Almost Famous

Blog post @ Volume 3, published on 6 December 2010

I recently became strangely obsessed with the X Factor.

Guaranteed, I did not become initially intrigued with the social intricacies the show exposes, but was rather pulled onto the screen by the happy-go-lucky sing-along of a myriad of aspiring pop songstresses, each one with her (or his) peculiarities made worth millions on TV.

There was the Madonna-esque (like the singer, not like something Rubens would have portrayed) Katie Waissel; the over-the-top, softly sexist, weirdly endearing Wagner; the panoply of under-aged, school will get me far, but TV will get me further One Direction and Cher Lloyd… one could go on and on…

However, the more I watch the show, the more blatant it becomes – what I am truly engaging in is the modern day version of the town-fair. A circus where the freaks are all of those brave (or perhaps rather naïve) enough to expose themselves to the public while trying to climb the social ladder. These singers/entertainers are grasping with something they probably never truly realized – their stakes on the social mobility game!

In a true reflection of the liberalist world we live in, contestant after contestant, shows his/her/their talent, which is the only acceptable ticket to the higher echelons of society. And week after week all of these people are confronted with the possibility of losing their place on the train to a better life. A bit like a (even meaner) version of musical chairs.

In my distorted, David Lynchean, imagination, the X Factor turns into this exhibition of a series of working class characters. For an instant they are placed into this shiny fish-bowl full of bourgeois entitlements and where each contestant has to plead each week not to be pulled out from.

There is Matt, the painter; Cher, the 17-year-old who used to live in a caravan and who’s uncle died mid-show from a drug-overdose; Madonna Katie was a hair salon receptionist and her nan came out to be a mature porn star; Mary Byrn is the over forty, “curvaceous” lady who works at the tills; and so on so forth…

I wonder if in the end the X Factor really sells “dreams” or rather the idea that the only way of escaping the life in the proletarian ranks is via media exploitation and this notion of “talent”, which is seemingly not that rare, as we find ourselves already on the 7th season of the show.