Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spokesperson For A Generation

Good old Parky.

Now in his 70’s he’s reached that glorious age where you think, “oh bugger it, I’ll just say whatever the hell I like and the consequences and fall out be-damned”.

I’d almost be envious except that – at just over half his age – I appear to have reached that wonderful state already.

Up until now I’ve steered clear of commenting on Jade Goody’s death because I figured my opinions wouldn’t be particularly helpful or palatable for all they’ve been passionately held. I bit my lip when the news channels gave up the whole of Mothering Sunday to eulogize Jade’s passing. I bit my lip at the comparisons with Princess Diana (WTF?)! And I ripped my tongue out by its root when live footage of Jade’s funeral cortege actually made it live onto CNN.

I mean fer Chrissake!

Her death was sad because she was so young but did she really warrant the ridiculous media circus that fogged / dogged the whole event like a miasmic melodrama?

Parky’s recent outburst encapsulates my sentiments exactly. To quote him:

"Jade Goody has her own place in the history of television and, while it's significant, it's nothing to be proud of. Her death is as sad as the death of any young person, but it's not the passing of a martyr or a saint or, God help us, Princess Di. When we clear the media smoke screen from around her death, what we're left with is a woman who came to represent all that's paltry and wretched about Britain today. She was brought up on a sink estate, as a child came to know drugs and crime, was barely educated, ignorant and puerile. Then she was projected to celebrity by Big Brother and became a media chattel to be exploited until the day she died."

Spot on, Parky. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

I never liked Jade’s media persona and though I would never have wished death upon her I do frown at her status of celebrity. It was not deserved. It was not earnt.

There are many who will no doubt see Jade Goody as a source of inspiration. Proof that even with the worst start in life you can still “make it big”.

Unfortunately I fear the lesson our young people will take from the Jade phenomenon is that you don’t need any kind of talent or hard work to become a celebrity, that somehow being a celebrity wipes the slate clean, forgives every ugly misdemeanor and glosses over every personality defect.

Essentially you can hit the big time without lifting a ruddy finger.

Well that ain’t a lesson I want my kids to learn.

I realize I’m elitist (and proud of it) but I do sincerely believe that celebrity – like any kind of status – should be earnt and earnt by hard work, dedication and a sincere and enduring sense of vocation. I want my celebrities to be famous and lauded for things that I could not possibly do. I want them to be special and amazing.

Not famous for being gobby, uncouth and adhering to the worst of all stereotypes. Or for displaying their “kebab” on live television. Or, worst of all, showcasing their voluminous and depressing ignorance like it was something to be proud of.

I feel heart sorry for Jade’s sons. Heart sorry. That Jade, in the end, mercilessly used the media to extract every last drop of money from the ridiculous furore for the future well-being of those poor little boys is something I can completely understand and even approve of.

But the mawkish deifying of Jade Goody that the press is currently indulging in is unforgivable, shallow, insincere and just plain bad journalism.

It serves nobody. Nobody at all.

Least of all Jade’s children.


Tim Atkinson said...

And three cheers for Pocketropolis, too!

KAZ said...

Let's hope that Parki can get back to his journalist days - he was very outspoken about Yorkshire cricket.
In order to regain my total respect he will also need to stop doing those ads for insurance or whatever and keep his crinkly face off the telly.

Steve said...

Thanks Mr D - your support is much appreciated!

Kaz, he has the voice and indeed the face for radio. As for his adverts - I'm starting to find any celeb driven advertizing campaign a bit no-no at the moment (which is pretty much all of them) - Johnny Vegas selling tea, Stephen Fry selling insurance and SirAl selling post office accounts... they all get my goat rather than my custom.

Brother Tobias said...

So right, Steve. Must we dance to the execrable (or do I mean excremental?) Max Clifford's tune? No doubt one shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but there is no reason why one should not be honest, and dying does not change what one was. I would not blame Ms Goody for what she was, nor what she became - Nature and Nurture can deal a poor hand - but role model she was not. I suppose we have the press we deserve.

Steve said...

"we have the press we deserve" - now that, Brother T, is damned scary but I think you are, without question, correct. If we judge a nation by its press... God help the UK. But it explains how and why the Jade myth was created and perpetuated. As J.L. Collins would say: "bad times".

Matthew Rudd said...

I'm not altogether keen on Michael Parkinson. I trust, Steve, that you are aware of this...

Steve said...

I wasn't, Matthew, but I am now. And rather intimidated. That was a strangely scary comment. Are you a secret Bond villain perchance?

French Fancy... said...

I totally agree with every word that you put and that Parky said. I didn't watch the funeral circus or read much in the run up to her death or the aftermath.

I did however watch BB3 - the one she was in (I know I know) and found her mildly entertaining, but got totally amazed at the rise in her profile that then took place.

I too am getting more and more outspoken the older I get - oh dear, by the time I am Parky's age nobody will still be speaking to me.

Steve said...

"By the time I am Parky's age nobody will still be speaking to me..." FF - the way the world is going that may not be such a bad thing! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Standing ovation for that post.

My first thought on reading the Parky piece was, ' yay, Parky gets back to journalism'.

Steve said...

I must say, Missbehaving, I was impressed with his articulacy and eloquence. Maybe a move back to journalism might not be a bad thing for him. God knows we need somebody to raise the current standards.

Rol said...

Good old Parky. He still has some uses.

KeyReed said...

Yeah Steve, what Misbehaving said!

Steve said...

Tenon_Saw: thank you muchly!

The Joined up Cook said...

What I find inconsistnet in some of the comments, not least Parky's, is the reference to the fact that Jade Goody was only famous for being a celebrity; and then they say she cannot be compared with the likes of Princess Di.

Wasn't she famous largely because of who she married?

I see them both in a similar light; they both exploited the modern media and were, in turn, exploited by it and the people who read it.

Neither were saints.

One difference is this. Princess Di would have had a comfortable silver spoon life without "that" marriage and without the media.

Jade - and her sons - would not.

For that reason I think I have more admiration for Jade than Di.

She made the best of what she had.

Isn't that what we are all supposed to do?

Steve said...

I think what Parky was mostly complaining about was the inconsitency in the media attention Jade received. Initally the press encourage us to hate her, next we were directed to admire her.

My personal beef with Jade and her ilk is the idea of being famous just for being famous and this self serving fame in itself being a cause of celebration. It is not. True Di was priveleged but she could also have rested upon her arse and done nothing at all. She did much that was worthwhile regardless of whatever views one might hold toward the royal family. Jade was nothing more than a self publicist. But as this was all she had - her self - she sold it for all she was worth and got what she could. Materially she did well for her sons, yes. But fundamentally I see nothing to celebrate in the Jade phenonemon. Her fame was not based on a talent or skill. Instead her life in the press is rather sad and depressing. Precisely the point Parky was making. Shouldn't we be choosing heroes who are more worthy of the title for our young people to aspire to?

Anonymous said...

Hey...Wonderful Steve!!!!

When you're Parki's age I'll still talk to you!

(I won't have any idea what I'm saying...and won't remember from day to day...but I'll like you just the same!)


And for what it's worth...I think celebrity status is both a terrible and wonderful thing....
I just hope those children of hers recover from the scars these events will surely place upon them.

Cheeky Kisses Honey~

Steve said...

Sweet Cheeks, there can be no more satisfying conversation (and one where it's so impossible to offend) as two senile people chattering away together. As long as they change my nappy regularly I'll be happy.

As for fame, definitely an entity that bites the hand that feeds. And itself. Not really sure I'd want it. The money and the freedom, yes. The media whoredom, no.

The Joined up Cook said...

I don't altogether disagree with you Steve. There is an element of our society who see fame as an aim in itself.

However, I think Jade's fame was partly down to her brutal honesty; about herself and the world as she saw it. What you saw was very much what you got.

I cannot think of anyone else who is, or was, so honest. Most people in the limelight posture and present an image.

I also think she was underestimated. The media and society, perhaps, fell into that old snobbery of seeing someone who has a poor accent and behaves like Jade as being thick.

I'm not so sure she was.

You say her life was sad. I never got the impression that she felt it was. You and I would not want that kind of life. She, and Princess Di, appeared to revel in it.

Princess Di, who had a reputation for not being the brightest of buttons, has never been pilloried for being thick. I really don't see that she had any more talent than Jade.

Why? Because of her position in society? Snobbery?

BTW, I agree with Kaz's comments re Parky and advertisement.

Steve said...

And oddly enough I don't altogether disagree with you, A Write Blog, I don't doubt that Jade was a complex character and certainly had intelligence enough to play the media game and play is fairly successfully for years. As I said in my post it was her media persona that I disliked and disapproved of - who knows what the real Jade was like? Only her family and close friends I suspect. But her media persona was based on negatives rather than positives and it is this that does not sit well with me. The press attention she received was also risible but this is hardly her fault. I think the press barons are largely at fault here. And maybe we, the public, are also at fault a little for allowing our opinions and responses to be so well manipulated? The situation as a whole is, as Parky rightly said, paltry.

Suburbia said...

Well said.

Steve said...

Thank you, Surburbia. Succinctly said.

Anonymous said...

It was the whole outpouring of grief over Diana that turned me off TV for good. I have to say that whole thing made me feel physically sick. I have no idea if Diana was a good or bad person - I did not know her and neither did any of those people who signed that silly book or who stood sobbing in the street. It made me despair of what has happened to us all to be honest.

We would all be better if we switched off the TV a bit more, stopped reading silly magazines or tabloid newspapers and lived our own lives.

I have never seen Jade Goody on TV, never heard her utter a word and I am glad about that. I only heard about her cancer and death because bloggers wrote about it. The only good thing that may come of the publicity is that it might encourage more young women to go for or campaign for pap smears. But the bad far outweighs the good in this case and probably every other celebrity interest case. It is so bad for our young people to live this way - having talentless people held up as idols or things to aspire to.

It just strikes me as ridiculous that she got this publicity - that anyone at all should be talking about her!

I'm a bit hypocritical though - because if it were Keeley I would shed a tear or two.

Steve said...

Some good points, Gina. Keeley is a fabulous actress and has worked hard to get where she is now. Jade didn't work for her fame - she got (un)lucky with BB and her attempts to rival any kind of success since BB always failed. Your points about Princess Di are interesting. I remember deliberately choosing to work on the day of her funeral so that I could avoid all of the mawkish hullabaloo. As with Jade, I felt sorry for the boys who'd los their mum, but on a personal level it meant little to me. Why should it? I can recall my initial reaction to the loudly wailing mourners who were featured on all the news reports: disgust and scorn. In the end I decided to be charitable and put it down to mass hysteria. I'm not against emotional behaviour or emotional expression - but melodrama and the luxury of allowing yourself to feel fake emotion (fake because the cause is at a distance and therefore not personal) just makes me angry. It's sentiment rather than real emotion. Play acting for selfish reasons rather than a cathartic expression of much needed and deeply, genuinely felt emotion.

The Joined up Cook said...

I think your comments about sentiment as opposed to real emotion hit the spot with regard to both Jade and Di, indeed most public personas.

Sentiment seems to be what people wear in public as a substitute for emotion. A kind of crowd thing, "oh everyone's crying; I'd better too even though I don't know why."

Steve said...

People very often confuse sentiment with emotion and the people who do it most are usually the ones who are very sensitive to their own perceived sufferings whilst being totally insensitive to the sufferings of other people. Sentiment is to be avoided at all costs!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I can't add a great deal to this posting. Ms Goody was a product of her experiences, poor bugger, but hardly one to be proud of, save for the fact that she'd survived it all (well until the cancer struck), managed to avoid the pitfalls of drug addition or alcoholism and was committed to making sure her own childen would be better educated, whatever her own shortcomings.

Steve said...

Actually, Laura, you've managed to inject a modicum of positivity into my opinion of Jade. A tremedous feat.