Thursday, September 28, 2006

X-Factor


"And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is becoming the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."--REVELATION 18:2

It must now be the end of days. The ill portents build up around us daily, engulfing the weak and those unwilling to swim ever upward through the rising tide of shit. Every aspect of our self-image is debased; we no longer know who we are; we look upon ourselves through a twisted looking glass that glows in the corner and mocks our few remaining brain cells, taunting us to toss in the towel, surrender the fight and draw the effluent deep into our lungs and just give up.
I do not know who, or more likely, what produces X-Factor but I wish a plague upon it. This hideous show that exists to mock the mentally confused, laud the mediocre and push the bounds of what we are urged to believe is reality has been a mystery to me until now. I have never watched it because I didn't care. None of the excrescences that had emerged from previous shows into the mainstream hive-minded consciousness had in any way interested me and I was quite happy to let the whole sorry behemoth drag itself along for as far as its arthritic, creaking format would allow before watching it slowly sink to its knees and buckle under the weight of its own exhausted formula. This has not yet come to pass and judging by the 20 minutes I saw last weekend not by a long way. This fucker's got stamina and is likely to be leveling the last vestiges of culture for quite some time to come.

I knew I wouldn't like it. There were two reasons I could have trotted out before the wretched thing blared out of the television at me. Firstly, people who can't sing hurt my ears and second, I have no schadenfreude gene. I do not generally laugh at the afflicted no matter how grotesque, provided they are not malicious themselves. I don't find what looked in some cases to me like fairly serious personality disorders amusing. The sight of some poor old boy, who claimed to be talented because he was wildly popular at karaoke get trashed by the judges did not raise a chuckle in my cynical old belly because the poor bastard was popular at karaoke because he was terrible but enthusiastic. There was no need to parade him in front of the nation to be prodded like some Victorian freak because he was unaware that his popularity amongst the karaokoise was not due to him having talent but quite the reverse. This level of venal meanness I had expected. What I had not realised, naively I suppose, was the level of blatant manipulation to create a narrative that was apparent.

X-Factor is, if not actually scripted, planned in as much detail as a soap opera and works in precisely the same way. There is the usual company of stereotypical generic characters. We have the plucky middle-aged woman whose early singing career was cut short by tragedy and now wants to achieve the glory denied to her before. We have a litany of woe from other hard lives ameliorated by the possibility of fame. We have the cheery characters who wouldn't harm a fly, are quite pretty and do right by their mothers. And of course we have the pantomime villains. It was here that my real hatred of this show reached a new depth.


Throughout the whole, ghastly proceedings we were occasionally treated to a small vignette giving background information about some of the characters contestants. These were clearly directed and filmed by the crew and since the numbers of applicants was in the hundreds they were very selective. By the last five minutes of the show nothing of note above and beyond the usual cruelty and misery had occurred and I can picture the director and producers fretting that they had no "drama". So they invent Debbie. I don't doubt Debbie is her real name but beyond that all bets are off. We are invited to believe that by chance she is the last contestant of the day to audition. She has a small piece to camera with her family during which she displays remarkably aggressive self-belief in the face of a clear lack of talent, looks or indeed anything else that one might seek in an entertainer. Her audition is predictably awful and the judges typically snide and uncompromising. Debbie does her best pout and teenage strop and after going off camera returns to throw a glass of water over one of the judges. Bingo, TV gold! You fucks. How grotesquely stupid do the producers of this garbage think we are? I have seen less stage management and more spontaneity at an amateur dramatic society performance. The reactions of the judges, the performance of Debbie, the way it was so carefully shot reeks to high heaven of artifice and a smug hatred of anything that might be described as reality.


And yet we lap it up. We enjoy watching these bile-filled harridans get their come-uppance and we enjoy watching their humiliation; it's their just desserts surely? Isn't it? Debbie has now appeared in the popular press, is top-ranked on Google for searches of "x-factor debbie water" and has appeared on television and highlights of the show. Not bad for a screaming heap of sulk. There were no just-desserts, she was manufactured for the purposes of making five more minutes of ersatz reality, she got and is still getting what she wanted and so did the makers of X-Factor. Thanks a heap. Thank you for filling the tragically not-limited-enough spectrum of terrestrial television with this excrement. Thank you for creating a generation whose only aspiration and belief is that they will and should be famous. Thank you for lining the pockets of the pig-fuckers that make this trash with cash paid for by advertisers who will want to fill my eyes with more of this crap because they believe it is what I want to see on billboards and everywhere else because they think it will encourage me to buy their product. Thank you for taking up an hour of the most prized television slot that exists to mock the afflicted and most of all thank you for ultimately producing a no-hope pop act that will sink like the stainless steel turd it will undoubtedly be the instant it is released into the wild but not before it has clogged the airwaves for a few weeks with its caterwauling death throes.


Come Judgement Day, when the skies fall and the seas boil we may choose to look back at what we've achieved, what we've done and at the long line of Debbies as they link arms, grab the ankles of the last valiant struggling souls, and pull them back into the effluent.

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