Barbara Ehrenreich, in her essay, “In defense of Talk Shows”, criticizes an aspect of talk shows that leaders, critics, and commentators overlook.
While critics find the matters discussed in these talk shows morally repulsive thus, their opposition to them, Ehrenreich goes a step forward and tackles, not the moral content of these shows, which according to her have an ultimate corrective purpose, but their tendency to take advantage of the poor and less educated members of society.
According to Ehrenreich, the numerous talk shows that are present in the program schedules of various television networks fulfill a moral function; however, these shows are also inherently exploitative of the poor masses (21).
Ehrenreich argues that, by enabling couples, families, and friends to expose their secrets in public, and subsequently offering moral guidance and corrective action to the guilty parties in the various episodes, the talk shows dispense a communal moral guidance that plays an essential function in giving the guilty guests and the viewers a source of moralistic reference.
In spite of this, Ehrenreich feels that these shows exploit only the poor masses of society, because hardly do professionals or wealthy people in society make it to the hot seats of these shows.
Therefore, according to Ehrenreich, the objectionable aspect of talk shows is not necessarily in issues discussed therein, but in their tendency to exploit the poverty of their guests by promising them monetary rewards for sharing embarrassing details of their lives and lifestyles, details that are then shared with audiences across and beyond the country.
Indeed, the argument that Ehrenreich makes that many talk shows are a form of class exploitation is applicable to other forms of entertainment present in television, such as music videos. The proliferation of television stations that, for the most part, display music videos, such as MTV and BET, has seen music videos emerge as a powerful and complimentary part of all songs produced by musicians.
The rise in prominence of music videos has, however, seen an emerging trend in which women are portrayed in a negative light and given degrading roles in these videos. Indeed, it is the norm in nearly all music videos to have skimpily dressed women shaking their bodies in the background as a fully dressed male musician sings or raps. Similarly, many female musicians are producing music videos that have them dressed in revealing attire.
The portrayal of women as mere entertainment figureheads, and in sexually suggestive secondary roles, in music videos, degrades the image of women and deprives young girls of positive role models.
When women are given these minor roles, the message communicated to the rest of society, and especially to the impressionable minds of the youth and teens is that women are mere objects for sexual gratification. Furthermore, when famous and respectable female musicians resort to marketing their body images more than the content in the lyrics of their songs through music videos, the depiction of women as mere sexual entertainers is further enhanced.
In conclusion, similar to the manner that Barbara Ehrenreich’s argument that, daytime talk shows are exploiting the poor in society, music videos are exploiting women and portray them in a negative light. Women in most music videos are depicted in roles that seem to accentuate their sexuality only and nothing else.
This in turns sends the wrong message to the viewing public, especially the youth and teens, who are led to believe that women can be used for the arousal and subsequent fulfillment of sexual desires. Such a trend is thus not only morally wrong, but will have serious consequences in society if allowed to persist.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. “In Defense of Talk Shows”. In Edward Dornan and Michael Finnegan, The Longwood Reader (20-25), 2002. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson education