THE decision to end The Jeremy Kyle Show, after the suspected suicide of one of its guests, raises important questions about aftercare on reality TV.
But equally telling is how much criticism of Kyle’s show has revealed a snobbishness about the people who watched and appeared on it.
Kyle’s cull comes at a time of unprecedented openness around personal and mental health issues. Yet working-class people airing issues on daytime TV find themselves derided
Collects Steve Dymond who died of a suspected overdose days after appearing on the Jeremy Kyle Show
Tory MP Charles Walker called it “unattractive television”. A columnist at the left-leaning New Statesman magazine described it as curating “a morbidly chaotic picture of a British underclass — for those watching at home to scoff and sneer”.
Over at the self-appointed moral compass of Britain, The Guardian, an editorial complained it preyed on “vulnerable, unhappy people”, turning “a blind eye to mental health problems”.
Guardian writer Zoe Williams had previously claimed: “Jeremy Kyle has created the cultural spectre of this feral underclass, none of whom has the smallest amount of emotional restraint.”
Such bile aimed at a show loved by so many — the final episode, on Friday last week, drew over a million viewers — reveals as much about Kyle as who our commentariat feel has the right to speak, and how they are meant to do it.
I didn’t watch Kyle to sneer. I watched with relief that some people were truly open about the madness of life. What happens to them now?Katie Glass, Sun Columnist
Kyle’s cull comes at a time of unprecedented openness around personal and mental health issues — as middle-class public figures are lauded for sharing their private woes.
Yet working-class people airing their issues on daytime TV find themselves derided.
Perhaps Kyle’s guests didn’t speak with the right accent or wear the right clothes. They didn’t have impressive jobs or double-barreled names. They did not articulate themselves calmly, via book deals, or break down on Instragram with full faces of make-up.WRITTEN OFF
Rather than be celebrated for bravery, they are written off as dysfunctional.
Many of Kyle’s guests did not have mental health issues — they were normal people discussing their problems. There were estranged parents, people struggling to trust or dealing with addiction.
Kyle gave real people a voice. Among those who have complained about experiences on the show, many have also said it helped them.
Although judgmental about his guests’ actions, Kyle did not judge his guests. Open about his own problems, he believed his guests were as capable of turning their lives around as him. This is more credit than many commentators have given them.
Splash News People applauded when model Cara Delevingne spoke about her depression
Getty – Pool Prince Harry, spoke about how people ‘must not silently suffer’ because others ‘will relish the opportunity to listen or talk themselves’ — yet apparently all this admiration for openness does not extend to Kyle’s guests
It’s offensive to hear Kyle’s adult guests written off as “vulnerable”, as if incapable of deciding whether to appear. After 14 years, 3,000 episodes and 16 series, they would have known Kyle’s style. These were adults choosing to share stories on a platform that mattered to them.
It comes, of course, as royalty, showbiz celebrities and broadsheet columnists have been praised for publicly airing their personal problems. Never have we celebrated sharing these issues so loudly. When Prince Harry spoke of coming close to a breakdown, singer Will Young his struggle with anxiety and model Cara Delevingne her depression, people applauded.
ADMIRATION FOR OPENNESS DOESN’T EXTEND TO KYLE’S GUESTS
They belong to an industry of openness. Books chronicling personal struggles with mental health are being published to acclaim. Such as Susannah Cahalan’s memoir Brain On Fire, about her psychosis. Or Matt Haig’s memoir about depression, Reasons To Stay Alive. Documentaries such as Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain’s this week, Anxiety And Me, are praised.
Sharing such issues is important. Prince Harry, on his tour of Australia, spoke thoughtfully about how people “must not silently suffer” and must share problems because others “will relish the opportunity to listen or talk themselves”. Yet apparently all this admiration for openness does not extend to Kyle’s guests.
Charles Walker complained they were “emotional”. This from a man commended for speaking about his OCD, which he said made him a “practising fruitcake”.
One Guardian writer described Kyle’s guests as “delinquent children, tearaway teens, feckless fathers, long-term unemployed . . . alcoholics, junkies, the sexually insecure, the sexually confused, the sexually poly-amorous” — but could have been describing contributors to the paper’s blog Comment Is Free.
District judge Alan Berg described Kyle’s show as “human bear-baiting” and “a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people who are in some kind of turmoil”.
As if you couldn’t say the same about many in the House of Commons.
The bile for Kyle contrasts, too, with praise of other reality TV — in particular, Love Island. Also aired on ITV, it has seen the suicide of two of its former contestants. Yet the show is celebrated.
Guardian columnist Leah Green praised how it “makes the complexities of British society so tangible they can’t be ignored”. Another column in the paper cheered it as “a place where liars and love rats get called out and prejudices are exposed.” It opined: “There is something to be gleaned here about friendship, race . . . and the way men and women communicate.”
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Perhaps such lessons are just more palatable when they come via men with tanned six-packs and women with perfect teeth.
When I watched Kyle’s show I didn’t see a “feral under-class”. I saw people I know. I saw real life, which is messy, dysfunctional and chaotic, which does not always come out in well-formed sentences, memoirs or documentaries made by people with posh accents for Radio 4.
I didn’t watch Kyle to sneer. I watched with relief that some people were truly open about the madness of life. What happens to them now?
Tory MP Charles Walker called the Jeremy Kyle Show ‘unattractive television’
Rex Features The bile for Kyle contrasts with praise Love Island. Also aired on ITV, it has seen the suicide of two of its former contestants
Doug Seeburg – The Sun Among those who have complained about experiences on Kyle’s show, many have also said it helped them
Jeremy Kyle says he’s ‘utterly devastated by the recent events’ after death of guest Steven Dymond led ITV to axe show permanently