Sunday, August 20, 2006

Is this what we now call 'entertainment'?

Against my better judgement I decided to watch the X-Factor last night. Normally I avoid all reality shows but I thought this is one that everyone is always talking about and the start of a new series, so worth giving it a try.

What I saw though was one of the nastiest and cruellest pieces of television in my life. It was like watching a car crash in slow motion, horribly unpleasant and cynically manipulative. The sole purpose of this show seems to be to invite the audience watching at home to laugh at the contestants and to be 'entertained' by seeing others being mercilessly stripped of their dignity. This is not entertainment in any sense of the word, its cruel and unfair. I think it says a lot about our society when watching a programme that is solely based on individuals being rude to each other is considered either acceptable or decent.

I imagine X-Factor has a huge following amongst young children and teenagers. What sort of message does it send to them? That it is acceptable to be rude and to disrespect entirely another person's feelings? To laugh and call others less fortunate than ourselves silly names?

The X-Factor felt like the 'judges' were elevated to the role of the bully with the audience being invited to join in, supporting their attacks on the defenseless. Having suffered at the hands of bullies when I was a kid, I know just what a horrible experience that is.

This really is a disgusting and devaluing piece of television. It has no moral centre and I am disappointed that our values have slipped to such a low point. Certainly I will never be watching this programme again.


Carla said...

I have to disagree with you on this. I wouldn't say these contestants were 'mercilessly stripped of their dignity'. They came in knowing full well that powerful people in the entertainment industry would critique them. If anything, the judges were fairer than is the norm for open auditions, in which most of these rejects would not even get the chance to sing at all. They would have been turned away for their appearance alone, and then only after being told precisely and bluntly what was wrong with the way they looked, walked and dressed. Nothing about the way the entertainment industry works can be described as 'acceptable or decent'. The judges laugh openly in disbelief. They know that in their real world these performances would not be allowed to happen. They are not in customer service and don't have to pretend to respect someone even when they consider that person to be an idiot. They're not bullying. They're actually being much kinder about it than a casting agent would be in real life. They seldom talk specifically about a person's charisma or appearance and focus on vocal ability.

If the X-Factor has a message for teenagers and young people, maybe it is to be realistic in your dreams and aspirations. Just 'wanting something more than you've ever wanted anything' (which is the reason most of these losers give for being there) is not going to replace a lack of talent or whatever respective raw material is necessary for success. This is a good lesson, a necessary lesson.

Finally, I think you might be taking the show too seriously. I believe that at least some of those acts know good and well that they suck. They're just on there for a laugh. I wouldn't be surprised if they were told beforehand that they're just going to be the comic relief.

I love X-Factor and won't miss an episode if I can help it!

Mark said...

I think the difference is that the harsher side of the pop world is not seen by the public normally. I agree, that some of the acts that appear on The X-Factor are clearly rubbish. What I found distasteful is the way the audience is invited to gawp and laugh at these people. That surely cannot be right? To encourage people to laugh at someone else just because of their appearance or the way they walk, talk or sing? Okay, so they maybe no good, but that can be said more politely than openly denigrating someone or laughing in their face. That surely cannot in any situation be acceptable behaviour? Its only portrayed as acceptable here because ITV want to us believe that this is entertainment and because in their view it creates a 'dramatic tension.'

And this my other problem, the way the programme is cynically manipulative. Its clear that it perpetuates stereotypes and that anyone on the larger side or not that attractive, really hasn't a hope from the start, regardless of ability. It feeds into this shallow notion of success and perfection.

I agree that young people need to be more realisitic in their ambitions. I feel it rather shallow that so many of those I saw on last night's show were only there because they wanted to 'be famous.' There are more noble things to aim for, IMO.

jamie said...

the thing you have to take into consideration is the format of the show.
as carla has pointed out,the show does provide the opportunity for talent to show through,albiet the talent that cowell and walsh are able to manipulate and exploit. these early episodes that you saw last night are merely a carnival freak show for the audience to laugh at...although i'm convinced that some of these poor souls really do believe that they are the next elvis,or kylie.
interesting fact,it is widely held belief that if the rolling stones and the beatles were to have auditioned for the x factor,neither would have got through.