Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jade Goody's National Farce

Jade Goody's own Truman show continues with today's wedding.
Expect cameras on her death bed next.

I'd made a vow of silence over the whole 'Jade Goody is dying' national saga. 'People should choose to die the way they want', 'you're not in her shoes', 'she's got kids to support' and all that. But spotting Miranda Sawyer's piece in yesterday's Mirror proved too much for me. It was a hefty reminder of the way British contemporary culture has been reduced to look like a big class of 6-year-old kids who are told, in turn, to cheer, pull sad faces or show anger by their primary school teachers, as long as they're in tune with the national farce of the moment.

Today we're not talking about the World Cup, nor is it a royal wedding or funeral or, even a national witch-hunt like the recent Sun and Baby P saga. Nothing epitomises Britain's penchant for collective hysteria better than the televised demise (including a £1m wedding) of Big Brother-star and Queen of Populistic Entertainment Jade Goody.

Look at how the national mood is being set for the kids. When she appeared on the Big Brother 3 circus in 2002, Jade Goody was bad. "Baaaad, everybody!" But then she did well for herself and even started her own perfume range, so she became good. "Gooood, everyone!".

Then, two years ago Jade Goody said some not very polite things to Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother and she became bad again. Very baaaad, infact. She was even dubbed a "national embarrassment". The tabloids were saying that her career was "over". She was a racist, a bully, a scumbag, an ignorant chav. People who'd never met her, the same people who are quite happy to digest daily pieces slagging off immigrants and foreigners, decided (after good advice from tabloid headlines -whatever happened to thinking for yourself) that they could not tolerate racism. Not on the precious Big Brother anyway.

Two years later, and the words Jade and Goody cramming every paper and TV programme suggest Mother Theresa has descended upon us again. First in the queue, Gordon Brown: "I applaude her courage and determination", he said, in line with all the headlines, tributes, columns and assorted shoddy pieces that are setting new boundaries for the word crass.

Just look at this roll of honour and savour. "Jade Goody a working class hero", wrote Miranda Wow-Everything's-Smashing Sawyer, along with the turgid goo of "if we give so-called chavs respect and a chance to make a success of themselves, then, you know what, sometimes they do".
Carol Midgeley in the Times hailed Goody's "wisdom", adding that the reality TV star "is blossoming in stature". "In dying, Jade is truly dignified", was the almost biblical opinion of Liz Hunt in the Telegraph, while an editorial in the Guardian, solemnly stated that "[Goody] is now playing a role much larger than herself".

"She’s the only Big Brother contestant ever to achieve lasting fame for a reason – we care about her", drooled Polly Hudson in the Mirror. Still not quite as epic as Matthew Norman in the Independent and his funeral eulogy-sounding ooze: "She defeated incalculable odds to escape the shackles of her upbringing, by lavishing on her boys the maternal love she survived being denied herself. If that isn’t a glorious expression of the human spirit and a true definition of courage, I can’t begin to imagine what is".

You'll find that most opinion columnists start their Jade-Goody-is-divine piece by saying how out of order it is that people are against her decision to have each step of her terminal illness televised and shared for national entertainment. But a glance at the papers would suggest otherwise. There is practically no critical piece of what has been going on. Which, just in case you've spent the last month on a different planet consists of:

- Reality TV star Jade Goody was filmed on TV being told she's got cervical cancer and her chances of survival are slim;
- Her publicist Max Clifford is given the lucrative task of signing whichever deal imaginable to publicise the stages of her illness;
- The Mirror secures an exclusive to follow Jade Goody around and have first-hand access to her bulletins;
- Jade Goody decides to marry Jack Tweed, books a £1m wedding and sells the rights to the ceremony to OK! magazine for £700,000, with an extra few hundred thousands thrown in from Living TV to televise the event;
- Justice Secretary Jack Straw intervenes especially to have Tweed's curfew conditions relaxed (the guy's done time for GBH) so that he can be at the wedding, just in case this sinking Government gets also accused of spoiling the national event of the month.

Too much? What does such a massive movement of money say to the thousands of cancer patients who struggle financially to procure cancer drugs that the NHS won't provide for free? And whatever happened to dying in dignity? Shouldn't her young kids be given a bit of privacy and a chance to spend the last precious moments with her mother? How are they going to internalise this Max Clifford-sponsored circus when they're older? And is it alright for the BBC News and other websites to file the bulletins on her illness under the heading Entertainment? And would Jack Straw have acted differently had the case not been related to the celebrity of the moment? How can anyone profit from somebody else's terminal cancer?

If you've asked any of those questions, then you'd better shut up and quick. Jade Goody is doing all of this the way she is to secure a future for her kids. And that, in Britain, is enough to put the lid on whichever debate. Whatever it is you're doing, if it's "for the kids", then it ends any concern of dignity, privacy, morality or simple decorum. And nevermind Jade Goody was already estimated to be worth between £3 and £4m before her ordeal began. She's selling her death for the kids, so it's ok to milk the circus. Until, literally, the last drop of life.


Anita said...

Currently second top story on BBC News! Talk of national priorities...

Anonymous said...

Have a look at this article about the sympathy vote and the plight of thousands of cancer patients who don't have the helping hand of Mr Clifford and OK! magazine

Fred said...

Dignity? That died a long time ago. Goody is just ringing the death knell.

Planet Me said...

it could've happened to a nicer person

Andy said...

I've also been moaning about this for a while - number 3 headline on BBC news?! Fucking joke.
No mention whatsoever of prior idiocy/bigotry/racism, it's all 'courage', 'defiance' and 'dignity'.
Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with a terminal condition not long ago, and I've heard hardly anything since. I don't expect to know his fluid intake and stool quality for the day ala Goody, but the man has existed in the public eye for more than 6 years (and for much more than showing his 'kebab' on TV). The celeb drip-feed media is sickenening, but surely he's a man somewhat news worthy.
I've not known an opinion of someone yo-yo so much in such a short time bla bla etc..
It's a rant going nowehere :)

harpymarx said...

I agree, it has been driving me nuts. It is great how the media pours scorns with its style of vilification one minute then beatification next. It is utterly hypocritical and tawdry. I wouldn't mind if they were educating/raising consciousness about cancer and preventative medicine but it is all about making a quick buck.

You are spot-on when you write: 'What does such a massive movement of money say to the thousands of cancer patients who struggle financially to procure cancer drugs that the NHS won't provide for free?'

It is about voyeurism and the commodification of death. Selling your last minutes to the highest bidder, it is what it amounts to. And that's what worries me, is this what society has become?


Helen Highwater said...

It's rather strange that while saying the £700,000 fee she's getting from OK to cover her wedding is going to her sons, she's spent more than £700,000 on her wedding. Erm....

I'm so sick of people saying "Good for her, isn't she brave, spending her last days getting money off the media to give to her sons" when plenty of people with terminal cancer and young children have spent their last days raising money for cancer charities.

And middle class twits in the media waffling on about how great it is that she's a member of the underclass done good - how f***ing patronising can you get? Are they suggesting that you may only rise from the underclass if you arse about and use no perceptable talent or skill?

claude said...

This is the thing.
The papers are going on about Jade Goody and "dignity".

Except that dignity is all the people who die of cancer every day without nobody giving a shit and without the helping financial hand of Max Clifford and away from the circus of camera crew and tabloid EXCLUSIVE cashing in on illnesses and death.

Life Critical Illness said...

I've got to say that if I was diagnosed and had the opportunity to give my kids an extra one million I'd do it without thinking. She knows she is going to be gone soon so there is no other reason to do it other than for her kids.

claude said...

Life Critical Illness,
but we've got to stop this race for the lowest common denominator.

Actress Wendy Richards died today after a long illness. I'm sure she's got children and she may have grandchildren. Surely she too could have raised some cash by selling some EXCLUSIVE to some z-list cable channel or tabloid for the sake of her family... but she didn't do it.

As someone else said on this thread, Patrick Swayze has shown similar dignity. He didn't use his condition to milk money, did he? That, to me, is closer to the concept of dignity.