Does TV have a responsibility to protect the mentally vulnerable ?

“Feel sorry for Susan Boyle – it was all just too much for her in the end – thought she was acting strange in the final.”

That’s a tweet from holmpat and it’s just one of thousands and thousands of tweets about one of the  stars  of Britain’s Got Talent.(She’s number one on Twitter’s Trending Topics.

After losing Britain’s Got Talent final Ms.Boyle was taken to a north London clinic by ambulance after show staff told police she was ‘acting strangely’ at London hotel. Was it all fair to expose her to this? Are we desperate for a feel good story that we’re prepared to exploit someone as mentally vulnerable as Susan Boyle is?

Here’s Euan Ferguson, writing in the Observer, before we knew Susan had gone to a clinic..

“Never in our fast-changing history, until Susan Boyle, have we managed to quite so swiftly canonise and then pillory another human being, for our own titillation. For our own grubby, voyeuristic amusement: just because we could.”

Media Frog wrote :

“What we saw these last few months was a middle-aged woman with learning difficulties and an unenviable background  sucked in and spat out by the media machine.”

Don’t forget it wasn’t that long ago that when former Heavyweight boxing champion Frank Bruno suffered a breakdown, the biggest selling daily paper in this country’s headline was ” BONKERS BRUNO  LOCKED UP “, for which they eventually had to apologise

“it’s such a tragic situation, a woman who really just loves to sing, an innocent woman really, who is just caught up in this fame game.” Fred O’Neil her friend and former voice coach said before the final when she was said to be drained by pressure.

And it’s not just Susan Boyle, Britney Spears’ public meltdown sold millions of newspapers. Do we love to make heroes and knock them down? And it’s an old argument but is it our fault for buying the papers and watching/listening to the programmes that feature our “hero’s” ?

Another argument is: These people know what they’re getting into, if she couldn’t handle the pressure why did Susan Boyle come on the show?

16 Responses to “Does TV have a responsibility to protect the mentally vulnerable ?”

  1. 1 Dinka Aliap-Kampala,Uganda
    June 1, 2009 at 12:40

    I dont see any problems with journalists who conducted that coverages,that`s their jobs which is to provides their audience with accurates informations,however there`s a failure by her own personal doctor and its medical team for not assuming medical shake-up for her in the first place before that competition,what embrassing tactics by her nurses.I dont know why there`s too much attentions on Cocane/drugs taking in sports than in the entertainment industry?.SHAME ON THEM!!!!

  2. 2 steve
    June 1, 2009 at 12:49

    She willingly chose to be on the TV show. We have to protect people from themselves now? Didn’t she land a recording deal anyways? I have afeeling she’s going to be financially better off than most of us. She didn’t win, big deal. I have lost at many things. I don’t need society to protect me from the hurt of losing.

  3. 3 Jennifer
    June 1, 2009 at 13:26

    Re: Do we love to make heroes and knock them down? And it’s an old argument but is it our fault for buying the papers and watching/listening to the programmes that feature our “hero’s” ?

    I think so.

    I hope Susan Boyle knows that even though she didn’t win #1; she still did well. She has true talent. I imagine that being in the media like she has been may have been exhausting and overwhelming. She should take some time to rest.

    Re: Britney Spears

    What I have always wondered about her meltdowns was why her family stepped in only after she had been out of control for so long. She was spiraling and her next step would have been wiping out completely. She is blessed to be back with any popularity as a star now.

  4. June 1, 2009 at 13:33

    As for me, I don’t know whether TV has any responsibility to protect the mentally vulnerable. It only helps to entertain the person when it has not gone worst. In Africa here, people don’t like to identify themselves with relatives of them that are mentally ill. As a result, you’ll see them all over the places in public gatherings disturbing public peace.

    Mohammed Kondawa

    Monrovia Liberia

  5. 5 Tom K in Mpls
    June 1, 2009 at 13:47

    The popular entertainment industry is a streamlined machine that doesn’t adapt well. Anyone that wants to ride it is free to try. The pressure it produces is food for some and literal death to others. Sometimes nobody sees or acts on what they see. This is the people in the business and the friends of the ‘star’.

    Hopefully Susan was guided and made informed choices. Hopefully she will adapt and make a return on her own. At the the very worst, face it, she did what many can only dream of.

  6. 6 Mohammed Ali
    June 1, 2009 at 14:05

    She chose to appear on the show. I see no reason why we should be discussing this issue.

    • 7 Dennis Junior
      June 3, 2009 at 00:55

      Great argument and good points….Susan Boyle made the decision of “attending” and participating in a reality show….

      ~Dennis Junior~

  7. June 1, 2009 at 14:09

    The case of Susan Boyle acting strange in the final shows that too much expectations can be harmful. Even being the first could have caused her the same strain as she would like to have more success and to rank with the most famous stars. Perhaps she wasn’t satisfied just with the great admiration she has been having from the public worldwide.

    Perhaps, she should have been prepared on how to deal with both success and failure. As there is the shock of failure thee is also the stress of success. It’s all about keeping one’s mental balance in face of whatever situation, especially if it goes against one’s expectations.

  8. June 1, 2009 at 14:44

    This whole rolercoster concerning Susan Boyle says lots about our society than it does about Susan herself. We pluckd an innocent woman from small town Scotland who wanted to Sing, then we bombarded her with ‘toxic’ attention for our amusment then we are “shocked”,”sadened” when she finally cracks.

  9. 10 Syed Hasan Turab
    June 1, 2009 at 17:09

    This is a natural behaviour of an human being, I think media companies are pretty much responsible for her medical condition, no doubt this is her choice & medic comanies projection, without knowing her stress volume.

  10. 11 Tamatoa
    June 1, 2009 at 17:12

    Do TV-Companies have to protect the mentally fragile? Is this a question that should be reduced to TV-environments? Here’s different perspective:
    A human being enters a completely new environment with new social rules (different lingo, dress code, work hours…). It’s not unlikely that someone cracks under enormous pressure. Psychological stress and socializatioin research prove it. So in the end to a certain degree it can be considered “normal” if someone isn’t able to adapt, especially if the disparities between the environments are very big.
    Does the TV-corperation have to take action? No, the social contract states that the state administration has to protect the “weak”. If they don’t produce a law then no. But an industrie together with labour unions can agree to ethical standards and guidlines which they have to follow.
    As for the free will: How much did SB really know about the consequences? If she didn’t know enough to understand what she was getting in to. Then I won’t blame her for her desicision.
    So what can we do to prevent people from breaking down under pressure?
    Do we as individuals have responsibility to help such a person? Depends, do you respect the human rights? Then yes. Is a single human being able to change the system on it’s own? No, the onnly thing we can do is choose our battles. You could educate children so they don’t learn prejudice. Not for you? Then lobby the regional government representative to address it in parliament. Or you could get the University to conduct a study about this problem. I chose to educate children.

  11. 12 steve
    June 1, 2009 at 18:17

    You should have asked this question on the I believe it was the Jenny Jones show in the US. There, they had one man reveal his secret same sex crush on another guy. The other gay later murdered the guy who had the crush on him.

  12. 13 Dale Yaull
    June 2, 2009 at 10:49

    It’s the duty and responsibility of any employer including TV representatives to protect it’s employees etc. I think that perhaps Susan Boyle is on the Autism Spectrum which would explain both her behaviours AND her talent. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

  13. 14 Nina in Texas
    June 2, 2009 at 15:53

    I think these shows are perverse to begin with, I can’t wait for them to fade away. With that in mind, I do think she was manipulated and that it was a cruel thing to do to a person, not to mention an impossible thing to resist! If someone were to turn down such an “opportunity” they would be judged for their actions as well.

  14. 15 Dennis Junior
    July 13, 2009 at 03:49

    Yes, a technical responsibility television companies have the right…to protect the mentally vulnerable…But, the citizens who have mental health problems need to take the responsible for their own actions.

    ~Dennis Junior~

  15. December 17, 2009 at 18:23

    I think the result of the vote says something about popular election and democracy that is not often faced. It was so obvious that the better singer came in second. For more, pls see http://euandus3.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/susan-boyle-hurt-by-democracy/

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