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Pushing the envelope of Springer-style trash

Trying to kill time before we headed out to the 'Street,' my friends and I borrowed our neighbor's copy of Jerry Springer's "Too Hot for TV" video special – a collection of dozens of clips edited from his show because of their graphic nature. The film – if it can be called that – offers a glimpse into the not-so-refined fringe of society: people who like to brawl, and people who really, really, really have trouble keeping their clothes on.

Springer is, of course, not the first person to use sex and violence to make a buck. From blockbuster movies, to Melrose Place to G. I. Joe, we are faced with sexual and violent images daily, perhaps incessantly. Some people probably wouldn't have it any other way. Cinema, television, radio, print, music, art; to some extent they all seek to tap into and reflect our natural tendencies toward sex and violence – something that we may or may not be proud of, but that exists nonetheless.


Springer has taken this fascination to the extreme. He has distilled his shows to their raw content: one fight after the other, nude scenes piled on top of each other, little or no introduction, never any epilogue. His choice of guests accelerates the process. He certainly has no illusions about what will happen when he puts a married couple on stage and brings out the wife's lover. That is why he has about a dozen large men with martial arts training waiting backstage ready to wrestle attackers to the ground.

The titles of his shows illustrate his goals: "My Sister Slept with My Three Husbands," or "I Have Something to Tell You" – which is usually finished by "I've Been Sleeping With Your Best Friend And I Brought Him Here So You Two Could Talk." Yeah, right. During that clip, furniture was overturned and the security guards seemed to be putting on a clinic for illegal wrestling moves.

This video might be fun to watch, but it can so easily slip beyond the realm of good taste (if any of it is). One of the first scenes is of a set of lovers who have been cheating on each other. A brawl breaks out, and one woman topples over her chair to her back. It seems funny until you remember what she said 30 seconds before: that she was pregnant. Springer didn't tell us if she lost her baby. I don't know anybody who would consciously laugh at a pregnant woman getting tossed around. That is why Springer edits it so much and downplays her pregnancy so much that it is easy to miss if you are not paying attention closely.

Also disturbing was his clip from "I'm Racist and Proud of It" – it turned my stomach. As you can expect, the second the KKK and the Nazis walk out, the stage and the studio audience are in chaos. African-Americans from the audience rush the stage, you can see mothers rushing their children out, the supremacists taunt the minorities in the audience and the security on hand is barely able to stop the situation from turning bloody. Apparently, Springer and his editors weren't repulsed by this scene like I was.

Of course, Springer got his good ratings, but can he morally justify his exploitation of racial tension in America to make a fast buck? He can hardly hide by claiming he is a journalist; he seeks images and not a story. Nor can he claim to be healing racial wounds; the mere notion is as disgusting as the video clip. While the rest of mainstream America is busy relieving racial tension, Springer is busy throwing gasoline on the flames. Showcasing Nazis on your TV show could have no other effect.

So where do you draw the line with violence in the media? Obviously, a news report on war atrocities has some merit, but using gratuitous racial violence to make money is simply wrong. The line between "good" and "bad" violence, however, is usually harder to discern. The question of censoring it is even more contentious.


Cicero thought that man had the innate ability to tell what is right and wrong just by gut feeling. We can simply tell. This may be simplistic, but perhaps Jerry Springer should start to follow his conscience, and not his pocketbook. It's just a suggestion.

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