Monday, 23 March 2009

This is not a post about Jade Goody

I promised myself that I would not blog about Jade Goody. I'm going to break that promise, but not because I want to speak ill of the dead; there's been a lot of comment about Goody flying around that is reprehensible. I read, "good riddance to her" this morning. I've blogged about Facebook groups wishing death on people before, so you know where I stand on that one.

The world is broken, and Jade Goody demonstrates why. She is not the cause, or even the effect, but she - or rather, the media circus she generated, and continues to generate - is a symptom.

Let's be blunt here: who was Jade Goody? A game-show contestant who became famous for being unbelievably stupid and for flashing her toilet parts to Channel 4 viewers. That is all. No more, no less.

But, if any of us were put in the position to become rich and famous simply for being ourselves, could we honestly say that we would say, "no thanks"? The fact the tabloid newspapers fell over themselves to feature her, that cack-mags like OK! waved huge pots of cash at her to get interviews, and the fact that LivingTV might as well have renamed itself "The Goody Channel" are not Jade's fault.

Whatever else she may have been, she was clearly a loving mother, and her two children have lost a parent - no-one wants to see that happen, do they?

But what else was she? Celebrity Big Brother proved that she was both a racist and a bigot. The past few weeks have proven that cancer cures racism. No matter how harrowing her final months of life, it can't change everything that went before it.

Over the course of the past week, another famous mother has died - Natasha Richardson. Some people seem to be suggesting that Richardson is more deserving of our sympathy then Goody. Not so - but Goody is certainly not more deserving than Richardson.

For example, over the course of the weekend the bodies of three soldiers were flown back from Afghanistan to be buried. How do their familys feel when the Prime Minister decides that Jade Goody deserves a tribute and they don't? These are men who chose to put themselves into a position in which they risked being killed for their country. They are no different to the millions who died in the 40s to prevent us all from becoming German. They are not merely game-show contestants.

The BBC asked website visitors what that thought Jade Goody's legacy would be. Overwhelmingly, they responded "nothing". That she has highlighted the dangers of not being screened for cervical cancer is clear, but the fact that she has bequeathed not a penny to cancer research is worth noting.

In all of this, one name stands knee-deep in more effluent than any other: Max Clifford. As I read in a blog the other week, "if he's so good at publicity why does everyone think he's a c**t?" It's a very good point, and the answer is probably because he is one. I wonder how much money he's made from all of this? How much did he charge Goody for managing the last few weeks of her life? If anyone deserves to rot anywhere at any point in the future, it is surely him.

And then there's OK! magazine - shite-peddlars of the highest order who didn't seem to think there was anything wrong in publising a Jade Goody Tribute Issue with her year of death on the cover in big letters while she was still alive. Words fail me, especially when they decided to send out this tribute as magazine issue number 666. Yes, they really did.

Finally, let's not forget LivingTV, a channel that kept Jade in the public eye through those periods when we were trying to either ignore or forget her with a collection of interminable reality shows such as Jade's Salon. The channel that paid a fortune to screen her wedding, a wedding to a man who gives chavs a bad name.

To suggest that anyone who dies deserves more sympathy, well wishes or support than anyone else is mildly insulting. To suggest that every previous cancer victim is somehow less worthy than Jade Goody is massively insulting to a huge number of people.

Jade died how she lived - in the glare of the public eye. She chose to use that spotlight to make money for her children. In doing this, she highlighted the need for cervical cancer screening. She demonstrated just how horrible dying of cancer is.

It's not her fault that the media spotlight was there in the first place. But in the way her death is being treated, has everyone involved belittled every previous cancer death?

I think they have. And that saddens me to the core.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

How to ignore most of the words in a press release

Despite being a "newspaper" (and those inverted commas are important), the Daily Star appears to employ journalists who can only read a small number of words in a press release. After doing this, they then make up a story to fit the words that they chose to read.

In a bout of keeping up with what John Barrowman is up to, I discovered that he is spending the next six consecutive Sundays filming a new show, Tonight's The Night, for the BBC. Wanting to know more about this, I popped over to the BBC's website and did a search, quickly finding their press release about the new show:
BBC One is making dreams come true as part of a brand new, six-part Saturday night entertainment show. Hosted by Torchwood and West End star John Barrowman, Tonight's The Night combines show-stopping acts from world class artists with once-in-a-lifetime performances that make people's dreams come true.

It doesn't matter how young or old, or how big, small or bizarre the wish. Tonight's The Night will end up being the night ordinary people live out their performing fantasy for real and become the most unlikely stars that Saturday evenings have ever seen.

From local community heroes to enthusiastic amateurs with a hidden talent they have been yearning to unleash, Tonight will be their time to shine – with the help of John and the best talent in the business.

This could mean duetting with a favourite pop group, singing with a big band or tripping the light fantastic with the cast of a hit West End musical. John will leave no performance stone unturned to make this the night of their lives and a must-see for entertainment fans.

There will also be big laughs, with a succession of celebrity guest appearances, performances, exciting studio challenges and show-stopping numbers. Guest celebrities will support the stars for a night and become involved in making their wishes come true.

This was released on the 25th January. The following day, the Daily Star reported the news, and added the following:
However, the show has been dubbed as a Britain's Got Talent rip-off. An industry insider told the Daily Star: "You can't blame fans for thinking it's a direct rip-off. But who cares? It has the potential to be a great show and it will be good to see the BBC take on Cowell."
Woah there! Just bloody woah! Where did that bunch of cack come from?! Who are these "fans" that we can't blame? How can a show that lets random members of the public do a single, one-off performance of something, possibly accompanied by a famous singer/actor/band, be in any way compared to a talent show in which twelve performers are eventually whittled down to one winner by means of the public voting off their least favourite act each week? Has no-one noticed the following important points:
  • There's no judging panel
  • There's no voting or even opinion passing about the performances
  • There are no prizes for performing
Nope, what's happened is that the Daily Star journalist who made up the story (after all, "an industry insider", "a close friend of", and "an associate of" are all journalistic terms for "the person who made up the following quote") looked at the press release and spotted the following words and phrases:
  • Dreams come true
  • Entertaiment show
  • Talent
..and thought, "ooh, I can use those words to describe Britain's Got Talent too, so the shows must be the same". Thing is, the BBC have already "taken on Cowell". It was called Fame Academy, and it was pants.

Remember Michael Barrymore's My Kind Of People? No? Well, whether you do or not, and whatever you now think of Michael "fancy a dip in my pool" Barrymore, that is the show that Tonight's The Night most closely apes. And it was good, solid entertainment.

Hopefully variety is about to start making a comeback to Saturday night TV. If it is, I can think of fewer better hosts than John Barrowman. Now, partner him with Denise Van Outen and you have a 21st century remake of The Donny And Marie show just waiting to happen.

Just don't tell the Daily Star. They'll only accuse it of being a rip-off of The Big Breakfast...