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The X factor

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A hundred years ago there were two Englands. One contained the rich people, the Lords, the Ladies, the power, the land and the money. And then there were the other people. The people who lived downstairs, the ones who worked day in, day out and barely scraped a living.

Nowadays, people say it is better. They say the gap between rich and poor is much smaller than it used to be. And this may be true in the facts and figures, but in reality, there are still two classes of people. The normal ones, who work, who have families, who live their lives. And the other people. The Shiny people. The Celebrities.

The word celebrity is banded about a bit these days, and sometimes it’s hard to unpick what people really mean when they say it. In my opinion, not all ‘household names’ and famous people are celebrities. People like Helen Mirren and Stephen Fry are not celebrities. They are famous, of course. But that is only because they are good are their job, like many people in the world. And they just happen to do a job that involves being in the public eye.

Contrast this image of talented and hardworking entertainers, with someone like Katie Price. She epitomises everything that is wrong with today’s media culture. Why is she famous? I’m not even sure I know the answer. She certainly doesn’t deserve the attention she gets in the same way as a talented actor or performer does.

Ah, but it’s come back to me. She’s famous for her enormous breast implants. After all, what would today’s children have to aspire to if it wasn’t for her? Astrophysicist? Doctor? Astronaut? No, none of this is good enough. All we want today is to be famous. Or more precisely, to be a celebrity.

Which brings me onto my next example. There are not many people who I truly believe the human race would be better off without, but he is most certainly one of them. Simon Cowell. He owns seven houses across the world. He runs his own private jet. He has the worst haircut in recorded history. But none of these is his biggest crime against mankind. For that must truly be his contribution to the world of reality TV.

The X factor.

If it wasn’t for this programme, and all it’s counterparts (most of which, I will add, were also conceived by Simon Cowell himself), Britain’s Got Talent, American Idol and so many more. Yes, if it wasn’t for these, this country’s culture of celebrity would probably never have even happened. This is because the Celebrity is, by its very nature, someone who has no real reason to be famous. And if it wasn’t for the era of reality TV, this concept would never have even begun.

It seems to me that TV companies must have got together at some point and said to each other, “We are running out of original ideas for TV programmes, and none of the really talented people want to work for us anymore, so if we can’t use original famous people, let’s just make some more!”. Thus the reality show was born.

There are two stages to the creation of a Celebrity. The first stage is the initial exposure. It may be a stint on The X Factor, something outrageous that makes the news, or perhaps a photo on Page 3.

However, it takes more than simply this. If an X Factor contestant fades from view after their initial exposure, they will fade from the public memory quicker than a goldfish’s. Because of course, the second stage is Media Attention. This doesn’t include performing on the X Factor, or modelling, or whatever it was that got them their initial exposure. This is because the Media Attention must involve people wanting to know about the Celebrity as a person, and not just for what they do. This stage is where the Gossip magazine takes over from the reality show.

Of course it begins with a benign mention – “X Factor contestant Jane is spotted looking tearful as she leaves the studio.” The early articles must relate in some way to their Initial Exposure, or the public wouldn’t want to know. The Gossip magazine gradually fazes out the need for relating stories to the new Celebrity’s claim to fame, until nothing is left but the Celebrity’s every move being documented and criticised by the public.

And so a new Celebrity is born.

When I occasionally glance at a gossip magazine, my first thought has to be, “Why do magazines write stuff like this, when surely no-one reads it?”. But I soon realise how wrong I am. Because the saddest things about this culture of celebrity is not the way the media creates it, because the media is no longer a human industry, it is run by aliens, monsters who cannot be expected to behave in a normal way. No, the saddest thing is that the gullible public actually buy into it.

You can blame the media all you want for teenage girls’ low self esteem and body confidence, but it cannot be denied that all the media are doing, is satisfying public demand. You are probably sitting there, thinking “I know, I know, I hate the celebrity culture too.” But do you really mean it? How many times have you debated the fates of Big Brother housemates in the canteen, or wondered excitedly about the health of “Jane Fame” and her new baby?

This ‘celebrity social life’ we are now all having delivered to us on a plate gives us all the funnest, sneaky, nasty parts of a social life, for us to enjoy at our will. No need to worry if Jane might be listening to our bitching from the next table, no need to try and get along with her new boyfriend just because she’s our friend. It lets us be totally open, horrible and cruel without having to worry. But it takes away all the parts of social life that really are good for us. Learning to tolerate others, intellectual conversation, the ability to spend time together and enjoy ourselves, all of this is gone, to be replaced by the virtual social package.

And what does it do to us? Many people would say nothing, it is good for us, even. But here I return you to the age-old debate about media influence and self-esteem. The media openly endorses the skinny look in their ‘pet’ celebrities. “Our Jane has ballooned to a massive 11 stone”, “Jane is looking fab and thin in her new size 6 bod”, “Jane is clearly struggling to shed the pounds she gained during pregnancy”. This gradual conditioning eats away at teenager’s self confidence, until all that is left is an insecure young woman, totally unprepared for the hardships of real life.

And there is another reason for this, too. Let me return to my previous point. Katie Price. I mentioned that she’s famous for her enormous implants. This alone adds to the false impression teenage girls are getting about beauty and real women. But not just this. Katie Price, Celebrity, has no reason to be famous.

Of course you’re all now saying “yes she did, she was a model.” Of course she was a model, what else could she have been with those implants? Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is, when was the last time she actually modelled something? How many years ago? And yet you’re all still perfectly up to date with her love life and the ages of her children, right? Modelling was Katie Price’s Initial Exposure. She was snapped up by the media very quickly, as it became clear she would offer rich pickings for stories. Her career was gradually fazed out from the limelight, so much so that she no longer needed to do her job in order to remain famous (and, more importantly, loaded). She is now a true celebrity, with no reason to be well known.

This is what causes the second problem for teenagers. This idea that you don’t need to do anything to become rich and famous. It causes teenage girls to think that all that needs to be done in order to gain fame and fortune, is follow the Katie Price 6 Step Route To Celebrity Lifestyle:

1. Have huge boobs. Or alternatively, buy some.

2. Be an excellent model. Or alternatively, take your top off and stand in front of a page 3 photographer until he gives in and publishes your picture.

3. Be seen stumbling out of clubs, drunk and overexposed, in the early hours of the morning.

4. Repeat step 3 until the magazines notice.

5. Faze out the topless modelling as slowly as necessary, substituting the income with that from the magazines paying for interviews.

6. Soon, you will no longer need to have a job, or do anything any more. To maintain Celebrity status, ensure you are still frequently seen either drunk, crying or semi-naked.

And there you have it. Today’s teenagers are being taught this lesson more and more with every reality show, gossip magazine and news article. They learn to believe it, and they aren’t being as na�ve as you might think, because they know it actually works. They learn by example that they don’t need to do anything taxing to become a celebrity. And so, the era of celebrity continues, each new generation of Katie Prices mentoring the apprentices until they can take over and keep up the job.

It makes me angry, and most of all sad, that this proud and powerful generation of young people can be brought to their knees by the likes of Katie Price. We are better than that, and we will make a name for ourselves in the future, for good reasons. But only if the media stops feeding us crap. I won’t stand for it.

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