Tin Gods with an Audience: The Celebrity Tin God
There are many kinds of Tin Gods (click here for a directory of tin gods). I have spoken of a few here in my blog: the annoying Aha! Doctor, the HMO-produced Otherwise Busy Tin God, the yuppie-gone-bad Pageant Judge. And now, I bring to you what is arguably the worst category of Tin God: the Celebrity Tin God.
The Celebrity Tin God is a real doctor AND plays one on TV. Or radio. Or writes awful books. Often, he does all three. His mission is to reach as many people as possible. Perhaps his intentions were good in the beginning, but fame then becomes the catalyst which infects them with the dreaded Tin God Syndrome. From that point on, the disease works to make the Celebrity Tin God into a complete ass. And worse, an ass with an audience, with people willing to hang on--and believe---every word they have to say. Whether or not those words are true or ethical.
In the past few days, I have found myself subjected to three bad, bad cases of Celebrity Tin God Syndrome. I'd feel sorry for the inflicted souls, if they weren't such blatant jackasses.
The first was the dreaded Dr. Phil. Dr. Phil subjects audiences daily with his self-righteous baloney on his tv show. Amusingly enough, he is overly fond of telling his guests that they must work hard to achieve their goals, because no one will give them success. This is very funny coming from a guy for whom Oprah purchased a career. My main gripe with ol' Phil is my core belief that a doctor should make people feel BETTER. And yet, this guy routinely berates and demeans the guests he's supposed to be "helping." All he's doing is grandstanding, and at the expense of others' obviously fragile emotional health. A pox on him for it! Sometime recently, he inexplicably put out a diet book. The whys of this have never been fully explained; I suspect its because a publisher projected some sales figures his way. That does not, of course, explain why anyone would buy the book in the first place, except that perhaps some people are so desperate to lose weight that they will actually, on purpose, give Dr. Phil money.
Anyhoo...I was stuck in a waiting room and happened upon the current issue of "Ladies Home Journal" with none other than Phil on the cover, presumably promoting the inexplicable diet book. Almost immediately, he pisses me off. He is asked by the interviewer how being overweight affects the person's family. His response:
"Your ability to participate in their lives in greatly diminished. You've got less energy and stamina and higher levels of fatigue, so you are far less willing to play with them, walk the dog with them, get out to the park and run around with them. So some of the core things over which family members bond are being compromised because you can't get in the game. There's no way that's not going to erode the relationship between you and your child."
There is so much wrong with this statement, I just want to scream. The inference here is that a person who can't participate in physical activity isn't bonding with their children and has a lesser relationship with their kids than someone who can run out and play football at a moment's notice. This is EXTREMELY offensive to the millions of parents, like myself, who are disabled and are FANTASTIC parents, despite not being able to walk the fucking dog every day.
It's also offensive to the children of the disabled...who know beyond doubt that they have a strong, healthy bond with their parents. I lived for a short time with my grandparents. My grandmother, God rest her soul, was a wonderful person. She taught me so much that is valuable and precious to me. She taught me how to make a sizzling five-alarm chili; how to cheat at gin rummy; how to clean and store jewelry properly; how to believe in myself and my talents; how to handle people so that they don't know they are being handled (a skill I've used quite often in life, believe me); how to never, ever judge someone by their appearance but always by their actions. She taught me about her Irish background, and what it meant to be Irish. She taught me how to stand up for what I believe in, and to never fear the consequences of being myself. It was she who taught me that you have to be comfortable with who you see in the mirror, and if you can't be, the rest of your life isn't going to amount to shit. I have vivid memories of late nights, when we'd sit up eating cold cereal and playing Monopoly and card games from her youth. She'd tell me stories about the more colorful members of her family, stories about my mother as a child, stories about her own childhood. She'd try to teach me to crochet, but I was all thumbs. But that was ok, too.
She did all that...while being legally blind, completely deaf, and on oxygen. And when she died when I was 15, anyone who would have had the gall to tell me we had a weaker bond because she couldn't go outside and toss the frisbee with me would have ended up with the fat lip they deserved.
There are times that I, as a parent with MS, worry that I am somehow shortchanging my kids. And then I think of Granny, and all she meant to me. I don't feel shortchanged in the least, and I know my kids don't, either.
As far as I am concerned, Dr. Phil owes a lot of people an apology. He meant to wound fat people with his insensitive comments, and it probably didn't even occur to him who else he was attacking in his zeal to sell his insipid diet book. For shame, Dr. Phil. For shame.
Dr. Phil is not the only Celebrity Tin God who owes the public an apology. A few nights ago, my husband came home from work with an upsetting report. He'd been listening to the Dr. Drew show on the radio as he often does (morbid curiosity at work), and one of the radio doc's comments struck him as being more than insensitive; it was unbelievably stupid, as well.
Dr. Drew was discussing the recent FDA ruling to take Vioxx off the market. Apparently, Dr. Drew thinks this was a bad move, as the drug "helped a lot of people" and "only nine or ten people died."
One of those people was my uncle. He had just retired early to spend time with his grandchildren. His wife found him dead in the backyard. He was only 56. I can't help but think that if one of the "only" people who had died from Vioxx had been one of HIS loved ones, Dr. Drew would not have been so quick to dismiss that loss.
To add insult to injury, Dr. Drew's stats are just plain wrong. Approximately 3600 people were treated with the drug, and 2% of them had adverse effects. Last time I checked, 2% of 3600 was not 10. Dr. Drew's statement also showed his extreme ignorance into FDA regulations and basic pharmacology. If he had any understanding of either one, he'd know that 2% is not a safe or reasonable risk rate. And even excusing such ignorance, common sense alone should tell you that DEATH is not a reasonable risk for an arthritis medication! It's not as if Vioxx was the only game in town, and not as if arthritis were a condition in which beggars can't afford to be choosers.
Dr. Drew, stick with subjects you actually have some knowledge about: heroin addicts, third nipples and Olsen Twins movies.
Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew now join that infamous group of Worst Celebrity Tin Gods, heretofore only inhabited by that shrew, the Queen of Celebrity Tin Gods: Dr. Laura.
Why is she the Queen of Celebrity Tin Gods, you might ask? Is it because of her rude, verbal haranguing of those seeking her help? Is it because of her hypocritical bashing of single and working moms, despite the fact that she has been both? Is it her homophobia? Is it her criminal fashion sense?
Those are all great reasons for me (and any other thinking person)to despise Dr. Laura. But what makes her Queen is her disgusting, inexcusable remarks concerning kids with Tourette's Syndrome.
For those of you who don't know, my daughter has Tourette's Syndrome. This disorder is very misunderstood by society in general, and it can be very difficult for children with Tourette's Sydrome to cope not only with the disorder but with the public's reaction to it.
For the full story on Dr. Laura's horrendous attack on children like mine, click here: Dr. Laura on Tourette Syndrome.
I recently checked the site to discover that over three years later, Dr. Laura refuses to apologize for her offensive and INCORRECT statements. She's an unrepentant moron, and for that, friends, she gets the crown. Why anyone listens to her is beyond me. Not only is her "advice" questionable at best, her voice sounds like someone pulling a cat backwards through a screen door.
Truth be told, there are some good celebrity doctors. Dr. Ruth, for example, is funny and irreverent. I've never found anything to malign Dr. Joyce Brothers, either. But Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew and Dr. Laura are all Celebrity Tin Gods at their worst...and if they can't afford the Tin God Syndrome cure, I fear no one can.
UPDATE: Dr. Phil is at it again, folks. And this time, he's joined ranks with Dr. Laura in attacking children with Tourette's Syndrome.
On Jan. 16, 2006, Dr. Phil decided to do a show on kids with Asperger's and Tourette's Syndrome. Now, I am usually wary of ANY talk show that approaches Tourette's Syndrome, as the vast majority of them treat kids with TS as circus side-show freaks. They exaggerate symptoms and sensationalize the disorder in general. I also know from personal experience that it is quite common for many talk shows to ask the parents to not medicate their children for a substantial time before the show is taped so that symptoms will be "visible." Why any parent would knowingly tinker with their child's medicine and force symptoms on them (not to mention any side-effects of abruptly ending a medicine) is beyond me.
But, I digress. Back to the Dr. Phil show...
Dr. Phil repeatedly referred to both Asperger's and Tourette's as "extreme." Never once did he mention that both can be and often are defined by mild symptoms or that TS in adults is rare. And sadly, he fell into that talk-show trap of sensationalizing tics in TS and concentrated on more severe symptoms of both conditions, such as corporalia and violent tendencies (both rare). He also used this opportunity to whore out the SPECT scan as not only a diagnostic tool but a treatment....which is utterly ridiculous, as SPECT is mostly used as a research tool at this time, and there are serious concerns about its safety. SPECT cannot diagnose individuals with TS, and it's certainly not a treatment.
To make matters worse, Dr. Phil referred viewers not to the Tourette's Syndrome Association for more information, but to his OWN website...which includes FAULTY information about TS and a list of symptoms, the vast majority of which are NOT consistent with Tourette's Syndrome.
Various organizations have condemned Dr. Phil for this show and the website's gross misrepresentations. I'm glad to add my voice to it: shame on you, Dr. Phil. You've added to the general misunderstandings of this condition the public has, and made it just a little harder for people with TS to have the TRUTH be known. You had an opportunity here, to educate and enlighten, and you chose to sensationalize and spread mistruths.
If I'd had any respect for you at all, you'd have lost it.
For more information, check out Dr. Phil and Tourette's Syndrome.
I also wanted to take a moment to toot my own horn: the fabulous website, Tourette's Syndrome-Now What?, has linked this post on their page about Dr. Laura. Thanks, TSNW!