Joe’s Blog

Jade Goody: Cause celebrity

March 23, 2009 3:10 am

The news yesterday of the death of Jade Goody had a rather numbing effect on me. every TV and radio channel was running regular ‘reports’ on it, and the fact it had been so long in coming made it feel like a relief from the past couple of months media bombardment. Of course the worse is yet to come.

Whilst I have no strong feelings either way on whether I ‘like(d)’ Goody or not, I have found myself recently defending her from those who have chosen her illness as an opportunity to have cheap cracks and make crushing judgements on the poor woman. Normally, these people are the same people who always say how they hate reality TV, don’t read tabloids and despise our modern obsession with celebrity. In other words, people who have no idea what they are talking about.

I won’t bore you all with Jade’s tragic life (that’s what Wikipedia is for), but needless to say, it was the kind of upbringing that regularly finds a slot in the top ten paperbacks in Tesco.

What makes Goody such a fascinating character (and let’s be fair, most people can only relate to the Goody character rather than the person), is the way her adult life has existed solely in the media spotlight. From her first appearance on Big Brother, through fame and fortune, Celebrity Big Brother, the descent into hell, attempted atonement on the Indian Big Brother, and the final lazarus like ascent back into the nation’s heart in her final months.

This is the stuff Media Studies courses are based. Is Jade the first media-created celebrity? Probably not, but she’s certainly one of the most interesting cases you could study.

Looking back over archived materials today, it’s revealing how she herself has been treated to vilely by the very same media who today are very quick to criticse the public for their reaction to her. There’s much mention of ‘Kill the Pig’ placards, the record number of complaints about her ‘racist’ behaviour, and how her top-selling perfume (it really was the third most popular celebrity fragrance at one point) was withdrawn after sales plummeted. Yes, the public turned on her.

But, there’s very little about how much the media played into this, if not instigated it. One comment that HAS been mentioned a lot is Dominick Diamond’s comment about how Jade was ‘a slapper with the face of a pig’. This comment appeared in the Daily Star, a paper with the kind of readership who prefer not to wank over pictures of a slightly tubby girl, but would be more than happy to sleep with them after ten pints on a Friday night. How else does a girl acquire the ‘slapper’ label?

This lovely front page was brought to my attention this morning:

jade PFP

(cheers to Waz4444 @ B3ta.com)

This was, of course, the ‘Shilpa Shetty’ incident, where ugly, fat, working class Goody was branded a dirty racist and constantly attacked poor, defenceless, pretty, well-off Shilpa Shetty. This entered the public conciousness so much that for a while the prefix “Reality TV racist” appeared before Jade’s name.

Find me a clip where Jade says something racist. I dare you. Because I know you can’t. The nearest you’ll find is Goody calling her popadom. Given the ‘street talk’ colloqiolisms that infest the ‘standard’ BB, this is small fry. The worst offender in the race row was, unsurprisingly, the one who is now doing very nicely thank you very much… pretty, large breasted Danielle Lloyd. After her fifteen minutes of infamy, she was soon back standing in her knickers for Zoo and Nuts, and has recently been promoting domestic abuse and doing stuff for Comic Relief (interesting, since most people who participate in Comic Relief are, you know, Comics).

The race-row was never about race. Had Shetty been a white actress, the outcome would have been exactly the same. Goody always had a problem with her because she thought Shetty was a lazy, stuck up cow, who was far to used to having flunkies catering to her every whim and couldn’t deal with ‘normal’ people (ie working class). Guess what? I thought exactly the same thing. Oh shit, I’m a racist too!

Shetty was portrayed as a victim, and yes, there was an element of ganging-up going on here. But there’s a common mantra that comes out every time BB is on: if they can’t handle it they shouldn’t go in there in the first place… no one forced them. Fair point.

The media liked to portray Shetty as the Queen of Bollywood. She was their Julia Roberts. We’re constantly told that Bollywood is more successful than Hollywood, so surely getting the Indian Julia Roberts into the house was a major deal. Hey, maybe they could get Julia herself next time. FAT FUCKING CHANCE!

It was spin… far from being the Indian Julia Roberts, Shetty was more like the Indian Sharon Stone. If Shetty was so big and successful, what the hell was she doing appearing in a TV show with an 80s TV star, a long forgotten 70’s pop singer, and the brother of a very famous pop singer? She was just as desperate to save her career as everyone else in there… including Jade.

But, i’ve gone off the rails a bit here.

The next week, I guarantee someone will say to you that “thank christ that’s all over, I never liked her anyway”. And whilst I’m sure once the funeral is out of the way, the spin will turn back against her. The broadsheets and columnists will be respectful for about a week, before the claws come out again and we get lots of “Why are we mourning this woman who was famous for nothing?” type affairs.

What these people forget is that for a HUGE amount of the population, Jade gave them someone they could root for, someone to believe in, because she was just like them. If she can do it, why can’t I?

And yes, you can argue that this has led to our ‘fame hungry’ culture we have now. But, guess what, the media are complicit in that too. If they weren’t they wouldn’t, seemingly, devote half their airtime and column inches to talking about Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor.

Because if anyone’s going to miss Jade, apart from her poor family, it’s the media.

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