Thursday, 15 October 2009

Singing into your airbrush

As a starting point to this entry, I draw your attention to no. 10 on this list I posted a few entries ago. The reason I draw your attention to this is because this entry focuses on that most wonderful, wholesome and all-round high quality reality TV series The X Factor.

Now, I'm not a fan of The X Factor, but that doesn't mean that when Hayley's watching it I don't sit there and take the piss out of/get drawn into it. It feels like The X Factor has been on for several months already, but it's apparently only about six or seven weeks. Plenty of time for me to start analysing its incredibly manufactured style and pick it apart like the English teacher I am. So, for the first few weeks we are treated to talentless morons who are completely oblivious to how rubbish they are, a smattering of people who do know how rubbish they are and are playing it up to a nauseating level in order to get on telly, and a handful of people who are okay singers but nothing special. So far so excruciating. Some of these are put through to sing/make me want to punch them again, and their number is reduced again seemingly arbitrarily by Simon Cowell and his three puppets. Then this number is cut in half again through pretty much exactly the same meaningless process as before, and then again although this time in ridiculously over-the-top locations aroung the world.

All this time, the makers of the show do as much as they can to make the contestants seem "real". It's not enough that they are human beings who can breath and eat and blink and sweat, no, the audience has to be shown how "real" these people really are. They're much more "real" than anyone sitting at home because they've all experienced a multitude of hardships that, whilst many other people have experienced these too, they've not experienced them to the degree that our contestants have. Either that or the contestants have had to deal with more than one hardship at the same time. Or, if they haven't got enough hardships from their pre-X Factor lives to make them seem "real" enough, then they're given a new one during the course of the show, even if that's something as trivial as a sore throat that means they can't do the one thing that makes their miserable existence worthwhile to them, i.e. singing. Yes, these are "real" people; they must be "real" because, after all, this is reality television we're dealing with.

So in the last episode, after several years of whittling down the contestants, the series entered the phase of proceedings where our contestants start actually doing pop-star-type things such as extravagant performances with lots of vigorous dancers, intricate choreography, colourful pyrotechnics and, well, basically anything that can distract us from the fact that these people aren't really that good at singing. Par for the course when we're talking ITV Saturday and Sunday evening light entertainment. But what struck me is that, having spent every moment of the series up to this point ramming the "realness" of these people down our throats, the show now presents them as fabricated, artificial pop wannabes without a shred of reality to them. They have the contestants standing in front of some kind of wind turbine, or possibly part of an aeroplane hangar, make up clinging to their every pore, some with a pointless new hairdo, and airbrushed beyond recognition.

Having told us about all the hardships these people have had to deal with, and before they've even become pop stars to pour into the already over-saturated and homogenised charts, the contestants are reduced down to manufactured shells for whom the general public turn their money over to ITV via their phones because Dermot O'Leary tells them to.

Anyway, as I continue to experience this year's series of The X Factor, I anticipate at least one more rant being generated from the ordeal, so watch this space.

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