Lint-Trap 2/7/01: Shadow Rikki


Shadow Rikki


Viv's entry discussing (ranting about?) daytime TV struck a chord with me. I often listen to the morning news which ends at 9AM. Immediately afterwards comes Rikki Lake. I've decided that she represents a big virulent piece of my shadow.

For those of you not familiar with Rikki, she is a female New Yorker who seems to go out of her way to avoid any whiff of compassion for the seriously screwed up people she has on her show.

A typical show consists of a man who is sleeping with two women and the women find out about it and confront him on TV. I can just hear the conversation now:

"Jane, have you been sleeping with Bill?"
"I sure have, Sue. Didn't you used to go out with him too?"
"Well, as a matter of fact, I'm still going out with him, and we spent last Saturdy night together."
"Well damn my eyes, he said he was going to the gym, the skunk. Well, he spent Sunday with me."
"He told me he was going to church with his mother. What a scumbag!"
"I have a good idea. Let's go on Rikki Lake's show and confront him."
"Sure thing. To make sure the surprise is complete, we don't want to let him know we know..."
"Right! We'll show him!"

So the show takes place, and the two women are yelling at the man, and he is yelling back at the women, alternating his yelling with a rather smug "look what I got away with. Aren't I the studly one!" look. And Rikki holds her microphone with a look of smug condescension. So far as I can tell, nothing is ever resolved. It's like looking at one emotional train wreck after another.

People who had such screwed up lives usually look the part, or at least that seems to be part of the Rikki Lake show concept. So find some stereotyped Blacks who don't seem to be able to complete a sentence, or some 300 pound women, or, ... well, you get the picture. And all chosen for their ability to yell shrilly and whine at the same time.

So, why do I consider this show to be my shadow? Actually, consider is the wrong verb. When her theme song starts, I run from wherever I am in the house to turn off the TV. Rikki's smug face, the poor emotional driftwood she finds on her show, and the studio audience, a Greek chorus of oooohhh's and aaaahhhh's as the tawdry revelations ooze out. Blech!

A few weeks back, I actually decided to watch the show a bit. My reaction had become so strong, so visceral, that I realized that there was some serious shadow energy there. I have no problem turning off the soap operas or the bang bang you're dead shows in the evening. I don't seethe about these shows. Why did Rikki really get me?

So I have taken to sitting down and watching a few minutes. It is very hard. My emotions are really rocked, and I have a bad taste in my mouth for hours. But I'm beginning to get some understanding of what themes really get to me:

  • Exploitation: Unsophisticated people in serious emotional trouble are being exploited.
  • Voyeurism: Rikki and the audience oohh and aahh at antics they are too cowardly to do themselves, but find exciting.
  • Stereotypes: White Trash Rikki and her obese and minority "guests" reinforce so many negative sterotypes it's hard to count them all.
  • Insensitivity: This goes even beyond exploitation. A charity might exploit some poor person to persuade you to give money. But I do believe they help the poor person as part of the bargan. This show appears to provide nothing but ineffectual venting to souls whose lives are seriously fucked up. I want to offer some of these folks a whole life transplant--it seems like the only way some will ever have any happiness.
  • So I sit there gritting my teath, and asking myself "Am I exploitative? Am I a voyeur? Am I filled with sterotypes? Am I insensitive?". And the answer trickles back, slowly, unwelcome--"Of course!".

    Is there a part of me that delights in the depravity of others, and the resulting feeling of superiority? Yes indeed, my parents soaked me so deeply in this that I'll never be free of it. Voyeurism? 'Fraid so. Insensitivity? Well, that's the male perogative, no? And stereotypes. Of course I enjoy feeling superior to those inferior races. Who wouldn't?

    I don't like those sides of me! I don't let them affect my behavior hardly at all. But that is how my twig was bent, and that's how the tree has grown. To ackowledge these parts of me is humbling. To see that they have any value to me is still very difficult. But it's much better to have the rats out in their cage in the open than running around behind the woodwork.

    And as I take my theraputic doses of Rikki, she, like some kind of perverted pied piper, is charming the rats out of the woodwork, into the open where I can see them and cage them consciously. I guess that's a good thing. Kind of an emotional cod liver oil, whose value is, at least partially, due to its terrible taste.

    Thank you for reading.

    Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.