Saturday, 7 March 2009

Jade Goody

A poll on AOL asks if people find the coverage of Jade Goody's last days distasteful.

I clicked no - I follow with interest. I find it moving, what she's doing. A person who made money out of the strange celeb culture we live in, despite her celeb status being a bit questionable - actually doing something prety brave, in my book.

The results of the poll were as follows:
Yes, it's wrong: 61%
No, I follow with interest 28%
Don't know 11%

I wonder how many of the 'it's wrong' voters were happy to watch her when she was doing absolutely zilch in terms of anything meaningful but being 'entertaining'? And now she is actually doing something serious, tough, they are judging the coverage of her last days as 'wrong'.

Food for thought. Maybe I should not read articles, or think about her. But I do. And am.


Douglas Bruton said...

I never watched her before... I thought her place amongst celeb culture was always questionable. What I heard about her (overheard really, in the staffroom) seemed to just prove that this reality TV thing is crass and without value... those that rise to the surface do so by being not good people, but by being as vulgar or as stupid as others find 'entertaining'. This propagation of the lowest values, I find worrying. Children think they just need to be rude and loud and stupid to succeed. (not all children obviously, but certainly some)

And what is she doing now... still clinging to her celeb status and making very public her death. One has to feel sorry for someone who is dying so young. One has to feel sorry for someone who knows they are living their last days. And I do feel sorry for her. But is it brave to do so in the public eye, or is there something just a little sad about this need, right unto death, to be celeb? Has she not said, at the outset, that she is doing what she is doing now for her children... not so that they will remember her, but to get them enough money to keep them from here on in.

I think celeb weddings are exploitative and 'show offy'... I am sorry but just because JG is dying doesn't change my view of what is going on here. I think it is the worst kind of celeb-gazing.


Anne Brooke said...

I think she's very brave and a lesson to us all. Hats off to her for this. Dying well is an art form and she has the gift of it. Interestingly the Church Times (always a paper with good deep takes on current affairs) is definitely on her side in one of this week's main articles and wonders why we don't have lessons in dying well as a matter of course these days. I'd be all for it myself.


Douglas Bruton said...

Is it the mark of a dignified death that we make such a big gawp-spectacle of it? Surely there is something unwholesome in the whole nation holding its breath and waiting for the end. It is like staring at the scene of an accident in the hope of seeing something to tell your friends down the pub, some blood or worse!

I am not suggesting that we should crawl off into a corner and die quietly, that we should do so without unsettling the sensitive, that that is the mark of dignity. But to die as some sort of entertainment, to do everything under the fierce scrutiny of the media and for the satisfaction of the media circus and those reality gazers who want so much to see everything close up, warts and all, and all for 'entertainment', that I think is not dying well.

As for calling how to die an art form. I am sorry, but that beggars belief. And that we should all have lessons in how to die well... my goodness (language toned down for the children reading this), you have GOT to be joking. If not, then seriously, look at what you are saying. The world is not going to hell in a handcart, but it is certainly going to the madhouse if this kind of thinking is common currency.

Turn the cameras off now. Real life is not a show. Where's the respect? For life. For JG. For her family and friends. For who we all are.


Anne Brooke said...

We're both entitled to our opinions of course.



Nik's Blog said...

I think what she's doing now is incredibly brave and credible - she could very easily, and with good reason, leave the public eye. I've not followed her before but what she's doing now feels like an important document. And it's also been and being a brilliant vehicle for cancer awareness - showing how real it is.

Shame the 'good on her' gets replaced with the sadness of it all.


Nik's Blog said...

... and I've just read through the previous comments here! D, I'm with you 100% on 'celebrity'. Honestly, I think it's a joke. But. Jade could have slunk away to die somewhere (with all the thousands she's made from not doing much) but she's not, and I'm not sure that's got much to do with hanging on to celebdom - hardly what one would be after at a time like that?. As I said, I think what she's doing is doing oodles for cancer awareness, and that must be a good thing, must be.


Douglas Bruton said...

'She feels like an important document': what does that mean Nik? That she has something to teach us? About living life to the full? About making sure that we get regular health checks? About how to die?

And what are we getting from this? Is it not a kind of media-whipped-up voyeurism? I believe even Max Clifford has said the cameras should stop now. How far will the cameras go? Into that last breath? Is that what we need to see? Are we better people for having witnesssed this? Are our lives enriched or made more meaningful by this? Are we really learning? Or is this just another level of entertainment and the pursuit of ever more ghoulish and vicarious pleasures?

I have not read anything on JG for days. I do not follow what she is doing in the press or on news programmes. So just maybe I am missing something here and talking out of turn. I think issues of raising awareness of Cancer and what can be done to help prevent or cure it are entirely noble. But I think, Nik, that you credit this person with more than she has. I do not for one minute think she is doing this from some noble mission to raise awareness for Cancer Research or issues related to this. This may be a consequence of what she is doing, but I do not think it is her reason. I am sorry, but the drug celebrity is a powerful thing and I think this is what this still is. I saw something very early on in this latest chapter where JG was reported as doing what she is currently doing to raise money for her children... and that is entirely plausible and laudable too. But there is also an unvoidable does of celebrity craving in there. And this speaks volumes about the 'sickness' in our society. If you can't be a celebrity by virtue of having a talent or intelligence or a worked-for-position in the world, then grab it by being louder and ruder and getting into the newspaper anyway that your publicist can get you there. Even dieing can do it.

It is not dieing well that we need to learn, it is living well and that is not a lesson that we are being shown here. It is not a lesson that sells newspapers or makes us tune in to the TV. Does JG epitomise this 'living well' lesson? There's the question.

(I mean absolutely no disrespect to JG or her family, or anyone else by what I have written. I just feel that this is a very big issue and being obscured by the 'circus show'.)

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I feel for her, and for her children. I am not sure what I feel for her husband, who seems unable to behave towards other people with anything other than rank arrogance even now (viz his assault on a taxt driver).

But I am also aware that there is vast shallowness in the media circus surrounding her. The profits that are being made are in line with our vast obsession with celeb lives - as arguably our own lives are empty/boring/meaningless and for some unaacountable reason, the antics of celeb footballers, singers, anything reflects what maybe we could also do if we were good at kicking a ball or acting, or... or... or.

Im not for one moment saying that this obsession is a good thing.

But for the first time I can see, there is interest in a wedding that is NOT an expensive, one-upmanship-led bleached and botoxed rah rah. The bride flying in the face of all that. No hair. puffed by medication, oxygen on hand, arguably more 'beauty' in that than in the little finger of a football wife or a C list hanger-on.

It is interesting too, the hypocrisy here.

The little poll that started this conversation was visible ONLY if you had already clicked to read the latest Jade-news on AOL.

So for 68% of respondents to say they found it all distasteful, is a bit rich.
There is interest in a christening, done in extremis. Makes you think, dunnit?

Douglas Bruton said...

This is indeed a very interesting subject, and one we should be examining in a search for values and meaning.

Anne, I fully respect the right for you to hold your own opinion. But that cannot be confused with respecting your opinion. I am sorry if I sound like a beating drum, but there are plenty of good and brave people who die in this world, and there are people worthy of our attention too. They don't always get it, because they are not loud and rude and food for newspapers. Before she had cancer people gawped at JG precisely because she was a source of entertainment, a clown who just might trip up over her own feet again at any moment, or open her mouth and make some inappropriate noise. Now, because she is dieing, and doing it for the cameras, I am supposed to think her somehow raised to something near sainthood and she is suddenly brave and noble. I don't buy that at all.

Bingo, V: the search for meaning in our lives... there's the thing. But I don't think we should be looking for that meaning in JG and her public end. All of this reminds me of that film 'The Truman Show' and JG is somehow a construct of the show, a product of the media interest. She has become a parody of herself. She is not alone. I can think of other celebs that do the same. I feel for JG, as I would feel for anyone who is near the end of their lives. I feel for her children and the family she leaves behind her. But there are millions who die every year and just because she is playing it out in front of the cameras doesn't mean I should feel for her more than for the others that die every day in every corner of the world.

As for interest in a wedding that is not glamour and glitz... I am sorry but this is just as bad, even if it is at the other end of the entertainment spectrum. And I don't think her beauty is more real because she hogs the public eye with her no-hair and her drug-puffed face. There is a ghoulish fascination with how 'damaged' she will appear which is just as unhealthy as the fascination with perfect star-turn beauty. This is just two sides of a counterfeit coin, a coin that is worth nothing.

You are of course right about the hypocrisy that is attached to all of this. Just as there was to that other newspaper led celebration of a celeb death and funeral that moved the country to fairy-tale tears when only a month before she was being vilified in the press. I mean the circus that was Princess Diana's funeral. Death should see a celebration of the good a person has done in the world and the life they have lived. With Princess Diana there was at least good to celebrate and remember... Is that the case here?

Any guesses as to the level of public mourning that will ensue when JG does pass on? Am I ghoulish to even be asking? Because I do feel ghoulish. Is it warranted, a public grieving? Is it a symptom of what is wrong with our celeb driven culture? Is this what it all means?

If they won't turn off the cameras, or stop the presses printing, then at least let us turn off the tv's and not buy the papers. Out of something like respect and integrity.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

But that's the thing, D. She has earned my respect.

Douglas Bruton said...

Sympathy I give her.

How has she earned your respect?


Douglas Bruton said...

And out of respect for her and her family, should we all be staring quite so closely at them?


Nik's Blog said...

Douglas, I'm not saying JG's noble or that she deserves the fame she has. I just think that she's showing (to young women/girls) how real cancer is. Sure there are a shedload of people more deserving of fame by virtue of their talents, but that's not got much to do with it now, because she IS famous and the situation's as it is.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

She has earned my respect by turning her celeb status (I make no comment, just accept that she has this staus)... to good.

What she is doing is hurting no one. She does not have to do it. But a lot of young women will see the realities of cancer, thanks to her. She isnt dressing it up. Just being natural. It may be ugly --- should we therefore turn away, ask her to go away and die away from the spotlight? NO!!!

For the first time, possibly, she has turned this daft world we live in to face itself. Uncomfortable innit?

She makes us examine ourselves. Look at uncomforable possibilities.

I dont think anyone among us has the right to judge her decision to do what she is doing. Motes in eyes, and all that.

Douglas Bruton said...

If a man punches another man in the face just because he feels like it, and in so doing knocks out an infected tooth and thereby brings relief to the man he has punched, do we hold the punching man up to be a good man?

I do not doubt that JG's exposure will have done some good. I take issue with the idea that SHE has turned it to good. But all that aside, enough is enough. That bit has been done.

I have done a very quick trawl through the web stuff on JG and found nothing on a 'mission' to do good for others by her spotlight death. I found only stuff like this:

"Goody's cancer diagnosis saw her propelled back into the public eye, and she has continued to give interviews talking about her cancer battle.

"TV channel Living even commissioned a three-part series, which followed the star and documented her living with the illness.

"Goody defended selling her story, saying she was trying to earn a living for her children.

"After hearing her cancer may be terminal, she told the News of the World: "I've lived my whole adult life talking about my life. The only difference is that I'm talking about my death now. It's OK.
"I've lived in front of the cameras. And maybe I'll die in front of them. And I know some people don't like what I'm doing but at this point I really don't care what other people think. Now, it's about what I want."

It's about what I want, is what she said, and about getting money for her children. It's not about her wanting to show young girls what cancer is. It is not JG turning to good her life and her death. It's about doing what she has always done and getting paid for it.

You say she is doing no wrong... is this not exploitation of public sympathy? Is it not as exploitative as any celeb cashing in on their status to get money for what they want? And is it not a fostering of this celb culture that is so much a sickness of society, so much so that people live through the lives of these celebs and see meaning where there is none? I think this kind of thing is very damaging. It's just that the damage is not always in your face. I think it trivialises issues by reducing things like death to a spectator sport, by making it into a reality tv show.

I think what this has done for me, is make me examine yet again the shallowness of much of the media, the self-serving, money-grabbing philosophy of our culture, and the crass press-manipulation of public sympathy.

And I think we do have the right to have opinions on what she is doing and what the press are doing and how the public are being exploited and manipulated. I think it is the responsibility of thinking people to have a view on things like this. If we didn't have judgements on these issues, then we would have more than motes in our eyes, we'd have bloody great planks!

The punched man's case should make us aware of the need to get regular dental check ups, it should not make of a saint the man who punched him.


Julia Bohanna said...

Death is relatively invisible in our society and has polite euphemisms to spare our discomfort: passing away, going to sleep......we are not encouraged to talk about the very visceral aspects of dying, a fate that awaits us all. Of course, Jade Goody is being a mother; as the breadwinner she is, in death, providing for her children by squeezing every aspect of her scrabbled-together life in the spotlight and premature death - then turning it to gold. It's a simple and noble aim and in that, she is not a celebrity or many of the cruel names that have been cast her way. She is only a human being, in terrible pain.

I think it will teach us a great deal but it might take a while before we realise what exactly we have been taught. Is it about her, or ultimately, about us?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hello Julia... good to 'see' you.
One doesnt know motivations. Even when stated, they may be skewed. But I like to think we are learning a lot about ourselves whilst learning a little about her.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

D... only one poster has used the word saint/sainthood. And that's you. No one's expressed any extreme views. 'She's doing a good thing', is what I said. I don't question her motivation... its not my right so to do.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

D: I understand that you do not respect her or what she is doing.
I'm not questioning your values, or seeking to make you justify them to my satisfaction.

I do respect her.

She asks us to take account of what she is doing, just as she asked us to take account of her when she was 'well' and behaving (in my book) sadly and badly.

It doesnt concern me what the media whips up after the event. But if there are a lot of grieving people, it may well be that they are grieving (partly and unconsciously) for the passing of an era.

Douglas Bruton said...

Brave, meaningful, serious, a lesson to us all, important document, a good thing, noble, she has turned her celeb status to good

These are the things that have been said here on this thread about JG.

Also we have credited her with being motivated to do this good. To making us think about death and cancer and to being a lesson to us all.

I have acknowledged that she is a mother and that part of why she is doing what she is doing is to ensure that her children are provided for after her death. And I have said that this is laudable.

I will not credit her with being motivated to do good in the world and to holding herself up as an example and a warning to others. I certainly won't credit her with being the voice of reason in making us address issues of death and dying and our attitudes to them.

I saw a programme last night in which the son of a major literary celebrity talked of being in the spotlight when his father was under threat of death and how much that affected him. What mother would willingly put her children through this very public process of dying by newscutting?

I do not think there is much more going on here than money-making, by JG and the media. And a sort of manipulation of public feeling in order to raise that money.

I think we do have the right to question motivation. I think it goes to the heart of this. I think the motivation of JG is in part clear (to make money - she said so.... and just because she wants to do it this way); I think the motivation of the press and the whole media thingummy is clear (to make money); and I think the motivation of the celeb gazers who 'thrill' over every tiny ugliness of this woman in pain, every little report that moves her one step nearer to the end, and every little detail of the 'drama' that is being put together, is also questionable.

I think some finer sensibilities are dressing this up as something it isn't.

A woman is dieing. A mother is dieing. A celebrity is dieing. A person who sells lots of newspapers is dieing. You tell me which one of these is being splashed all over the papers. And would a woman dieing, or a mother, or even a minor celebrity warrant such attention from you or me or the media or the whole nation if she wasn't the latter: a person who sells lots and lots of newspapers?


Douglas Bruton said...

V, it is not about respect. I have always thought her a victim of the media attention and thought that she was manipulated by the press. I think they have always used her to sell their newspapers when news was in short demand. They held her up for us to laugh at. She was culpabale too, but only as a child who sees something shiny and bright and reaches out to touch it is culpable. Who would altogether blame the child?

I think there is even more manipulation going on here and all to the end of selling and making a profit.

I feel sorry for her. For the humiliation she has had to endure on the media bike-ride. I feel sorry for her now and what she is going through. I feel sorry for her family and her children. But I don't need to have her death with my breakfast cereal, every last painful breath of it.

I don't think she is asking us to take account of what she is doing. She is saying what she has always said: 'Watch me, watch me.' It is desparate this need to be seen. And I feel a great deal of sympathy for JG in this.

As to grieving for the passing of an era... the death of JG will not be the end of anything so high as that. It will be the death of a celebrity and newspapers will find someone else to sell their papers once they have milked every last drop from the post death 'grieving'.

I am not questioning your values either V. I think your sympathy for her and the pain she is suffering is entirely right and proper. But I do think there is something improper about the nation's fascination with her step-by-step death.

I don't think issues of death should be swept under the carpet, but I do think that there is something not right about the whole nation staring to see, to catch the last moments, to witness every little last breath. The fact that this seems not to be a concern to people I have heard discussing the matter, IS a concern to me. It speaks to the state of the nation in part.


Douglas Bruton said...

And don't mind me, V and Nik and everyone else tuning into this... just me having a wee rant and working through my frustrations... displacement activity really... should be writing or editing or polishing... but it's snowing again outside and I just want the spring to come...

I promise I will be better tomorrow.


Vanessa Gebbie said...


Maybe we should draw a line.

Interesting discussion, all, and thank you.

As I said, we can never enter into someone's psyche and find out what motivates them. Sure we can surmise. And we can judge. And I find that aspect in some posts here quite hard to cope with. Who am I to judge?

I know she came from a tough childhood, and made the most of what she had/has. Bravery, balls, a strong anarchic streak, and a belief in herself as a person.

Nowt wrong with those. I wish lots of people made the most of themselves. Because we don't. We diddle along at half throttle.

Her intent may be one thing, D. The effects will be another.

Douglas Bruton said...

As I said... just having a mini rant... that's me done now.