Saturday, November 19, 2005

The X-Factor...

Few programs send me up the wall as much as reality TV, celebrity-this or celebrity-that and such-like utter nonsense. And in that category, the X-Factor really is the one that takes the biscuit. It's the one that basically drives me out of any room, makes me come out in spots and causes the need to vomit almost beyond control...

Why? Because I'm against entertainment or escapism? Nope, although I do feel that "entertainment ", however feeble it often is, takes up far too much television time, pushing anything even remotely serious into late spots where the good citizens of our countries never get to see them, left to a diet of mind bogglingly mindless, mediocre and often boorishly boring "stuff".

Why then am I so thoroughly riled by a show that enjoys such tremendous success?

Mostly because such "reality" TV shows, a misnomer if there ever was one, portray the world exactly as it is not. I truly believe that "anti-reality TV show" would be quite an accurate category description for the kind of TV ordeal that thrives on the illusion and complete paradox that everyone can be a "star", a "celebrity". Of course, if we were all stars... there would be no stars. And a bunch of untalented underachievers which rarely exceed the musical level of a routined karaoke fanatic cannot become stars anyway. Not surprisingly then that winners of this event disappear from the firmament even faster than those of that other famous "music festival", the Eurovision Song Contest.

But the biggest mistake anyone could make is to believe that the X-Factor is actually about creating starlets. It isn't at all. Sure, because of the competition element which keeps the audiences come back time after time, someone has to win and get their ten minutes of fame. But it's the production Company, the TV channel ITV 1, the judges and presenter that make the real money, over and over and over again...

The whole thing is also completely engineered, orchestrated with the precision of a Nuremberg rally. Centrepiece are the three "judges", who behave as they are expected to behave in this pantomime. Simon ("the MEAN one", oh, scary stuff!), Sharon ("fishwife cum celebrity wife") and Louis ("Oirishman cum good"). Then there's the feisty, buxom blonde presenter Kate and the wannabe-stars who invariably produce dull, out of tune or out of sync renditions of bubble gum "pop classics", chosen by their star-forging mentors... the judges.

Finally, to complete the recipe, an enthusiastic audience is needed. I always like to think that these people are jolted into applauding and jumping up and down with glee at every fart that is being uttered, by means of electrical shocks, but I know I'm sadly mistaken. These people really exist. They are there. They are real. Sure, they'll need a little prodding from time to time but generally speaking their delectations are genuine.

The success of this show with both the studio and home audiences can really only be explained by the wishful thinking factor: all participants (including those who already are stars), really want to be believe their time will also come one day; they too will strike it big and make a fast buck that could set them up for life and out of the low lands of moderate impoverishment.

That people really do put their hopes and dreams into this kind of starry-eyed belief system was illustrated recently when one mother of a turned-down auditioner said through tears: "they've ruined my daughter's life!" How little then, my dear, must your daughter's life have been worth and how unsuitable must she indeed have been for a life of stardom.

Therein lays of course the danger: that young people start accepting this kind of canned nonsense as a real role model and limit their aspirations to the vain hope of ever appearing on, let alone winning, this non-event.

It should come as no surprise that the X-Factor is most popular in the two countries that have the largest divide between rich and poor of the entire Western world: the UK and the US, where the "American Dream" really still is alive, much to the detriment of those masses of people who'll never amount to any kind of stardom. At best this shows gives a lot to those who already have a lot, and a little to one or two people who didn't have much in the first place, thereby perpetuating the "haves/have nots" divide further. No, Robin Hood it ain't...

And in the wake of these glossed-over plastic TV paradises where all protagonists are good looking (males) and sexy (females) comes also the further babefication, even pornification of what passes for entertainment on these shores...



At 1:41 PM, Blogger Richard said...

Heh. I watched it once. That was more than enough.

And even then, I sat through it only because I was forced to -- by my granddaughter. She's just 10 years old, btw.

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Yes, it's about that level: my 12 year old daughter loves it too.

But its audience streches over the (de?)generations...

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Inquisitor said...

It is sad indeed that the culture that produced the likes of John Mortimer, Conan Doyle, Jane Austen is giving in to the adolescent proddings of your errant cousins cross the straits. Is it just me or is BriTV heading down the Thames and into the sewers of mainstream America?

Tch! Indeed.

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Gert said...


In my view, the current unholy Anglo-American alliance does indeed promote the kind of "cultural" cross-pollination we're seeing to influence our boxes so strongly. It's now quite rare to get to watch an British made, or heaven forbid ROW made, movie, for example...

At 4:40 AM, Anonymous Inquisitor said...

I wish it was 'cross-polination'. However, when adolescence takes the upper hand, it is the adult that conforms since the global system is not inspired by wisdom and intelligence but wisdom. In this case, wisdom and intelligence is seconded to interests that trives on and appeals to the most base of instincts.

For instance, with regards to language, it was disconcerting to note that at the outset of the 'war on terror', the Brits were pronouncing 'iraq', 'detainees', 'pakistan', amongst others, the way the peoples of these places would pronounce them. These are however gradually 'sounding american' whilst the americans seem resolute in their aural selectiveness. Even words like 'detainees', which, in the traditional british style, is pronounced in a way where the first syllable is pronounced quicker than the remaining ones. Now, it is, 'de-tay-nees' with an equal amount of time being accorded to the pronunciation of each syllable.

If one was to think about it, that is the way a fresh grad from sesame street might pronounce it. I see this as a gradual shift from a metaphorical or more profound way of viewing reality to one that is based on its most salient characteristics. Similar propensities may, unfortunately, be detected in other areas.

As i'm inclined to think, the future is corrupted via the young and via the juvenile in all of us when we dwell within a milieu that thrives on the propensities of the juvenile. It affects every aspect of culture as it appeals to the basic human propensity to seek the quickest or simplest solution to things and in their trysts with the novel.

Something is terribly wrong and i wish the Brits would realise that, in an intellectual sense, they are far beyond the americans and much, though not all, of the world.

It's time that the British began to 'rule the waves' again. The 'air waves' that is.

hmm..think i'll post the above on my site. Cheers for stimulating my thoughts.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Gert said...


You said:
Something is terribly wrong and i wish the Brits would realise that, in an intellectual sense, they are far beyond the americans

My reply:
I think we have to be a little careful when making such grand sweeping statements. I'm the first to take sniper shots at popular American "culture", which I'm planning a post about (working title: "Wallywood", on how the average block buster movie now no longer exceeds the level of Walt Disney's worst and how in my view this Disneyfication affects popular culture around the world with a rather dangerous, Martian outlook on life).

There are of course plenty great American works of art still being produced in all sections of art, except we don't generally get to see them because the glare of the media is on the main stream.

What we see here in Britain is that the mediocre and even the better-than-average artist/actor/presenter/etc wants to pick up a few crumbs from the table of rich pickings that is popular American "visual arts". This leads to an annoying uncriticalness of people like Jonathan Ross (and many others) who seem to take Thumper's mother's ("Bambi") advice quite literally: "Now, Thumper, if you can't say nuttin' nice, don't say nuttin' at all!" Even class acts like Hugh Lorrie lend themselves to vehicles like "Dr House", populated by photo models who couldn't act to save their lives. British-made "romantic comedies" now invariably pitch a British star against an American star in what usually turns out to be a sickly-sweet much-a-do-about-nuttin'.

That's what a meant by cross-pollination although I accept it wasn't perhaps the best chosen term.


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