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Why 'The View' Is Problematic

By Jon Lisi, Hollywood Staff

There's no doubt that The View has cemented its place in popular culture since its premiere in 1997, and that its co-creator Barbara Walters is a legend who has paved the way for women in journalism. However, as we consider the positive impact the show has had on American society and the world at large, we must also come to terms with some of its problems as well.

For those who don't watch, every morning the hosts debate about a variety of "hot topics" in an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist. One morning the hosts will discuss Justin Bieber's legal troubles, for example, and another morning they'll talk about the crisis in the Ukraine. The hot topics are responsible for the show's continued success with viewers and its presence in the mainstream American media, as they have famously incited some heated on-air arguments between the co-hosts. Below is a video of one of the more memorable fights.

At which point do we decide what merits a legitimate "hot topic" worth debating and what contributes to gossip and the general lynch-mob mentality that has taken form in the Twittersphere? Case in point: the recent discussion about Kim Novak's Academy Awards appearance. Walters brought it up on Monday, March 3, asking in a condescending tone whether or not Novak should be put on television, as if she's some abnormal creature who shouldn't leave the house. By contributing to the conversation, the co-hosts of The View implied that cruelty is acceptable and that insulting another human being for the way she looks and talks is a worthy endeavor.

This isn't the only example. During discussions of the recent child molestation claims against Woody Allen incited by the Farrows (first Ronan and Mia and then Dylan), co-hosts Sherri Shepard and Jenny McCarthy expressed their willingness to believe the Farrows while simultaneously attacking Allen for "having a track record" of liking younger women, as if that is synonymous with pedophilia. I'm not saying that they're right or wrong because I don't know what happened either, but why should they even discuss this in the first place? Why should they claim such certainty about another person's private life with the same speculative information the rest of us have?

The short answer is that they wouldn't have a show if they didn't, and the long answer is that The View is a product of a culture and society that thrives on making rash judgments against other people without knowing anything about them. Walters and company aren't the only ones doing this - they're not even the only ones on television who profit from gossiping about others - but given Walters' journalistic integrity, she should know better.

After all, the co-hosts have a responsibility to their viewers, and if they want to create a show that revolves around your average American offering an opinion about the latest news story, they should be more selective in their choosing of hot topics. Many viewers turn to the co-hosts to learn about what's relevant and important in the world, and by using their airspace to cast judgments about other people's private lives (Allen) or to criticize the way certain people carry themselves publically (Novak), they send the wrong message that it's acceptable to offer an opinion about other people without knowing anything about them or the situation in which they're placed.

Don't be fooled, folks. This is never acceptable, especially on television.

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