This is our truth, tell us yours
I am, as some of you may have noticed, a Strictly fan. Its my winter reality show, as Bake off fills the summer time slot. (Make your own jokes about Sue Perkins in all her loveliness and slots). Both shows have one thing in common, people trying to be the best they can be, at a particular skill, with supportive hosts and a general air of didnt they do well.?
It may seem slightly obvious to say it, but what is wrong with niceness, with kindness, with celebrating someone exceeding expectations?Watching Jay transform from shy (as shy as any pop star can be) slightly awkward dancer to the performer of this stunning jive has been like watching an ugly duckling realise yes, they are a swan.
Even as a fully paid up member of team Anita, I smiled when Jay won. Of course like everyone I know I smiled even more when Nadiya won Bake Off and made a speech which spoke to anyone who lives with self doubt, whose jerk brain tells them trying is a mistake, they will fail anyway.
I watch GBBO and Strictly to see people who arent always great, but who want to be the best they can be, they are shows about believing in people, in what can be achieved. Whilst Strictly does feature those who are already famous in some capacity (although I usually have never heard of them since I dont watch soaps) the fame does not guarantee ability. Thus hidden talents appear, like Kate this year. By being already famous the celebs are also fully aware of the deal they are making, by taking part in a prime time TV show. In an odd way it brings me back to my earlier informed consent post. They know what the tabloids are like, and I have the suspicion that more than one fading career has been resurrected by well timed flirting (or more) with their professional dancer.
Which brings me, almost inevitably, to the other big reality show, the one I will never choose to watch, X factor. X factor starts with the open auditions, which frequently seems to feature people with mental health issues being mocked, then proceeds to the “creation” of a new star. Star meaning someone who will have one single, an album then be reduced to turning on the Christmas lights in there hometown for £500 a pop. (Incidentally what I charge for a nights work, but at least I control what i am selling).
Cowell as pimp might seem a bit of a reach, and of course we have to always be aware that the term pimp is loaded with baggage. However in the conventional trope he fits perfectly, controlling and packaging people as products which he profits from, with no concern for their long term survival. For unlike strictly these are amateur hopefuls, thrown into the world of paparazzi and tabloids with very much a sink or swim attitude. Can you tell me what James Arthur or Leon Jackson is doing now? Sadly we all know what Steve Brookstien is doing, defending rapists. Of course there is Leona Lewis, but given her undoubted talent would she have had a career anyway? I believe so.
Anyway its not so much what happens to the people who win that I am concerned with but the general air of the show, the packaging of the product whilst simultaneously deriding and attacking people. If Strictly is about people trying to excel, X factor seems to be about telling people they will never be good enough, then making them jump through artificially created hoops to prove they aren’t good enough.
My mind wanders to this story in the Guardian, where almost 70% of labour voters support the current tack, a more Strictly approach, but which is reported for the X factor 30 %. For years those running the Labour Party have followed the X factor line, the package mattering more than the product, nastiness being part of the accepted way of behaviour, kindness and consideration forgotten. Corbyn may not be perfect, but he is more strictly than X factor, believing in people, rather than belittling them. Are the staffers at Labour HQ unable to let go of the idea they are Simon Cowell, svengalis responsible for creating frankenblair?
I dont want to wander too much into politics in a Sunday Sermon, its not the point of them. I do have a Christmas wish though, that as a nation we could be more Strictly, kinder, believers in people. I wish that Nadiya were our role model, not some kid who we will all forget the name of, then throw away as disposable. I wish that we all believed it was good to be kind, and to smile when someone succeeds, not wonder how we can tear them down.