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February 22, 2009

Comments

jill

So glad to be a long, long away from this weird and sad country! So are we.Think we can do without pratts like you.

cedric dunstable (most holy)

Never in a million years did i think that i would waste 5 minutes of my life in writing about jade goody. Far less act as her apologist............tho' i do not suppose she would want one!
However, i think you are being just a wee bit harsh, to say the least.

You and i do not know ms goody. our knowledge of her comes from what we have read in the papers, or seen and heard on tv. and, of course, some of that information is irrefutable.
however, is it so easy to 'judge' her, if judge her we must.
I would hazard a guess that ms goody, in her short lifetime has come a very long way from the views that she was indoctrinated with as a child. and i would suggest that she has probably travelled further in her short life than many of us who have been more privileged in our backgrounds, will ever travel in ours.

and, as she faces the last few months of her life, it seems to me that she has a certain maturity and dignity.

maturity, in that she knows that she has only one way of securing sufficient funds to guarantee her children a slightly better upbringing than the one she had had. and dignity, because, she is doing naturally what any mother or father would do for their children.....only she is doing it in public.
here endeth the lesson..............

torn

Howdy Cedric, I tried to focus on the society that had spawned Goody, rather than on her, but perhaps I was not successful in that. Goody may have done all of the things you mentioned -- experienced personal growth, shown dignity in facing death -- but I'm still not sure why anyone should care about that. There are plenty of examples of courage and self-improvement all around us, many of which we ignore – why focus on an overpaid and talentless celebrity to appreciate human growth?

I despise the cult of Goody because it demonstrates two of the worst aspects of British society: the glorification of stupidity (nicely demonstrated above by Jill, who finds difficulty in spelling even a simple word of abuse such as "prat") and the sickly sentimentality that comes from watching too many TV soap operas and confusing them with life. I find national "events" like the death of Diana and the impending death of Goody very scary.

Incidentally, although my target was not Jade Goody herself, I did happen to hear her tirade against Shilpa Shetty on BBC World Service yesterday. Listening to her scream that racist diatribe was far worse than seeing it on the page. And this is the person that the British public has "taken to its heart" as "one of their own" (the words of the World Service). What can I say?

Meg

I think you summed things up well, torn. Except for the fact that these behaviours aren't limited to Britain. Sadly, they seem to be a virus with which almost every country is infected, including the Philippines.

As much as I feel sad for Jade in her current situation, it's simply the compassion one feels for any human being faced with tremendous pain. I was living in England when she first 'became famous', and she irritated me as much then as she does now. Simply because she's done nothing inspirational or useful or even likeable. I see this final chapter of her life as a chance to redeem herself in that way, but who knows.

All I know is that she falls into the vast, yawning chasm of 'things I don't care about', and 'reasons why I don't like people'.

torn

Thanks Meg -- I also agree with what you say about this sort of thing not being limited to Britain. A glaring example in the Philippines is Kris Aquino, who seems almost as devoid of talent or originality as Jade Goody. However, Kris does represent another well-trod route to celebritydom--having famous parents.

Goody is in a way the ultimate creation of Britain's tabloid and materialistic culture. She is an awful "up yours" to the values of people like me.

She also represents another strong characteristic of the Brits--a tendency toward self-loathing. Even the tabloids that have promoted her endlessly seem to despise her. The whole thing is tremendously complicated, as one would perhaps expect from what is virtually a mental illness acted out on a national scale.

keith

Self-loathing, a trait that your piece demonstrates admirably, in your own rather broad-brush approach to your own countrymen. However,I, too, despise everything that Goody represents, but I place the blame not so much at her door, but with the media cynics that "invented" her and have exploited her to the very end, literally. I think that in truth you would find that a very large majority of the British population would agree with your views, but that is not represented in the red top papers, by and large, who have their own agendas.

torn

Fair enough Keith, it was designed to be a polemic and I agree it is too sweeping. It is also true that Jade Goody is a media creation.

However, when do media create views and when do they reflect them? The media know their market, they can see that Jade presses a button with the public, which is why they put her on their front pages.

The British public’s liking for boorish anti-heroes like Goody is well established. As far as I can see, her persona is not a million miles from that of the skinheads of yesteryear.

I am sure you are right that many people living in Britain view this whole circus with as much horror as I do. However, I was not writing about them but about those for whom Goody “strikes a chord”. That chord is not a very flattering one for the UK. I doubt that someone like Goody would have received half as much attention in another country.

Carla

hi torn. i think we're always harsher on our own countries because we know their defects by heart.

i've followed jade goody's "career" superficially. i, too, am aghast at the coverage of her illness but i don't think of it as a particularly british phenomenon. i think it's inevitably what comes out of commercial television/press. anywhere where the market is the determinant of programming, you'll get that kind of crass, ugly, mediocre and pointless rubbish. because it's all about ratings and profit, ratings and profit.

yet i'm tired of everyone blaming "the media" for ths. like you say, it's the viewing public that consumes this shit. there is a demand for it. why is the demand there? many factors.

one is most certainly the morbid curiosity of humans: watching goody is like watching a train wreck-- you know there will be carnage but you can't look away. many of us are also cruel: we like to gloat at the luckless.

i know a professor whose 2 teenage kids actually attend gatherings for big brother evictions. she wrings her hands and asks what she did for her kids to turn out that way. is it really generational? who valorises the wrong things? fame, flash lifestyles, rudeness.

now having blamed the system and human nature, i don't think jade goody is a victim. she chose to be in the spotlight, she chooses to be so even now (she says she wants to earn as much money for her kids). she knows exactly what she wants out of this tragedy--that's better than certain hypocrites i know who pretend it's journalism.

speaking of journalism, let me wave the banner for an admirable british institution that i think brits should be proud of: the BBC. america and yes, the philippines, have to bathe in banal, substandard shit because public broadcasting is not in place. yes, the bbc has its defects. yes, it's full of twits in khaki shorts and pith helments explaining the natural world to us proles. but big brother and jade goody would never have made it to the bbc. the twits would surely object to showcasing 'chavs'--there are class issues here, like everywhere else in britain. not saying i approve of snobbery but in some cases, maybe we do need to be saved from our own tastes.


eevilmidget

Hi Torn. Been a while :-)
I do agree with you about how society is increasingly concerned with the lives of celebrities rather than the improvement of society, civic engagement and communitarian work. Reality TV makes the hoi polloi dullards.

However, I overheard somewhere that there is something to be said about snobbery. Other 'celebrities' have publicized their illnesses/death - but because they are of a higher class or more erudite, somehow people think it more acceptable.

Jade is no victim indeed. I would like to credit her potential wisdom as a mother to earn as much as she can from the media to provide for her kids...

As for her being judged - that is the name of the celebrity game. And taste has always been controversial.

I find it strange and hilarious that you're glad to be in Manila in comparison! I could just easily slate (with gusto and vitriol) the vapid contributions of the entertainment industry there!

blasted schadenfreude eh?

torn

Carla and Rina

Thanks for your perceptive comments – readers may not have gathered that you are both originally from the Philippines but living in the UK, which gives you a different insight into these events.

Actually, I thought you let me off quite lightly, since my tirade was over the top and I'm not surprised some people slagged me off for it.

As for the snobbery angle -- if it concerns Britain, it concerns class. Still, the class wars in Britain are so subtle that instant deductions may not be the right ones. I am sure many working class Brits would be outraged at the idea that Goody is somehow a representative of them. The Thatcher revolution may have smashed traditional British working class culture, but many of its more positive values such as class solidarity and improvement through education, persist and of course have nothing to do with Goody.

Goody seems to be a representative of a new trashy class, alluded to by Carla when she talks about 'chav culture'. This class is moneyed, ignorant (in bookish terms) but street smart (when it comes to earning dosh without working very hard for it), and yet imbued with many of less attractive characteristics of the traditional working class, such as a propensity to violence and inverted snobbery. That's a pretty lethal combination.

Rina's implied question – would the reaction to Goody have been the same if she were middle class – is hard to answer. Goody is so much a product of her hard scrabble background that it is hard to picture a middle class person in that role. But to the extent that at least part of the Goody phenomenon seems to involve people who are not particularly well educated themselves looking down on someone even more educationally deprived, I agree that a middle class and more articulate person would have been treated differently.

Carla -- I did love the image of the professor's children trotting off to jeer at Big Brother evictions. That's hilarious!

ellumbra

I detect certain parallels between reality TV and blogging - both emerging into view at roughly the same time - not to force the similarities, but for example they share the potential to allow the common man (or woman in Jade's case) exposure to a vast audience.
No doubt, in both instances, the laundry that is aired is not quite as dirty as reality itself - which goes unchecked by the presence of a voyeuristic public.

Viewers and readers alike take the opportunity to reply, those motivated to do so usually being those in opposition or heaping condemnation.
What we see through the windows of our TV screens & computer monitors curiously and automatically aquires a much more authoritative poise, inviting our attentions and stirring our reactions - bestowing upon viewers or readers themselves an enhanced sense of involvement that was never as pronounced when the MSM ruled the waves.

Of course, reality TV is far more contrived, far less instant or personal than blogging - but both, one would hope, share a strong need for responsibility - and strangely - the sum of responsibility seems to arrive, often, because of the response - although it is apparent that in blogging circles, a response can be artificially generated - distorting people's perception.

Cyber-Bullying

Carla

torn, if you were as harsh about the philippines, i would have been far less kind. :) surely you've heard that big brother has reached the islands and unsurprisingly made stars out of talentless, gormless individuals.

if you want to get even more depressed, try reading blog comments on showbiz sites: hundreds for a single entry on the 'kapuso' and 'kapamilya' rivalry, or on kris aquino. i despair that pinoys have been fed a diet of banal, shoddy tv crap for decades and are now only competent to comprehend boy abunda.

so no, i don't think jade goody and celebrity tv are british inventions nor wholly a class thing. it's not just reality tv, it's tv itself and its limitations as a medium: the emphasis on spectacle, sensationalism, gloss, soundbytes. research in many countries shows a clear link between the kind of tv fare on offer and the erosion of political knowledge, between the consumption of news and civic engagement.


commercial TV is never going to help us have reasoned and sustained political discourse, not going to dwell substantially on 'boring' topics like government, morality and ethics, history or indeed, even science. those things are not popular nor easy or entertaining but in a democracy, they are essential.

i think that the Reithian vision of the BBC (here i go again), paternalistic and elitist as it might have been (or is), was a good starting point. it's called 'Auntie' for a reason: Reith understood that national/social consciousness and tv (mass media, generally) are inseparable from each other. that's why he was also briefly minister of information during the second world war. thin line between propaganda and nation-building.

tv is good for things like the twilight zone and market kitchen (a cooking show here). but it can't just be for that. it is vital that we create and maintain spaces where we can learn about things so that we can make informed decisions, ask and answer difficult questions about the public good. we can't do this if we're having to reduce everything to 30-second soundbytes and videoclips, if we are dependent on the programming choices that producers and advertisers intend for us as consumers instead of citizens.

torn

ellumbra and Carla

Thanks for your comments and sorry for the delay in replying.

ellumbra, that's an interesting point, I hadn't thought of that before. Still, blogging and blog-commenting (not quite the same thing) are quite varied occupations. Cyber-bullying does exist, but on some Philippine blogs, such as MLQ, the standard of debate is sometimes very high indeed. On other blogs, writers simply restate their positions. My knowledge of reality TV is very limited, but I would imagine that the programmes are basically the same, just packaged in a slightly different way.

Carla – Don't forget sport, TV is great for that. I agree with all you say, except perhaps the assumption that the Reithian vision of public broadcasting is alive and kicking. The BBC may be marginally less crappy than commercial TV but it is still infinitely worse than it used to be. I lived in Britain in the first half of the 1990s and was just appalled at the deterioration that had taken place in BBC programmes. (I blame Birt for most of that.) Weak comedy shows, news programmes fixated on Westminster minutiae, and virtually no documentaries or arts programmes at all … arggh! Endearingly, the Brits still cling to their cherished belief that they have "the best TV in the world", whereas in fact they have one of the worst. But there I go again, bashing the Brits.

Perhaps one reason for the decline in TV is that educated people are exercising the options that the internet offers and simply abandoning it. As a result, the channels are sinking lower and lower to capture market share at the bottom of the pile ...

Cogs

Torn

I fear you're beginning to verge on Old Fart status!


torn

Oh definitely Cogs. Can't seem to stop complaining about how standards are slipping these days.

cedric dunstable (most holy)

'educated people'
beejaysus torn, are you jack bevan re-incarnated?

fort worth

In the world of business, time means wealth so you will never allow any transaction to fail just because your car needs repair.

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