Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Jade Goody Phenomenon

Jade Goody was one of the biggest media stories of 2009. For those who don't know who she was, Jade was a reality television star that frequented several several reality shows including Big Brother, during which she became a controversial figure in the house for her lack of knowledge and racist comments towards Indian actress Shilpa Shetty which resulted in Jade being kicked off the show and over 50,000 consumer complaints to the networks. Jade continued to be a prominent figure in reality television shows and became a big star in the UK, having been part of numerous books (including a biography) and headlines and sold many products despite many polls suggesting most people had a negative opinion of her. While doing the reality TV gig "Bigg Boss" in India, Jade received the call that she had cervical cancer and left the show. She eventually found out the cancer was terminal and continued to live her life in the spotlight, heavily relying on the media to cover her every move and making a documentary as the disease ravaged her body. Jade gave interviews and allowed the media to tape and photograph her throughout the last months of her life. Jade even sold her wedding photos (marrying long-term reality TV star and criminal Jack Tweed) to the tabloids. Jade justified such behavior by saying that she was saving the money for her children, Bobby and Freddie, despite the huge salary and assets Jade already had as a result of her career choices. The media descended on Jade and public tide for her flipped, resulting in the public fixating on every morbid detail of her last days and elevating her into a somewhat saintly figure. Her husband Jack was able to get a significant portion of time out of jail (for assault) to spend time with her during her final months. Sadly, Jade Goody passed away on March 22, 2009, at age 27 on Mother's Day. Her home was flooded with flowers and cards of sympathy and mass public outcry (somewhat like the events that transpired after Princess Diana's demise, on a smaller scale).

Jade Goody made many enemies during her years for her racist views and comments and aroused antagonism from many in life as well as with the choices she made in handling the last month of her life so publicly. When Jade got cancer, public polls went from strong disagreement to a positive image and even many of Jade's detractors began to think of her as a wonderful person and forgot how much they had disliked her. They watched her deteriorate and die like bloodthirsty hounds, anxious for every new development. Even OK! magazine leaked the cover of their tribute issue with the years of her birth and death before she even died. The British public couldn't seem to get enough of Jade Goody.

I am astounded that the public could change their opinion so widely about someone because they became terminally ill. The truth is that cancer or any terminal illness is a horrible fate not to be wished upon anyone. I am appauled by the hypocrisy of the public for sanctifying Jade Goody after their constantly ridiculing her. I am disturbed that the public salivated for new photos of her and grisly details about her last days and that magazines and newspapers kept feeding the public very private details and fueling an inappropriate fire. I am completely baffled by the fact that Jack Tweed was able to get a get-out-of-jail-free card to be with her. As much as the public romanticized these two, the man committed serious crimes of assault and shouldn't have been given special privilege regardless of the circumstances as other criminals don't receive such treatment. Part of the punishment of being in jail is not being able to be there for milestones. As much as the public sympathized with Jade and wanted Jack by her side, it is unbelievable that he was shown such leniency and exception in the matter when that option is not available to anyone else in any similar situation. I am surprised that a disliked public figure and her criminal husband could be perceived as one of the great romances of the year. There are many wonderful couples who never receive such unprecedented attention who have a far more positive story to tell and many cancer patients and terminally ill stars who deserve to have their stories told as well and never get that chance, even if they were far better an example. I'm am not a fan of Jade's decision to live the end of her life in the public eye to raise money for her sons, but I can see both sides of the argument. I think it's noble to try to ensure her sons have a good life but she already was banking quite a bit of money and her husband was a TV presenter and the children weren't going to live poorly by any means already. Marrying someone guilty of assault and exposing your sons constantly to that person doesn't seem to be an idea of great foresight. Sure, we all make mistakes (though most of us never on that scale). However, Jack Tweed committed assault twice, once against a 16 year old boy. Fortunately, the children will spend most of the time with their father (who is not Jack Tweed). Jade Goody's short life and death is a great example of the media's exploitation of human suffering and the public's incessant and unnecessary "need to know" as well as the concept of elevating someone to a status they don't deserve just to sell papers.

I am glad Jade Goody is no longer suffering and is finally at peace. I may not have been fond of her but I was sad to hear she got cancer and I hoped it would not be fatal. I hope the media and public can finally leave her alone, even though I am aware she invited much of that attention. It just all went too far. My only consolation is that the rates of cervical cancer screenings in the UK went up 40%. Perhaps something good comes out of tragedy after all.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Prince William: What Does He Do? Part II

Above: Prince William surrounded by women and grabbing a young women's breast... And to think, this guy will most likely be King William V of Britain. Fortunately, royalty truly has no political power anymore, otherwise I'd be scared. Given that, they do have great symbolic value and are sources of pride to their country. Clearly, Princes William and Harry care so much about their family's reputation...

Sigh. I know I have harped on this before (see earlier post), but there's more. Recently, Prince William was publicly criticized by a royal commentator in Britain for "doing nothing". Cited as evidence was the fact that by his age, his father had done 84 royal engagements, and Wills has only done 11 (5 of which were related to football). I've been making this argument for quite some time and apparently several people agree or are waking up. In the few weeks since this happened, it appears the powers that be in the royal family are sending him off on one giant much-needed PR junket. Prince William has done more charity work in the last few weeks than in his lifetime. Going from charity to charity, holding children while cameras snap away, then going for the ultimate heartstrings tug by talking about his mother Diana publicly for the first time. The speech wasn't even written by him and his delivery was so void of feeling one couldn't help but cringe. On top of that, he was then interviewed on TV by a young cancer patient and he has now talked about flying economy on planes to aid the economy and has most recently been quoted about his desire to fight in Afghanistan. The public is eating this all up like mush, forgetting all about the allegations mere weeks ago. I would be too if it weren't all so contrived.

Forgive me if I don't buy it. If Prince William truly cared about any of this, he would have been doing it all along and prior to being criticized and called out in such a public manner for not doing the only responsibility he actually has. As for the economy, William isn't going to do all that much for it by suddenly flying with *gasp* mere mortals. If he cared that much about saving money, he wouldn't be flying off on lavish ski trips to begin with. I'm not even sure you can call them vacations because I'm not really sure that he's ever "worked". It appears William is far too happy to keep shirking his responsibilities and somehow the Queen has tolerated this, much to everyone's detriment. While fighting overseas for his country is a noble cause, Prince William is not blind. Even before entering Sandhurst [military academy], he knew they would not be sending him to war and risking his precious hide, whether he wanted to or not. The monarchy simply wouldn't take that kind of risk. Yes, Prince Andrew did pilot during wartime, however he was most likely never going to inherit the throne. For William the military is just one more way to hide from paparazzi and appear to be doing something when he isn't, something William is massively skilled at.

Note: Prince Harry did go to Afghanistan. Supposedly. Though there are rumors he wasn't really there and it was staged in some random desert, I'll believe this one. However, I don't believe he was there actually doing anything more than a photo op. His cover was "blown" by the media and so he was pulled out of Afghanistan early. If Prince Harry was truly covertly in Afghanistan on a dangerous mission, I fail to see how he was followed by a camera crew the entire time he was there. Obviously some media new of his whereabouts and he was intentionally filmed the whole time with his knowledge. This is not the behavior of someone actually doing their job but rather showboating and getting a rare opportunity to look positive in the press. I'm sure what the camera didn't show you was all the bodyguards standing around. It was also claimed that Harry killed a bunch of Taliban, which is completely unlikely. I do commend Harry for his bravery and I'm not going to deny that he must have taken some risk to be in such a place even for a short time, but given the non-stop camera presence I honestly don't take any of it seriously and with good reason. Also, it seems he would be a huge liability to all the troops around him and I don't know why the military would take that risk other than as a favor to the Queen, which could have turned out to be a deadly affair to all his fellow soldiers out there with him, which certainly wouldn't be fair. I have the utmost respect for military and the men and women risking their lives overseas. If they don't get constant media pampering in the desert, neither should he, if he is serious about it at all which doesn't appear to be the case. To make matters worse, Harry has continued to get himself into trouble. Along with fighting paparazzi, cheating on exams, wearing a Nazi costume, and smoking pot, Harry can now add to his resume new racist insults made while in the military and a shocking video in which he not only shows his level of homophobia but also talks about his pubic hair and insults his grandmother, the Queen. I wouldn't doubt that the Queen was happy to ship him off and hope he came back somewhat straightened but we all know that's wishful thinking. Such talk is always met by people calling Harry a hero for his brief engagement in Afghanistan (nevermind the men and women who have been there on their third and fourth tours for a few years apart from their families) or they say that everyone in the military makes racial slurs or that Harry is just being a typical youth. Being in the military does not mean less is expected of your behavior or standards, if anything discipline is important and enforced, even the military criticized his remarks. And in case you didn't notice, Harry is NOT a regular guy. He certainly has responsibilities and rarely tends to them. Harry should be ashamed of himself with the constant barrage of jokes and insults he's always hurling and the embarrassment it casts as a symbolic representation of his country to the world.

Back to William. Honestly, I want so badly to support these two young men. But they make it so difficult and are frequently praised merely for existing or being somewhat attractive instead of being given chastisement for avoiding their most central duties. It must be nice to have your lifestyle paid for and even so to resist doing your part. It seems that anytime these two are on a charitable endeavor, they make sure a camera crew is right there to capture it all. Being a patron of a charity as they both are is also a clever ruse, I see their names on paper and rarely ever see any opportunity in which they partake in charitable causes.
People want so badly to see Diana in these boys and sadly beyond the physical, it does not appear they have a strong desire to commit themselves to the service of others, a crucial part in being a monarch. As Prince William's looks fade, I have the feeling the public will be less endeared and begin to expect more from him as they should have from day one. Even Prince Charles, as hard a time as the media and public give him, has done a splendid job of engaging in philanthropy and royal duties, despite his private life. There is room for both.

Let me put it this way. If I was Prince William (or Harry) and had an ancient tradition dating back thousands of years hanging on my shoulder and I was the last living link to ensure its survival, I think I'd be taking this all just a wee bit more seriously. It's shocking how cavalier these two are about the duties they were born into. I am appauled when I hear people say that the crown should be passed over Charles and given to William. This is the most rediculous thing I've heard. Prince Charles may not be the most charming and charismatic individual but he has done everything asked of him and more. William has done nothing to deserve his place in the lineage. Sorry, being attractive doesn't make you fit to be a king. I am willing to give William and Harry the benefit of the doubt. If they were to take their responsibilities seriously, I would give them the respect they deserve. Until then, I am not going to be sucking up to them and thinking they are the greatest thing on earth when they haven't done anything to prove themselves as examples to their country or anyone else. If people think they have been great role models, I suggest you take a deeper look. And to William... I am glad he is FINALLY doing his job but saddened that it took public ridicule to get him to step up. Given that these things weren't done or said before, I highly doubt his sincerity. If in a few months William tucks himself under the radar again as I suspect he will, don't be surprised. I'll just have to say: "I told you so."