Back when I had a vintage car (1966 Mercury Park Lane, with the breezeway) which only had an old A.M. radio with bad reception, I'd sometimes get stuck listening to Dr. Laura.
And as far as I could tell, the sole "appeal" of the show was for listeners seeking some vicarious thrill from hearing Schlesinger scold her hapless callers. It was all about observing a surrogate Mean Mommy dress down people (almost all women) whom she clearly thought were losers needing to get a life.
More after the jump...
99% of calls followed the same pattern.
The caller would try to describe their "problem," usually something family- or relationship-related. The callers seemed to be have been deliberately screened for their meek and helpless demeanors, and even for their inarticulateness. They would rarely got more than a few sentences in before the "Doctor" interrupted them harshly and impatiently.
Schlesinger would then turn the problem around on them -- lecturing and belittling the caller.
Inevitably, she would conclude from the scant evidence the caller was able to present that the "real" problem was that this person was fooling herself, not facing up to reality, not being assertive enough, not taking "personal responsibility," etc. Her tacit (or sometimes overt) message almost always was: "You're an unrealistic, indecisive wuss who needs to shape up. Stop whining to me and get a life." I can't say I ever heard anything remotely resembling constructive, practical, actionable advice on the show.
But the rare exception to this pattern of course came whenever someone called to say how they'd gotten wonderful advice from Dr. Laura years ago, that they'd followed her instructions to the letter, and everything is perfect now.... which would elicit a syrupy (yet still condescending) pat on the head from Schlesinger.
The troubling thing is that apparently 8 million Americans weekly tuned in for this predictable, demeaning routine. (There can't be that many people with only A.M. radio in their car, like I had.) To me, it suggests that there's a certain voyeuristic and even sadistic minority of the radio audience, which gets their jollies hearing someone else dressed down by a supposed "professional."
So, why did I listen, rather than ride in silence? I always found the experience profoundly icky, but fascinating in small doses — not for the content of the show, but for the reasons described above... Trying to imagine why any of this was considered "good" advice. (I've similarly sometimes listened to Michael Savage, just to get a picture of the right-wing mind.)
Eventually I got a new car, with a real radio. But now I can tune into A.M. again without any risk of encountering The Scold.