I have an embarrassing confession to post: I may have fallen into a Judge Judy addiction. Help! Started maybe half a year ago when I, with ample time, decided to indulge in a nightly fix of this hooky TV courtroom show. Cases are real. But it's Judy whom I question. Her hot-button vocabulary is limited to maybe 5 or 10 derisive words: moron, idiot, imbecile, and so on. Her verdicts are in black and white. She claims to know who is telling the truth and who is not. Really, she is like a loud vindictive aunt ordering everyone around. "You are a liar!" "You are stupid! Do we understand each other?" "Sit down!"
And maybe that's why we watch. We long for moral clarity. This feisty character, who spent years hearing cases in family court, draws millions to her chamber of insults and lectures. In a world of shadow morality and existential excuse making for every crime imaginable, this lady's lip sees only good or evil, right or wrong, period. And this makes her simplistic verdicts refreshing, even when we suspect they are only wild guesses, or rigged just to amuse the crowd.
I have watched her rip to shreds young people who don't deserve it, but who stand there and take it, their 15 minutes of reality TV fame the payoff.
For a while I found her entertaining, wondering how often she is onto the truth. Now the cases are growing same old same old: Man "lends" girlfriend money. Girlfriend claims it was as only a gift -- until they broke up.
In this made-for-TV courtroom, our judge's theatrical mannerisms rival in texture and subtlety those of the Three Stooges. She specializes in making faces and insulting people. "Look at me, you loser!" "Sit down and shut up!" "You are an idiot!"
I'm waiting for her, any moment, to partner up with the bailiff guy, and the two of them to break out into a song and dance. Judge Judy: The Musical?
She's due here in about thirty minutes. Out of principle, I think I will tune in NPR -- if Terry Gross is not interviewing a transsexual Seventh Day Adventist brain surgeon -- or Judge Judy.