A woman in Alaska was convicted of misdemeanor child abuse for squirting hot sauce in her adopted son’s mouth and putting him a cold shower as a punishment for lying. What made her story so public was that she had her daughter shoot a video of the entire thing and then sent to be on the Dr. Phil show. She was successful and the show aired last October. The video of her doing all of this went viral on You Tube, and outraged people reported her to the authorities.
People have debated about this. Lots of parents have been known to use the ‘soap in the mouth’ for lying or obscenities, etc. We’ve all laughed at the scene of Ralphie with the bar of soap in his mouth in the movie A Christmas Story, and didn’t find it outrageous. Many of said that a squirt of hot sauce was no worse. Others have argued that they’ve ordered food that was spicier than this. One can make all sorts of arguments about this.
There is, however, one issue that stands out. She sent the video to Dr. Phil. The punishment, it appears, was done in this manner to demonstrate that she was having difficulties with her child and that she wanted ‘help’ from Dr. Phil.
This one takes my breath away. Seriously.
Perhaps she does have legitimate difficulties with the rearing of her child. Maybe she is not really a bad Mom, but had an over the top day and perhaps she really does need assistance from a counselor. But she sent it to Dr. Phil because she wanted to be on her show. Just writing to the producers of the show saying she was looking to be on because of difficulties wasn’t enough. They needed a video of punishment. In fairness to them they didn’t say what kind of punishment, but her perception was that they needed something over the top. She provided something over the top and got on the show. I don’t know if Dr. Phil was helpful or not.
The disturbing part of this whole thing is that it is frighteningly reflective of a whole wave of issues. The show Survivor is one of the first ‘reality’ shows and it, from the beginning, was very unique. People were placed on a remote place and had to survive and win the game. It is unique and very different and, in its own way, very much a classic in television and is, in and of itself, pretty harmless.
But now there are shows based on heart break and degradation. All of the “Bachelor” shows have depicted deceit and seduction and manipulation in order to find a spouse. Rarely have these things worked out and often have people been hurt. And they’ve been hurt and humiliated on national television.
I don’t know if Dr. Phil is a good therapist or not. Oprah introduced him as one of her experts and he gave advice to people on her show. I found him pretty mean at times, but I’m not a therapist so I’ll withhold judgment.
Now he has his own show and people come on there and confess all sorts of things seeking help. And a woman from Alaska demonstrated her punishment technique on national television.
She was convicted of a crime. Her son is immortalized on You Tube being humiliated and punished not just in his own him, but for all the world to see. Dr. Phil’s ratings, however were good. And our society is eating it up. Humiliation is entertaining.
And that is, in and of itself, very sad.