Dave's Progress. Chapter 25: Jade Goody: Saint or Sinner?

For this blog I have decided, for once, to write about something that has nothing to do with mental ill health, but something which, at the moment, seems to have the nation divided, and that is the increasingly incredible story of Jade Goody. I write this blog particularly because of the enormous amount of hypocrisy I think is being displayed by the media, especially the supposedly fairer, more intellectual broadsheets.
As we all know Jade shot to fame as a contestant on Big Brother. Perhaps she was best known, sadly, for the stupidity she seemed to display during her time on the Big Brother set. Despite this, though, she was a lovable character who, although she didn't win, made it through to the final stages of the show.
Before we knew it Jade was all over the place, on the covers of magazines and newspapers, selling stories about her every day life. She also proved herself to be somewhat less stupid than she appeared, becoming an incredibly successful business woman and cleverly exploiting her fifteen minutes of fame and turning it into more like fifteen years.
Then came her fall from grace. Again on Big Brother, this time the celebrity version, Jade seemed to jettison all the progress she had made and resorted to bullying a fellow member of the household; Shilpa Shetty, Bollywood superstar. What made this even worse was that there were racial undertones to the bullying and Jade was, despite her protestations to the contrary, branded by many a racist. Full of contrition, she then went on to appear on the Indian version of Big Brother and it was here that the final chapter began to unfold. Again on live TV in the full view of millions, Jade conveyed to her fellow housemates that she had cervical cancer, and it would turn out to be a terminal case. Yes, stop all the clocks, draw the curtains over your TV screens, close your magazines, for Jade Goody is dying.
Now Jade has taken the controversial decision to live out her final days in the full glare of the media in order, she says, to make enough money to see that her two children are comfortable after her passing. I find this an incredibly sad story, but it is one which has also raised an incredible amount of controversy, and perhaps rightly so.
To some, at least, Jade was already a problem figure. The epitome of a generation who wanted it all and wanted it now for little in return. She was, to them, the height of what was wrong with celebrity culture, of those famous just for being famous, not because they had any talent.
The amount of vitriol that has poured forth from the broadsheets about this I find tasteless and hypocritical. They find Jade's "selling" of her own demise somewhat distasteful. And, in many ways, I share their concerns. I have written in this blog about all I disliked about reality TV and now, it seems, we have got to the point where, indeed, some one's death has become tabloid fodder.
However, what I cannot stand is the broadsheet's hypocrisy over all this. When John Diamond contracted cancer, he also wrote about it, appeared on TV about it and generally became a household name because of his illness. But he was a famous journalist. He was married, then, to domestic godess Nigella Lawson. No doubt he had also been to the "right" university. The broadsheets, without concern, applauded his bravery and frankness and on his death there was a massive outpouring of grief. The same was the case with Ruth Picardie, who also wrote a book about her terminal illness and, I believe, a broadsheet column. Similarly with her, she was brave and frank, not tasteless and misled. Indeed, both these people seemed to be raised to the status of saints or heroes, while poor old Jade gets blamed for all the wrongs of her generation. It was only the ever subversive Chris Morris who perhaps questioned the taste of Picardie and Diamond by printing a satirical column in the Observer about a man who had decided to commit suicide.
Indeed, this all leaves one wondering whether Jade is just a victim of class prejudice. As a working-class mother of two, she seems not to qualify for the cosy, rose-tinted world of the middle-classes. Their battles with illness are seen as edifying and brave, whereas Jade's is just exploitative and wrong. I cannot say how much this annoys me. It seems that the intellectual left, while espousing democracy in all its liberality, comes over like the worst kind of intellectual snob when it sees what a real, postmodern democracy might feel like. By attacking Jade they seem to show, like all true elitists, that they always get the heebie jeebies when the working-classes encroach onto areas where they are not supposed to go. Surely dying in the full glare of the media is only a middle-class calling?
Furthermore, I think we all underestimate Jade in that she is not as dumb as she seems. I think what she is doing is merely exploiting the media which has for so long exploited her. And doesn't it say more about the media itself that such people are willing to pay massive amounts of money essentially to see someone die? Doesn't it say more about the base, voyeuristic character of the consumers of this sort of thing? If you don't agree, after all, don't buy it, or buy into it.
And maybe, after all, not everyone could be Jade Goody. I don't see many other Big Brother contestants who have had the same longevity. It has been Jade's very own brand of charm and nous that has surely got her there. Also, let's not forget that her own honesty about her illness has brought about a new awareness of cervical cancer which, in many cases, may actually save lives.
So, Jade Goody, saint or sinner? Frankly I don't think she is either. Just a normal, honest person who has had all her mistakes displayed for all the world to see. One hopes, then, she will be remembered not just for her controversial media death, but her work to alleviate the suffering of others.
That's all for now from your normal, average, delusional and paranoid man.


klahanie said…
Dear David,
This is a tough one. I hope that the ultimate result will bring more awareness towards cervical cancer.
Her reputation, built upon and distorted by the media, enhanced the perception of her not being particularly bright.
She ofcourse, was clever enough to 'market' her seeming lack of intelligence and managed to considerabley lengthen her '15 minutes of fame', a phrase associated with Andy Warhol.
I see her as neither Saint nor sinner. I believe the situations that occurred on 'CBB' with Shilpa Shetty was based, perhaps more on ignorance than actual bigotry. If anything, I think her Mother was the catalyst behind the incidents on the show. I think Jade just followed along.
It is indeed a tragic situation that is transpiring. It is, in some ways, rather uncomfortable to know that her sad demise is a 'media circus'.
A tragic tale that I hope will have glimmers of positivity. I think that will be possible.
Warm regards to you, David.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your sensitive, insightful remarks. I was a little unsure of this post as it is a very controversial area, but just got so annoyed by press responses to Jade I felt I had to wrie it. Like you say the overall impression is that of a "tragic tale", but hopefully some good will come of it.
No doubt next time I'll be back to mental health, where I feel a little safer!
Yours with Warmest Wishes,
dcrelief said…
Dear David,
I think your article fits in nicely on the heels of chapter 24, where you spoke on good and evil.
Media madness might say something about the overal mental health it is lacking. It certainly appears determined to influence people to enjoy the grim and grimace for profit. Sadly Jade is just a different person for another day with them.
Thank you for stepping out on that literary limb.
Kind regards,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thanks for your comment, although perhaps you are not as fimiliar with the Jade situation in the States as we are in the UK. Still, I think you managed to understand my blog admirably.
Keep on keeping on,
Yours with Warmest Wishes,
dcrelief said…
Dear David,
I did actually see a couple of episodes "in the states". What I came away with was the show's own labeling of: "good person, bad person, stupid person, sexy person." The show did not interest me further.
I find the media hype condescending, as they profit from the show; but Jade and others should not? The media would almost have you believe that Jade got the cervical cancer on purpose.
As I said earlier, this follows your chapter 24 nicely. You handled this well in spite of your "intrepidation". I simply support your endeavors; did not mean to sound "illiterate" on the subject. I "paced" my answer to your intention, stated in paragraph one, to the best of my ability. Thank you for sharing your writings.
Most sincerely, Dixie

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