I never really understood the value of a show where four people– moderated by Barbara Walters– who have little expertise and generally no idea of what they’re talking about, get together to do nothing but talk for an hour. Think about it. Would you have Rachel Ray do an hour-long talk show about sports? Would you have Tucker Carlson do a show about dating? (I’m sure the bowtie works wonders with the ladies in theory. It’s just too bad for Tucker that it’s no longer 1927.)
Yet here we have two actresses (Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Sheperd), a comedian (Joy Behar), and a reality game show contestant (Elizabeth Hasselbeck– seriously, I googled her and the only thing on her resume other than hosting The View is competing on Survivor) all getting together to talk about politics, sociology, and world news.
The original premise of the show was to, in Walters’s words, “do a show with women of different generations, backgrounds and views.” And the cast of the first few seasons– made up of journalists, lawyers, and other professionals– largely accomplished this goal. But lately, instead of getting different women with different views, we’ve gotten four women, all with careers in entertainment and all with one common view: uninformed. Four women whose only real credentials for discussing issues on television is that they are on television.
And that’s how you get to a place where we’re having nationally-televised debates– real, serious debates with arguments and counterpoints– about whether or not the Earth is round or flat.
So as I sat watching Barack Obama– a historical figure by anyone’s calculation– being interviewed Friday by four U.S. Americans who probably wouldn’t be able to locate the Iraq on a map, I asked myself, “What is the point of this?” (My other thought was, “Thank God they canceled the guy version of this show.”)
But somewhere between Elizabeth grilling Obama about his relationship with Reverend Wright and scolding him about “raising taxes”– using nothing but talking points she learned during her no doubt two hours a day of The Sean Hannity Show– somewhere between Barbara telling Obama how ”very sexy” he is and Joy asking how he came to be related to Brad Pitt, it began to hit me.
There are people who actually think like this. A lot of people.
And that’s the value of The View. It is the one real solid hour a day where people who have no idea what they’re talking about can have a voice, and where people who have a pretty good idea of what they’re talking about– the politicians, the policymakers, the journalists, etc.– get to hear how all their theories and rhetoric sound when filtered through the sieve of real life.
None of this is to say that the hosts of The View aren’t intelligent, talented, successful, or worthwhile. They are all of those things. And none of this is to say that entertainers can’t get involved in politics. Bono, Clooney, and Obama’s cousins Brad and Angelina have all done important and amazing work, through both government agencies and NGOs. What this is to say is that hosts of The View are staggeringly unqualified to be the chief pundits of American society.
The millions of uninformed Americans they represent have an excuse: There are kids to raise, there are parents to take care of, there are mortgages to pay, there is work to be done, and for most people– if this makes any sense– there are usually bigger problems in life than the latest international crisis threatening to cripple our nation. Or for many people, it just doesn’t seem to them like anything in their life is much affected by politics or world affairs, so who cares? And not caring is a fundamental American right protected by something somewhere in the back of the Constitution.
But unlike those millions of Americans, the gang at The View have little excuse. It’s their job to know what they’re talking about. They get paid a lot of money to know what they’re talking about. And most unfortunately, the women of The View have somehow come to be seen as the default spokespersons for women everywhere, which you’d think would come with some sense of responsibility.
So when it comes to prepping for a day of political Hot Topics, would it kill Elizabeth to watch something other than Fox News and The 700 Club? Would it kill Joy to read something other than the Huffington Post? Would it kill Sherri to purchase a globe, if not for herself than for her son? And would it kill Whoopi to muster up the guts to start reaching across the table and smacking some sense into her co-hosts?
But then again, maybe we’re all better off with The View as it is– four people with little expertise exchanging “guess what I heards” for an hour a day. Considering the rapidly growing population of uninformed Americans, it’s probably best that we know exactly what they’re thinking at all times. You know, just in case they start planning a revolt or something. ***
*** Two consecutive terms for George W. Bush say the revolt happened years ago. Of course, back then The View was hosted– foolishly– by people who knew what they were talking about, and we all missed the potential warning. Never again.
UPDATE: In characterizing Elizabeth Hasselbeck as egregiously unqualified to discuss politics on national television, I mistakenly stated that the only thing on her resume other than hosting The View was competing on Survivor. According to Today’s Christian magazine, Elizabeth also worked as a shoe designer shortly after graduating from Boston College. I sincerely regret the error.