My Blog__ JUDGE JUDY: THE REASON I YELL

March 01, 2012 | By

My boyfriend thinks Judge Judy is to blame for my loud mouth tendencies

I've been a loyal Judge Judy fan since I got my first job in high school at a dry cleaners. Barb, the chummy, chain-smoking British woman who owned the place, needed help and I needed money. It was an easy "yes". Barb was a huge Judge Judy fan. Every day at 4 pm, she would call me into the back of the store so we could watch Judge Judy together. We'd kick our feet up on a messy table and stare at the tiny television which was propped up on a mess of baskets and retired machines.

Barb looked to Judge Judy like her religion and I gladly followed suit. Not only was the half-hour courtroom drama a break from my shift of removing the lipstick tubes from the pockets of pant suits, but I really loved the show. It became an addiction. I loved the way Judge Judy rolled her eyes at the courtroom. I loved it when she lost her temper and stormed into her chambers. I especially loved it when someone talked back to her. She'd call them "fresh mouth" and dismiss their case without hesitation. I have always been attracted to loud mouth, no-nonsense women even if they are a little crazy or stubborn. Judge Judy was the Queen Bee of no-nonsense and she had the pedestal to prove it.

My boyfriend often complains that I yell too much, I'm too intense or I get fired up too easily. One of his theories is that I watch too much aggressive television and this has rubbed off on me. Amongst other shows like Intervention or Chopped, he also blames Judge Judy. Last week I fell asleep while watching Judge Judy, the volume at full blast. I slept happily through the sounds of Judy yelling at a courtroom. My boyfriend just shook his head. As much as his theory is mostly a joke, I know he doesn't get Judge Judy like I do. I like the yelling. I like it when she smacks her fist down. I like the aggressiveness.

Judge Judy is the perfect reality television show for many reasons. First off, it's short, a case runs a maximum of 20 minutes. It involves real people who are in a legal combat with one another. It's got an element of gossip. The show presents viewers with a problem, a discussion of that problem, which is controlled by Judge Judy (the plaintiff and the defendant can not directly speak to one another), and an inevitable solving of the initial problem. There is a winner and a loser. A good guy and a bad guy. It's a spectacle with a contestant the viewer can root for.

Once a case is selected and approved for air, the plaintiff and the defendant are provided airfare, a hotel stay and merely $100 to appear on the show (plus $35 for any additional days of taping). When Judge Judy makes her final ruling on the case, the award for the judgment is paid out from a fund reserved by the producers for that purpose. No one actually has to pay anyone back from their own pocket. Another rule of Judge Judy? Once your case has been judged on air, you can not take it to any other court room. "The rulings are final."

Most of the cases on Judge Judy have to do with incidents that result in physical injury. Whether it's drunken bar brawl, or a car accident or two kids on the play ground fighting, most people are suing for medical bills. Why don't they have these kind of courtroom shows in Canada, Holland or Switzerland? Three words: universal health care.

Me, with Judge Judy's Hollywood star in 2009

An episode that always stuck with me is one where a teenage girl is suing two other teenage girls for harassment and emotional distress. The plaintiff had been the subject of bullying which led to her being stabbed five times in the stomach, back and chest, hospitalizing her. The girl who had committed the stabbing was arrested, but since then, the two accomplices to the stabber had been harassing the plaintiff. The defendant's mother knew about the harassment and refused to do something about it, so the plaintiff and her mother decided to bring her to Judge Judy. When you watch the video of this case, it's clear that the plaintiff and her mother are not after money, they just want the violence between the plaintiff and the defendants to stop. What does it say when their most realistic, legal way to settle this dispute is to go on daytime television? Judge Judy awarded the plaintiff $5000 stating that if only for the defendants acting with the stabber as a pact, the stabber would have never had the courage to do it.

First and foremost, I am entertained by Judge Judy, but I also learn from her. It's crazy, I know, but I'm not the only one. Tracie Egan Morrissey over at Jezebel has expressed her love for J.J. in many articles, even detailing how the legal lessons from Judge Judy saved her in a car accident. (Side note: Tracie also creates comics like this which, when compounded with her other work, makes her genius.)

It's easy to write Judge Judy off as "trash television" when episodes feature bat shit crazy people suing their friends over lost Tupperware, but these episodes are like the first round of American Idol - exploit the willing idiots for entertainment. It's not exactly ethical, but what about reality television is ethical? If it was ethical, we wouldn't watch it because it would be boring.

Maybe Judge Judy is the reason I storm around the house yelling out my to-do lists, but I don't care. Judge Judy has been my show since I was fifteen and I'm not giving that up for anyone, including my boyfriend.

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