelligent and passionate mind, but contrasted sharply with his apparent unwillingness to sever ties with the otherwise insurmountable obstacle blocking his path to a return to the political sphere... makes him seem vaguely like a tragic figure, you know? And it makes me angry, perhaps unfairly or even unjustifiably, that this man who clearly knows better, is exploiting the very people he claims to want to help, and helping to fill our culture with so much ugliness, for the sake of the almighty dollar. What mighty things could he have accomplished if he had decided to turn his talents and energy toward something positive? What if he had built an empire based on finding the beauty and dignity in the world, instead of glorifying the basest and most degrading things he could find?



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