How People Cleverly Cash In on Playing the Victim

The conning of kind hearts is nothing new.

Denise Shelton
6 min readJul 19, 2021
Source: @NBC via Getty Images

There used to be a show on TV called Queen for a Day. The premise was that four women would tell their personal stories, the sadder and more shocking, the better. Then, the audience would decide by the “clap-o-meter” who deserved to be crowned “Queen for a Day.”

Along with granting the woman’s special request (for things like a hearing aid or a wheelchair for a disabled child), the master of ceremonies would give her a prize package of big-ticket items like appliances, vacations, furniture, and toys for the kiddies (there were always kiddies). All of this was made possible by the sponsors who provided the prizes and paid hefty fees for the advertising exposure.

Contestants won by being as pathetic as possible. A combination of illness or disability, a military husband, fighting overseas, and a whole passel of rugrats (one winner had 7 under the age of 11) was the magic formula for success. A modest demure, yet attractive housewife who shook like a leaf, and burst into tears at regular intervals, was hard to beat.

“(Queen for a Day) is “one of the most ghastly shows ever produced. (It’s) tasteless, demeaning to women, demeaning to anyone who watched it, cheap, insulting and utterly degrading to the human spirit.” — veteran television writer Mark Evanier

The show allowed contestants, the production company, the network, and the sponsors to exploit personal hardship for monetary gain. The television audience couldn’t get enough of watching the less fortunate duke it out (emotionally, of course) for a big old slice of the American pie.

“Sure, Queen for a Day was vulgar and sleazy and filled with bathos and bad taste. That was why it was so successful; it was exactly what the general public wanted.” — producer Howard Blake in 1966

Victim and virtue signaling for profit today


People today are no different. Blogs, first-person articles, and social media are full…



Denise Shelton