But alas, it was not to be. I would go as far as saying that you could pick any single episode of X Factor/BGT and you’d see something uglier and more brutal than what Brooker depicted. Ok, so the contestants aren’t being offered a porn deal (not on screen, anyway), but what about when the researchers send through a person with clear mental illnesses for us to laugh at? That happens EVERY. SINGLE. SERIES. Think how many times you’ve laughed at a completely deluded contestant only to stop yourself after a while and go ‘wait, this isn’t right’. People with psychological difficulties are put through round after round by researchers with no scruples, told endlessly how talented they are until they confront the judges. The judges then tell them something like ‘the dream ends here, today’, and they either protest or shuffle off.
Of course they protest! The process by which they gain access to the stage is one in which they are told how fantastic they are! This is not my guesswork, by the way, that’s really what happens behind the scenes. People JEERED Susan Boyle when she came on, purely because of how she looked. That poor girl Jesy from Little Mix has suffered endless torments about her looks and weight. Even last night on Twitter people were passing round photos of animals and saying it was her, or capturing her at ugly angles. That poor, poor kid. She might have won the show with her band last night, but the psychological scars won’t be as short-lived as the fame she’ll probably experience.
There is SO MUCH to be said about X Factor. How we treat people as villains for no reason, how it’s the 21st century equivalent of the Victorian freakshow, how the judges will say anything to sell records. And that’s before you even consider all the scandals about fixing, the bad press stories that the show itself propagates just to gain column inches, and the fact that the pile of nobodies who have won the show in previous years is getting higher and higher. And let me ask you this – can anybody tell me exactly what it is that Little Mix have won? Yes, I know they’ve won ‘The X Factor’, but what are the details here? Have they got a contract? Nothing was mentioned, I’m pretty sure. This is a week when scandal after scandal has hit British X Factor, but the events over at US X Factor are even weirder. Rachel Crow, a girl of 13 or 14, I believe, was voted off the competition this week. Her reaction? She sank to the floor, called for her mum, sobbed her heart out and yelled ‘mama! You PROMISED me!’
These programmes are ugly, and I think most of us have begun to see that. We are no longer in the thrall of them, we’ve had too many vote fixing scandals and insincere comments from the judges to actually take them seriously any more. Brooker portrayed the judges as being the ultimate authority. Actually, this year, we’ve seen the judges criticised as much as (if not more than) the contestants. When ‘reality’ is so ugly in 2011, I would have liked to have seen a really scathing, merciless take down of X Factor. Considering Konnie Huq co-wrote it, and she worked on the programme in 2010, I felt it lacked any insider info. People have claimed that after the axe had fallen on her job, she wrote this to get back at the show. Really? It would have been more effective to paint ‘You suck’ onto the side of a pig and send it on the X Factor stage. I just don’t think the programme was put under the microscope at ALL. It all felt a bit….well, GCSE Drama, really.
There is one more thing, though. I felt disappointed by the postscript in TNA, but in FMM the last 20 minutes were the best bit. Bing worked his way up to the credits needed, tucked a shard of glass into his pants (or was he just pleased to see me?) and proceeded onto the stage. Unfortunately, he didn’t stab Aussie George Michael in the sunglasses, but held it to his own throat and just yelled at everybody. The judges pretended to listen. Aussie George Michael leaned forwards and said something like ‘that was….without a doubt….BRILLIANT’, and got him to speak more. Bing’s anger became sanitised and as a result, he was given his own show, twice a week, half an hour each. He did the whole show with the shard of glass pressed up to his throat, yelling at the system but ultimately becoming increasingly inauthentic, the same as everything else.
Say…here’s a question, kids. Can we think of another angry man who has become a very cog in the thing he hates so much? Who is wheeled out to just yell at things until we all laugh? No, not Konnie Huq. No, not the pig from TNA, now you’re just being stupid. Yes! Charlie Brooker. Spot on. Charlie Brooker is the man who has to hold a shard of glass up to his throat for the rest of eternity, spitting bile and garnering viewers, hating the system but earning money for that very system. Quite a nice touch.
So, that was Fifteen Million Merits. I wonder if I do better with things that look more like our own world, as in TNA? Perhaps it was a little too futuristic for me (although as we speak Google are developing interactive rooms like Bing’s.) I didn’t wake up scarred for life this morning. It was a bit limp. Maybe The Xtra Factor wanted Konnie back to host, and she had to tone down her criticism of the programme. Who knows/cares. I’m off to download the Little Mix single and read the Daily Mail for all the latest X Factor scandals. Ta ra for now.
**Mulling it over, there is one more point I feel I’ve missed. When Bing goes to enter the competition, he’s let through the scanner with no questions asked, even though I’m fairly sure it’s obvious that he’s…erm…got something down his trousers. The security guard sort of gives him a look. It’s been bothering me, that little bit. I wonder if that in itself is a comment on the kind of people they let through to these shows – i.e. as long as they’ll provide entertainment, it doesn’t matter whether they’re a terrible performer, mentally challenged, or carrying a weapon. Just a thought. Another one. **