Baring Our Souls: TV Talk Shows and the Religion of Recovery (Google eBook)

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Transaction Publishers - Social Science - 159 pages
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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.
  

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Contents

New Wine Old Wineskins Talk Shows as a Genre
1
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT TV TALK SHOWS
3
EXPLAINING THE PRESENT BY LOOKING TO THE PAST
7
THE CIRCUS AS ENTERTAINMENT
9
RELIGIOUS REVIVALS AS OPPORTUNITIES FOR CONVERSION
12
TV TALK SHOWS AS CIRCUS AND REVIVAL
15
WHAT KIND OF MORALITY IS THE RELIGION OF RECOVERY?
19
OUTLINE OF THE BOOK
21
Recovery Rules The Beliefs of Recovery Religion
89
VALUATION OF SELF OVER SOCIETY
94
THE TIES THAT BIND
97
EMOTIONAL SCARS RUN DEEP
102
HEALING TAKES HELP
105
HOOKED ON BEING HOOKED
106
NOTES
108
From Whence Cometh Salvation? The Roots of Recovery Religion
111

NOTES
24
Telling Tales Testifying to Trials and Tribulations
27
BACK STAGE AT TALK SHOWS
28
OPENING FRAMES
32
STAGING
36
PRODUCING PEOPLE
39
NOTES
57
Breaking with the Past The Moment of Conversion
61
CONVERSION DISCOURSE
64
SEEKERS AND VICTIMIZERS
70
EXPERTS AND EXES
80
NOTES
86
MEDICINE RELIGION AND THE RIGHT TO DEFINE DEVIANCE
113
MEDICINELITETHE GROWTH OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS NEW PRACTITIONERS AND THE EMERGENCE OF CODEPENDENCY
120
TURNING INWARD ALBEIT IN MANY FORMS
128
RECOVERY SELLS
133
NOTES
134
Morality for Whom? Problems with Recovery Religion as Moral Code and Public Discourse
139
THE ABSENCE OF REAL COMMUNITY IN THE RECOVERY MOVEMENT
143
HELP YOURSELF BUT NOT OTHERS
145
NOTES
149
References
151
Index
157
Copyright

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