Stop, and rise for the Queen.

All rise: in praise of Judge Judy, the original boss bitch

Feminist icon, daytime TV judge, baloney-screamer: Judge Judith Scheindlin is the true queen of reality TV.

The book of Judith is about a woman who ingratiates herself into the favour of a stupid and powerful man, and then cuts his head off to save her people and her country. Is it cut throat and bloodthirsty? Yes. Is it a feminist text? Absolutely.

Judge Judy is a television programme where a powerful and intelligent woman does the right thing and doesn’t spare anyone’s blushes along the way. Is it cut throat? Yes. Is Judy a feminist? According to her, absolutely not. Is it a modern feminist classic? Absolutely yes!

Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes. (Judith Scheindlin not pictured.)

The cases are real. The people are real. The judgments are final.

Judge Judy has been a part of the culture since September 1996 (making the show a Virgo, which it obviously and absolutely is). For the uninitiated, I’ll give you a quick run down:

Judge Judy is a reality show that takes place in a small claims court in California. Real people with real small claims grudges present their cases to Judge Judith Scheindlin. She reams them out and makes a totally binding verdict. In doing so, she exposes not only the plaintiffs and defendants to temporary ridicule and notoriety, she also exposes the vagaries of human nature to the audience.

I have recently begun watching Judge Judy as my comfort television, meaning I’ll stream 4 or 5 half hour shows from youtube while sprawled out on my bed playing point and click games on my ipad. Despite my split focus, my millennial brain has managed to take in a lot of the details, and I shall now present to you my favourite types of cases, plaintiffs, and defendants, and advocate for my queen Judith Scheindlin and her ballbusting techniques. May we all learn and grow.

1. Don’t co-sign on a car with your son’s girlfriend.

The amount of cases that come before Her Holiness The J that involve a parent co-signing on a car loan with their child’s insignificant other is baffling. “I wouldn’t cosign for a car loan with my child. I might buy my child a car, but I wouldn’t cosign for one.”

In fact, don’t give anyone a loan, at any time, for anything. If you put your child’s car in your name, make sure your child actually understands that it’s a loan and not a gift; if you sell your ex-girlfriend your car and don’t get the cash up front, she’ll make up some bullshit about you telling her brother that she didn’t need to pay for it after all; and if your friend has 5 kids and you drive a fancy car, make sure you don’t loan her $2000 because… Well, just watch this clip, because it has the most satisfying conclusion. I took a sharp, gleeful inhalation at the twist ending:

2. Parental alienation is a stupid way to handle your regrets.

“Do you have children with this man? No? Good.”

Judge Judy has been married more than once, and has her own children and step children. Judge Judy has been around the block with her own experiences of marriage, divorce, and parenting, and she was a family court judge in New York City. When Judge Judy looks into the soul of a plaintiff or defendant and warns them against having children with the oaf that’s turned up next to her, they listen.

Similarly, Judge J lets parents know the ways in which a parent’s behavior can impact their child’s perception of their parent. To a grow-ass man trying to sue his adult son’s mother after the grown-ass man punched out her car mirror and threw a crowbar through the windscreen (I know, outrageous), JJ said: “If you have done something in the course of your son’s life to make him lose respect for you, that is on you not him.”

BA-BOOM! YES QUEEN! PRINT IT ON A T-SHIRT!

This clip has a really great explanation of parental alienation that is stressful but worth listening to:

3. You are dumber than Judge Judy and don’t even think for one moment that you aren’t.

My favourite examples of this unbendable or unbreakable rule are:

  • The twenty year old guy with TEN kids to “about four” women tries to crack a funny about how one of his baby mamas is Judge Judy’s daughter.

  • The woman who sold two PHOTOGRAPHS of phones on eBay and thinks she isn’t a scammer. Judy’s sweet burn to her: “If you live to be a hundred and fifty you will not have as much intelligence as I have in one finger.” Game, set, match, owned, burned.

An extra fun bit of Judge Judy are the terms “baloney” and “ecumenical abuser”. Here’s a cute little clip of JJ keeping her rage under wraps and deploying both terms expertly:

4. Who killed the cat?!

This is the whackiest case I’ve ever seen and I don’t know how many words I can make about it. I think you should just watch it.

Judge Judy is the ultimate in angry escapism. If you like women who don’t take shit and love to dish it out – or if you’re just an Aries who loves to fight but loves to stay home even more – then you should be spending much more time than you currently do watching Judge Judy. Also the bailiff, who is called Byrd (short for Petri Hawkins-Byrd), is the best low-key sidekick outside of a superhero movie.

I don’t have a law degree, but watching Judge Judy gives me the confidence and swagger of a white boy at law school. It’s an educational romp through the absurdities of the United States judicial system that makes me glad I live in a country where we don’t sue the pants off each other at the slightest raised eyebrow or cocked snoot. It’s fabulous sick-day viewing – or if, like me, you use reality television to disconnect from the responsibilities of your own reality, then it’s great escapism. It’s as comforting as a bowl of soup and as spicy as seasoning that soup liberally with hot sauce. If you haven’t got the patience for law school, or the wiliness to sneak into an enemy camp and bewilder your sworn foe, then Judge Judy should suffice. Watching Judge Judy is as empowering as I imagine it is to cut the head off an enemy that you have swindled.

All Hail to the Judiths! All Rise!


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