Not sure how widely this peculiarly British media scandal is known around the World, although if the press here (and the makers of the television programme in question) would have you believe, it is of truly “global” proportions. In any event, the story is the trial by television of one young, and by her own admission not particularly bright young girl from the working class east end of London.
Jade Goody has been made by television and now she’s being broken by it, in the most public way imaginable. She rose to fame through the fly-on-the-wall reality TV show Big Brother, a massive show in many countries around the world, although not in the USA (MTV’s The Real World broke this ground). She rose to fame for being a loudmouth, but in that very British way of supporting an underdog. She became a celebrity for being ordinary, and that only usually happens in England.
Given this amazing opportunity, her street smarts and an army of ‘helpers’ led to her making a lot of money, and she built a large fan base of similarly disenchanted young women to whom she was a role model, the ‘one who made it’.
Her mistake was being persuaded to go back into the Big Brother house by the producers and those who were supposed to know what’s best for her. As she put it herself in one candid video diary, “coming in here the first time I had nothing to lose, this second time (I now realize) I’ve everything to lose”.
The produers knew what they were doing. They wanted controversy, and boy did they get it. They squared her up against a Bollywood actress who is the Angelina Jolie / Keira Knightley (take your pick) in India.
Both women are used to being the centre of attention, although in very different ways. Shilpa Shetty is a well mannered lady, Jade a loudmouth take no prisoners tough girl. The inevitable flare up happened with Jade and two other ‘yes’ girls making fun of the Bollywood star. It all descended into accusations of racism which the media whipped up into a frenzy. That Jade called her Shilpa Poppadom and ganged up on her with two other girls was wrong, but it was practically inevitable considering the fishbowl circumstances.
The upshot of all this is more than 35,000 complaints to the British TV Watchdog, the show’s sponsor pulling its sponsorship on Channel 4, debates in parliament, stories on all the evening newscasts, endless column inches in the newspapers, and people burning effigies on the streets of India.
Last night, perhaps unsurprisingly, Jade Goody was voted off the show by a public turned against her by the same media that turned them onto her. TV really did make the news here.
What a circus. And the real winners?