Dr. Phil Loves Clout Chasers

Sometimes when I’m washing my dishes or folding my laundry, I mindlessly turn on Dr. Phil’s YouTube channel. I appreciate the background noise, since the talk show babble is reminiscent of when I was a kid doing chores over the weekend with random cable network shows playing quietly in my living room. In case you are unfamiliar with Dr. Phil’s normal content, the show usually showcases one of the following guests: a married couple on the brink of divorce, an in-law or parent who shows explicit hatred for their child or child’s spouse, a troublesome teen or troublesome child, a criminal convicted of a violent act against their family, a drug addict whose family wants an intervention, or a woman who is being deceived by an online catfish. There is a pretty obvious theme of familial relationships, as Dr. Phil’s wife is often in the audience and he draws on his own experience as a husband and a father to lend advice and resources to people in need. Everything changed when Danielle Bregoli, better known as Bhad Bhabie, was featured with her mom as a troubled teen.

Bregoli became a meme almost instantly, with people spreading her “cash me outside” catchphrase all over social media. Although Dr. Phil is a network show, Bregoli’s clip on YouTube garnered the channel 96 million views between two four-minute clips, undoubtedly making the show a significant profit. Following Bregoli’s appearance, the Dr. Phil introduced a new category of guest: the clout chaser.

The middle-aged audience seems to enjoy watching Dr. Phil ridicule young, social media-obsessed teenagers who have slipped from reality. Dr. Phil’s treatment of these teens is interesting to examine, especially compared to his treatment of other guests on the show: with even the most problematic guests, Dr. Phil shows sympathy and seems to see past the crazy and down to the person’s core- he wants to help each guest reclaim their lives and live to their full potential. However, with the internet-crazed teens Phil turns to the parents or social media itself and seems to diagnose the situation as hopeless, refusing to acknowledge the internal pressures that social media statistics can put on younger generations.

I believe a large part of the watch appeal of the show is the outrageous guests and their behavior - the audience wants to root against the worst guests as they talk back to Dr. Phil, refuse help, and inflict emotional abuse on the people who care about them. The only redeeming quality for the show’s integrity is the end of each segment, where Phil invites professionals to educate the audience and the guest about resources to change their behavior and better their lives. This same treatment cannot be seen with the clout chasing teens, as Phil seems to make fun of young people for their wild behavior on social media, which consequently ends up increasing their following and solidifying the idea that a follwer count equates to the significance of one’s existence.