Thursday, April 30, 2009

JJ Sucks Me In

Hey, I'm older than I look (I hope!) Somehow I can't handle a full week of Open Ears concerts while still holding down my 9-5 job. So tonight I decided to stay home, play with my cat, get some work done, and actually sleep.

But first I went to YouTube to check out the latest videos I've subscribed to, and...well, you know how it is. You see a "related video" that sounds intriguing, and twenty minutes later you're sucked into a collection of horribly addictive clips.


My grandmother watches court shows all day, every day. She told me this on Easter and I scoffed at her. I said she was rotting her brain. She agreed.

I just spent two hours watching clips from Judge Judy, because I'm just as susceptible to brain rot as anybody else. My only defense, your honour, is that I never INTENDED to watch them. At worst I am guilty of SECOND DEGREE consumption, so please go easy on me.

To try to get SOMETHING worthwhile out of this monumental waste of time, let me explain why Court TV is so addictive. It's because we spend all day feeling like we're the innocent ones and everybody else is guilty, but we're punished while the guilty people go free. We don't want to wallow in wishy-washy stuff like "points of view" and "selection bias" and "willful blindness of our own stupidity," we just want an omnipotent being to come down and say "You're right, they're wrong, you're better than they are, NEXT!"

Fictional television programs give us a bit of this thrill, but they throw in a bunch of other things and -- after all -- it's only fiction. Reality TV gets closer to home but we still sort of know it isn't real. Trashy talk shows fulfil our need to watch people who are stupider than us actually FIGHT, because sometimes we don't want JUSTICE, we just want some righteous inbred ass-kicking.

But Judge Judy...she is the authority figure we want to have on our side, the one who not only comes down and clearly draws the line between right and wrong, but also delivers the ass-kicking as a sort of frosty dessert. We see exaggerated cases where one person is clearly lying, or stupid, or evil, or all of the above, and then we see us on the other side -- the rightous one who is still fallible enough to get whupped by JJ now and then -- and then the holy fires of Judy come down and reward the right people and send the wrong people away to pay what they owe and make a final statement ("Don't trust JERKS, is all I have to say.")

There are a lot of other things going on as well. We respect Judge Judy's no-nonsense practicality and her ability to get straight to the point (in the editing room). We like to think that Judy would give us a break and approve of our behaviour. We also like the freakshow of people who are clearly stupider than we makes us feel superior in our intelligence, amazed at their incompetence, and furious at their attempted duplicity. If they happen to WIN a case we can get angry that those stupid people were taken ADVANTAGE of, and we can mentally pat them on the head and say "Thanks for being honest, stupid person."

This is all an extension of what we do every day...but it's a HUGE extension. It's narcissistic and polarizing and a gross distortion of what human disagreements are really about. I mean, sure, there ARE times when people go to court for indefensible reasons and get their butts kicked, but usually it's a matter of subtlety, perception, and who-said-what... know, all that stuff we hate thinking about every day because we know that WE are always RIGHT.

Judge Judy, you are fulfilling human needs that are, ultimately, anti-social and demented. But you're funny anyway.


R.M. Lupo said...

i watched the entire season of 'passion island' when it aired - the premise is that hetero couples were testing their mettle. Boys on one side of the island, girls on the other, and they were tempted by hotties, hotties everywhere, with quite a bit to drink.

To this day, i still have no idea what possessed me. It was definitely entertaining, though. I'd feel heartily ashamed if i did it again, though, it was entirely appalling.

Adam Thornton said...

I know that feeling all to well! It's why I don't subscribe to cable...I'd spend waaaay too much time getting sucked into things that ultimately depress me.