Dr Phil McGraw – making money from misery

Dr Phil McGraw’s controversial advice talk show, which started with Oprah Winfrey’s help and attracted a deluge of lawsuits and scandals is ending by his choice. Critics say the show went too far in pursuit of entertainment by exploiting vulnerable people and taking advantage of their problems to boost ratings.

  He was born September 1, 1950 7.15pm in Vinita, Oklahoma, and holds a doctorate in clinical psychology. He co-founded Courtroom Sciences, Inc. (CSI), a trial consulting firm which provides services in US litigation psychology, jury selection, witness training, and depositions. The TV show Bull is based on his experience and he is credited as one of the creators of the series. He assisted Oprah Winfrey in her Texas beef lawsuit in the 1990s and was invited to appear weekly on her show, before launching his own on September 2002.

  He does have a hard-working Virgo Sun in his 6th house of health and Saturn also in detail-oriented Virgo on his Descendant. But what dominates his chart is a heavyweight, hard-driving and financially-focussed 8th house Mars in Scorpio opposition a Taurus Moon in the 2nd square Pluto Venus in Leo in his 6th house. One complaint made of him was he lacked compassion and that T square certainly does not suggest a sentimentalist.

  His Dr Phil Show launched on 16 September 2002 when there was a ruthless Mars square Pluto and a Virgo Sun square Saturn in Gemini – so fairly similar to his own chart.

  Oprah Winfrey, 29 January 1954 4.30am MS, also has a strong Pluto opposition Mercury square Mars in Scorpio in her chart – a testament in part to her difficult start in life.

 Jerry Springer, 13 February 1944, who started the agony-aunt, problem-exposing trend in top rated shows in 1991, has Pluto conjunct a ‘leadership’ North Node on the focal point of a trine between Uranus Mars and Neptune; with Pluto opposition Mercury – controlling, opinionated, keen on excitement.

  Dr Phil’s chart does indicate a fair amount of disruption with tr Saturn last year tr Uranus this year pounding on his  Fixed T square. Tr Uranus is opposition his Mars now and moving on to square his Pluto Venus before mid year. Plus  a dissolving tr Neptune square his Midheaven this year as well.

  Maybe it is symptomatic of the end of an era as the culture shifts away from humiliation TV.  Hopeful thought.  

13 thoughts on “Dr Phil McGraw – making money from misery

  1. Hi Marjorie
    It’s easy and fun to listen to the critics of Dr Phil. But have you watched the shows? It’s not Jerry Springer. Over 20 years of programming and folks still talk about the Shelley Duvall debacle.
    On the other hand, I don’t know of any other show that has, yo the same degree, raised awareness of mental health issues, discussed the importance of marital and family therapy, helped people to recognise abuse, incest and what actually constitutes a fit parent. He has helped ordinary Americans understand distinctions between psychological, neurological, and parenting issues. McGraw, in connection with an advisory board made up of experts in various fields has over the years helped many Americans by steering them towards practitioners who spend more than15 minutes with them. McGraw footing the bill.
    At 72, it’s a grand time for him to do other things. And while he is definitely short on the sugar, in the absence of a coherent health promotion strategy in the US, he is likely to be long on legacy.

  2. Thank you, Marjorie. I was not all that familiar with Dr.Phil, living this side of the pond but I do recall listening to an interesting and less than flattering podcast about him (‘Behind the Bast**ds’) One of his interviews which attracted a lot of criticism was with the actress, Shelley Duvall in 2016, very uncomfortable to watch, invasive and exploitative, as at the time she was suffering from quite severe, untreated mental illness. Duvall later said of Dr.Phil, “I found out the kind of person he is the hard way. My mother didn’t like him, either. A lot of people, like Dan (Duvall’s partner), said, ‘You shouldn’t have done that, Shelley.’ He started calling my mother. She told him, ‘Don’t call my daughter anymore’. But he started calling my mother all the time trying to get her to let me talk to him again.” According to Duvall, McGraw wanted her to undergo his treatment plan but she felt invaded and exploited by the experience.

    So it’s interesting to see that the very Cancerian Shelley Duvall (7/7/1949, Houston) shares both a Venus/Pluto conjunction in Leo with Dr.Phil, and also a Moon/Mars opposition, though hers is in Gemini/Sagittarius. Dr.Phil’s Saturn in Virgo at 20 degrees squares Duvall’s Gemini Mars at 19 degrees and possibly squares her Sagittarian Moon – a chilly, interface. McGraw’s Saturn would have clashed badly with Duvall’s Moon/Mars. Duvall’s sensitive Cancer Sun clashed with Dr.Phil’s Neptune in Libra. He may well have thought in his grandiosity, that he could be her rescuer.

    • Just wanted to add that McGraw’s Mars in Scorpio also squares Duvall’s Pluto in Leo for yet another splash of disastrous synastry.

  3. “Maybe it is symptomatic of the end of an era as the culture shifts away from humiliation TV. Hopeful thought.”

    People under 30 hardly watch “linear” TV anymore. If they do, it’s for big events, sporting and other. Some form of “humiliation TV” may persist in reality shows young(ish) people binge, but even there, I see sharp turn on certain things not seen as acceptable. For instance, our edition of “Temptation Island” turned away two singles after it was revealed they had sexual misconduct and assault charges and were waiting for a trial. Several reality TV productions have also employed on site psychologists after former contestants and even staff brought forth claims of productions playing on their psychological fragilities. I guess they’ve realized they have few chances of bringing in Zennelial audience, much less contestants with the old formula. The kids today, at least where I live, maybe be polarized in learning results, but something I’ve heard educators across the board say is they have much better emotional skills and are more empathetic than any previous generation, and likely will not enjoy watching bullying growing up.

  4. Shock-a-roo that that visage belongs to Pisces Rising (…let alone the How’s That Working For Ya persona.)
    Imagining Aries Rising feels like it could fit, but that wound knock down the 2nd and 8th house planet placements – and he certainly seems like a $$ guy.

    All this leaves me wondering how much impact those 28 degrees of Aries have in his first house versus the 10 degrees of Pisces that start it ? I’ve never really heard about the color two makes have on a house, particularly when there are no planets there…

    • …a second thot ( nodding to Phil’s southern roots there): what Aries stars might be sitting in the first, and might a cluster strongly impact appearance and personality?

    • It’s a mischaracterization to call Dr. Phil lacking compassion. He may be money grubbing and he comes across as quite Leonine with that Mercury-Pluto focus, but actually has a lot of empathy (Pisces Rising). Even when he criticizes, most people accept his advice.He tries to make people see that “you reap what you sow.” He takes on common cultural issues rather than the absurd which was more of the 90s shows like Jerry Springer and Geraldo. I did not see the Shelly Duvall show, but I find him very fair. Today it’s hard to be a public figure and not be sued. The cultural movement today is favoring a lack of responsibility for one’s actions with a preference for blaming others, which may be why the lawsuits are very recent. Here’s Dr Phil’s explanation of why it’s important to have empathy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKWHHeybsRU&ab_channel=ComedyCentral

  5. Hi Marjorie

    The big news is the crashnin Adani shares with Hindenberg short-sellers exposing fraud.

    Adani has fired back with some jingoistic defense. Modi is know to use Adani jets.

    Whats on the cards for tweedle dee and dum?

  6. Thanks Marjorie. I so hope you’re right, and that the culture does ‘shift away from humiliation TV’. I would include quite a lot of manipulative ‘reality TV’ too, some of it has been very cruel and even damaging to participants.

    Needless to say, there is much history to this desire to watch or see others who are suffering in one way or another. Perhaps it is part of some dark corner of human nature? It’s vital we know about suffering of course, so that something positive might be done to help. But we, collectively, seem to take it too far sometimes.

    There are endless examples. So, for instance, people paid to ‘visit’ the Bethlehem Hospital in London, which housed (mostly) people with mental health issues of every kind.

    “In 1695, Thomas Tyron, a founder of the vegetarian movement, requested that the hospital stop ‘admitting such Swarms of People, of all Ages and Degrees, for only a little paltry Profit to come in there, and with their noise, and vain questions to disturb the poor Souls; as especially such, as do Resort hither on Holy-dayes, and such spare time, when for several hours (almost all day long) they can never be at any quiet.’ ” (gethistory.co.uk)

    Visits of this kind were finally stopped in 1770 – Uranus in Taurus, Neptune in Virgo, Pluto in Capricorn.
    The practise of ‘slumming’ was also sometimes helpful in improving conditions for the very poor, but sometimes a kind of spectator sport too. Comfortably-off people visited, or even stayed, in the London slums – mostly with good intentions, but there are many darker stories too – tours of the East End as after-dinner entertainment for wealthy people is just one example.

    I noticed that the first edition (and first volume) of London Labour and the London Poor, 1851, has Uranus entering Taurus in April of that year. Neptune was in early Pisces. Pluto in late Aries that year. All the interviews in these volumes are reported ‘verbatim’ (more or less), bringing everyday people’s voices to life – a kind of literary ‘reality tv’? The author, Henry Mayhew, had Mercury conjunct Neptune in Sagittarius, square Pluto in Pisces.

    A cultural shift should be on the way, beginning this year with Pluto and Saturn changing signs. I suspect it will take Uranus into Gemini and Neptune into Aries to push this further.

    • I love your historical nuggets, Jane. So interesting about Mayhew and how he brought to life the voices of the London workforce.

      • Thank you VF. You always bring insightful and interesting ones. We are all fortunate to have Marjorie’s wonderful website to visit, and discuss things! Particularly now, when things seem so fraught and often frightening.
        The Mayhew books are such a gateway into that Victorian world. Much of which, I feel, is very recognisable today. Plus, they reveal the diversity of that population, with its many migrant residents from all over the world. TV dramas have failed for years to represent this. Also, most of the “downtrodden poor” are remarkably tough, aware, and lacking in self-pity. I’ve always enjoyed spending time with them.

        • Yes, I think there’s progress in that respect, with recent movies/tv dramas showing the diversity of the period more, which tends to earn a certain amount of backlash from the right-wing press who seem to think, incorrectly that London was always made up of 100% white British. In fact we know of African Tudors in the 16th Century, living as free working people. Miranda Kaufman has researched this topic in her book, ‘Black Tudors’.

          There’s a series of dramatised segments of Mayhew’s interviews on YouTube, btw under ‘Voices of Victorian London’. What strikes you, other than the gruelling deprivation that the London poor endured, is how articulate and eloquent, how dignified many of the people Mayhew interviewed were in describing their lives.

          • Black Tudors is such a great book! I hope that, as Marjorie writes, there’s a shift away from humiliation tv – along with the approaching planetary shifts. And also a big cultural shift away from our views of the past. The history (Saturn in part), is there in all its confusion and complexity. I’m not expecting miracles from Pluto in Aquarius, but possibly the deep dives Pluto favours may take on a more Aquarian flavour. Aquarius at its best, of course – there will be a chillier, more fanatical side too.

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