Orah Winfrey: philanthropist, talk-show host and overall world-saver. Winfrey’s story is truly unforgettable, coming from a rough childhood to becoming one of the most powerful women with a tremendous influence on popular culture.
Despite these amazing attributes I have one large beef with this woman (no, it’s not the meat industry) that I need to put to rest here and now. Winfrey is solely responsible for creating one of the worst public figures of our era: Dr. Phil McGraw.
Winfrey brought Dr. Phil, if that is his real name, on her show from 1998 to 2002 as a “relationship and life strategy expert.” His appearances on Winfrey’s show became increasingly frequent until she finally set him free with “The Dr. Phil Show” in spring 2002 and he has been contaminating our airwaves ever since. Now gaining momentum in its fifth season, with a prime afternoon time slot and a relatively large viewing audience, “The Dr. Phil Show” has the means and capabilities to destroy more lives than just my own.
The general layout of the show is as follows: Dr. Phil has his crew put together a tape of the psychological case at hand for each episode. This tape usually consists of a problematic couple or a person’s destructive behavior in their home setting, in order to give the audience background on how a specific problem is ruining their life. After the black and white reel-tape comes to an emotional close, Dr. Phil has the guests come to the studio audience “to get real” and work it out.
Dr. Phil proceeds to go back and forth asking the most simplistic, plainly obvious questions, to evoke similar and even worse responses from his patients. Through over simplifying every problem to what he calls “the bare bones” Dr. Phil can then easily use one of his 10 scripted answers to attend to the person in need.
Call me a cynic but I’m not really sure how a one-hour show, with commercial breaks, in front of a live-audience qualifies as therapy, or creates anything remotely “life changing.” It was both easy and painful to browse “The Dr. Phil Show” archives to find one that exemplifies a ridiculous situation and even more ridiculous advice. One featured a newly engaged couple in which the future husband, Bill, cannot seem to grow up and accept adult situations and conflicts in a mature manner. Fianc‚e Angee is having a hard time dealing with Bill’s emotional shortcomings. This particular couple was part of a string of episodes eloquently titled “Get My Groom to Grow Up.”
As with all Dr. Phil counseling sessions, regardless of the problem at hand, he is continually telling his guests to “better communicate with one another.” Instead of telling these guests you probably should not marry a person that you have significant, irreconcilable problems with, Dr. Phil, the core-getter, comes up with “solutions” because telling someone to break off an engagement does not end with a feel-good experience and a ratings boost.
I often analyze why anyone would take advice from this bald man with such a vacant expression. My only hope is these guests are just seeking their 15 minutes of fame and not taking anything seriously, or else we are all in big trouble.
What sends the Dr. Phil fiasco over the top, is not the fact that he is also somehow a published author, but that his wife Robin McGraw, with no psychological training whatsoever, has jumped onto the bandwagon to give out her endless supply of useless tidbits.
On Web sites and through her new book, she discusses her enlightened perspective on marriage and motherhood, something that only half of the world population has also experienced and would be equally as credible to discuss.
The afternoon show ropes in viewers by getting them to believe that not only is he saving the guest from a lifelong struggle with inner demons, but that viewers have the same problems and will lead a destructive life without his guidance.
I believe it is the housewives watching the show at 3 p.m. weekdays who are the true victims, taking the full brunt of the brainwashing, to which the extent of the damage may never fully be known.
So the next time you come across hard times and feel like you may need to get some tough love and work it out with the big guy, turn off the TV. Americans have problems, but one of our biggest may very well be Dr. Phil himself.
Cassie Gaeto is a journalism junior and Mustang Daily staff writer.