Sunday, March 22, 2009

Britain loses its toy human

Jade Goody is a name that provokes much emotion. She died today, a young woman of 27 with cervical cancer. That is mildly notable, perhaps a useful warning to young women to be aware that cancer is not necessarily a disease of the old.

However, for me I’ve known far too many people already, younger and older than me, who have battled cancer. Those are people I give (and gave) a damn about, and so the narcotic the media is addicted to regarding Jade Goody’s illness tastes rather bitter to me. It is why I have refused to comment until today. Young death is sad, but nobody I know who suffered from culture was thrown millions by the media because a guilty tasteless public wanted to watch.

The Daily Telegraph calls herthe poster girl of the curious contemporary cult of talentless celebrity”. This was something I noted some time ago when I hoped her career would end after she was obnoxious to Shilpa Shetty. She seemed an anomaly, hopefully she has been a lesson.

The history of Jade Goody says much about the taste and standards of the British tabloid media, which of course reflects its keen consumers. Jade herself did well materially out of being a toy the media and public could abuse, embrace and abuse again, before embracing her (after briefly abusing her again) on news of her terminal illness.

It is a spectacle that should cause more than a few to reflect on how a young woman became a national sport.

Most of the media is being kind to her memory, but the Daily Telegraph’s obituary best describes how Jade Goody’s media career progressed and regressed. The interest in Jade Goody has been perverted. It glorified in her being dim, laughing at her like a retarded child who didn’t know better. It savoured being as unspeakably cruel as possible, both the right wing and left wing tabloids ripped into her. The Telegraph reporting:

The Sun called her a hippo, then a baboon, before launching its campaign to "vote out the pig". The Sunday Mirror rejected porcine comparisons on the ground that it was "insulting – to pigs"…"Here she is: fat-rolled, Michelin girl Jade in all her preposterous lack of glory," thundered the Daily Mirror

The Daily Mirror is purportedly centre left too. What culture glorifies in such sadistic language. Jade, after all, was hardly any worse than millions of the British lumpen proletariat, except she was making a lot of money out of simply being that way. She typified the desires of the barely educated hedonistic poor, who wanted to be rich and to get there by doing or being nothing other than their talentless selves. Yet they were jealous. What were the people who “travelled across England to the BB house, where they waved placards and greeted her emergence, spilling out of a pink dress several sizes too small, with chants of "burn the pig"” saying about themselves?

Damian Thompson in the Daily Telegraph concludes this for me well:

A streak of callousness goes with being young, and always has done; but the peculiar brutality shown by twentysomethings towards the cancer-stricken Jade, for no better reason than that they didn't like her, is a miserable and worrying sign of the times.”

Many think her cancer story will save lives, maybe it will help some in the short term. However, she will be forgotten as her memory was always timebound by the short term memory of the tasteless who enjoyed her foibles and revelled in hating her.

A better outcome would be for those who joined in the consumption of a rather clueless woman's life as entertainment to move on and treat culture as a celebration of life, achievement and beautiful things and experiences that inspire us to wonder and awe - rather than inspire a near schizophrenic fascination and vitriol for someone who was none of those things, but similarly hardly deserving of the parasitical sadism that earned her money (and the loathsome Max Clifford who did well out of her too).

A good start would be to stop buying the Daily Mirror and the Sun, for obvious reasons.

It's time to move on and up, but many in Britain need to reflect on this sad little episode and what it says about the psyche of all too many.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel for her, and I applaud her, she made money, she finished with some dignity and that was a kind of 'fuck you' to those who begiled her.

I've been on the receiving end of bullying, in the UK, and the particular level of spite afforded to anyone who isn't part of the 'lumped proletariate' is extraordinary. Gladly I don't imagine it would happen in Aus or NZ or even the US. It is something (else) Brits have to be ashamed of, along with the NHS, publicly funded banks, bad TV and corruption that begins with El Gordo.

Goodnight sweetfrog.