Baring Our Souls: TV Talk Shows and the Religion of Recovery

Baring Our Souls: TV Talk Shows and the Religion of Recovery

by Kathleen S. Lowney
     
 

ISBN-10: 0202305945

ISBN-13: 9780202305943

Pub. Date: 12/31/1999

Publisher: Transaction Publishers

Television talk shows are a recent phenomenon, but their roots go back to the itinerant circuses and religious revivals of the nineteenth century. Circuses made their money by displaying "freaks," just as talk shows emphasize only the deviant aspects of their guests' lives. And like the revivalists of old, talk show hosts such as Oprah Winfrey and

Overview

Television talk shows are a recent phenomenon, but their roots go back to the itinerant circuses and religious revivals of the nineteenth century. Circuses made their money by displaying "freaks," just as talk shows emphasize only the deviant aspects of their guests' lives. And like the revivalists of old, talk show hosts such as Oprah Winfrey and Montel Williams attempt to convert their guests through healing powers. Guests who have been victimized give witness to the pain and suffering they have endured at the hands of their victimizers. The liturgy of these salvational talk shows builds to a moment of conversion, when victimizers see the error of their ways. The hosts, victims, relationship experts and audience each play their part in the conversion drama that unfolds daily over the airways. After framing the genre in this way, Dr. Lowney's book raises the essential question, conversion to what? The faith preached on talk shows is based on the principles of the Recovery Movement, among whose tenets are that care for one's self is the highest virtue and the psychological wounds that endure from childhood into adulthood create troublesome and addictive behaviors or "codependency." The only "cure" is to join a therapeutic 12-step group. Such groups, however, often consist of individuals talking at rather than to one another, like the guests on the talk shows. Beneath a fictive sense of community, each member is out to maintain his or her equilibrium by whatever means possible. Baring Our Souls probes the roots of the genre in the religion of recovery, and holds both up to the scrutiny of sociological inquiry. Through careful analysis of transcripts and ideological presuppositions, Lowney examines the consequences for public discourse about social problems when the media usurp the dialogue by psychologizing the social. She argues forcefully that Americans need to be able to discuss poverty or discrimination rather than simply blame the victims of such adversities. In espousing the religion of recovery, talk shows make such public discourse difficult indeed. This will be a welcome supplementary text in courses in social problems, media and civil religion. Kathleen S. Lowney is professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice at Valdosta State University, Georgia. Dr. Lowney has published on kudzu, Satanism, the Unification Church, families and social theory.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780202305943
Publisher:
Transaction Publishers
Publication date:
12/31/1999
Series:
Social Problems and Social Issues Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
159
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.48(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsxi
1New Wine, Old Wineskins: Talk Shows as a Genre1
Nervousness, Shame, and Critics: What People Are Saying about TV Talk Shows3
Yes Virginia, there Is Morality on Daytime Talk Shows: Explaining the Present by Looking to the Past7
Secular Fun: The Circus as Entertainment9
Turning Away from Sin: Religious Revivals as Opportunities for Conversion12
Come Watch with Me Under the Electronic Tent: TV Talk Shows as Circus and Revival15
What Kind of Morality is the Religion of Recovery?19
Outline of the Book21
Notes24
2Telling Tales: Testifying to Trials and Tribulations27
Preparations: Back Stage at Talk Shows28
Opening Frames32
Staging36
Talk Shows and Social Problems Work: Producing People39
Notes57
3Breaking with the Past: The Moment of Conversion61
Words of Change: Conversion Discourse64
Conversion Roles: Seekers and Victimizers70
Conversion Roles: Experts and Ex-es80
Notes86
4Recovery Rules: The Beliefs of Recovery Religion89
Freedom to be Me: Valuation of Self Over Society94
Family: The Ties That Bind97
Emotional Scars Run Deep102
Healing Takes Help105
Hooked On Being Hooked106
Notes108
5From Whence Cometh "Salvation"? The Roots of Recovery Religion111
The First Root: Medicine, Religion, and the Right to Define Deviance113
The Second Root: "Medicine-Lite"--The Growth of Alcoholics Anonymous, New Practitioners and the Emergence of Codependency120
The Third Root: Turning Inward, Albeit in Many Forms128
Recovery Sells133
Notes134
6Morality for Whom? Problems with Recovery Religion as Moral Code and Public Discourse139
Of the Self, For the Self and By the Self: The Absence of Real Community in The Recovery Movement143
Help Yourself But Not Others145
Notes149
References151
Index157

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