chapter  6
“IT MAKES IT OKAY TO CRY”: TWO TYPES OF “THERAPY TALK” IN TV TALK SHOWS
WithRaina Brunvatne, Andrew Tolson
Pages 18

As we previously noted, in the literature on talk shows there is some discussion of different practices of presentation. There is a tendency to focus such discussion on the personal characteristics and/or communicative styles of individual hosts. Thus Masciarotte (1991) makes critical observations about the appearance of Phil Donahue (a “gray-haired White man” who represents “phallic privilege”) as opposed to the “full-bodied Black” feminism of Oprah Winfrey. Peck (1995) distinguishes between the communicative styles of Winfrey and Sally Jesse Raphael, suggesting that Winfrey “relies more on empathetic identification and direct confrontation” whereas Raphael comes across as “authoritative, somewhat detached, consciously employing ‘caring skills’” (p. 65). The tendency here, then, is to discuss talk show hosts as television personalities where personal style embodies cultural or sometimes ideological connotations (cf. Langer, 1981). As Shattuc (1997) reminds us, however, these styles are not just personal characteristics; they are promoted as marketable personae, as brand names for cultural products: “There was no authentic Winfrey; there was the image of Winfrey’s authenticity” (p. 57).