Advice or Abuse?

Why do we suddenly  love experts who scream at their quivering audiences? What is it in us that wants the Glenn Beck experience with our self-improvement?

Who made it fashionable among advice-givers to shriek? Was it Dr. Phil, whose relationship tips are shouted out so roughly  to troubled couples? Was it Jim Cramer of “Mad Money,” ridiculing his audience for not investing his (often disastrous) way?   Judge Judy, whose wisdom on the bench increasingly became over the years slicing and dicing the plaintiff? (Granted, that plaintiff is usually odious.) Or  Jillian Michaels, hollering at the obese on “The Biggest Loser”? Suddenly, tyranny is cool and verbal abuse, a promising recovery technique.

“You wouldn’t like the weight-loss guru Jillian Michaels when she’s angry,” reads the blurb under a piece entitled “THE FIGHTER” in today’s New York Times  Magazine, accompanied by a smirking Michaels.

I doubt she’s reducing those overweight subjects to anything other than shreds. Tyranny may work in halfway houses for recovering addicts, and frenzies are great for what they once called sweeps week, but that’s about all they’re good for. (Speaking of tyrannical frenzies, once, when I was on a talk show for The Erotic Silence of the American Wife, my book about women’s adultery, the studio audience–adulteresses all, by the way– started screaming enmasse at a woman onstage whose explanation for her own adultery they didn’t like and wanted to kill her for. Yes, kill her. The producers were thrilled.)

“I fought my way out of the corner, and I’ve been fighting my way out ever since,” Jillian Michaels says, referring to having been kicked and kicked and kicked by her martial arts instructor when she was a kid, and to now (abuse begetting what it does) kicking and kicking and kicking the overweight on the show that’s given her both polyps on her vocal chords and fame enough for a forthcoming daytime talk show of her own.

I’m happy that women are getting daytime talk shows. But do they all have to be transformed into abusive tyrants in the military mode to do so?

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