A journalist friend, Paul Flower, has run with my post on Susan Boyle and Britain’s Got Talent and expanded on some of the issues that have been overlooked at large, which in turn has given me more food for thought.
The current debate seems to be focusing on whether contestants on Britain’s Got Talent should be subjected to psychological screening as they are with Big Brother. However, those jumping on this bandwagon seem to be missing the point that BGT and BB are two very different programmes. With BGT, people with a modicum of talent are looking for a break, whereas in BB, people without talent are chasing celebrity (at any cost). It’s also worth pointing out that if we applied the same psychological screening criterion to all ‘talent’ and celebrity, a significant percentage would be screened out.
Most of the 350 complaints received by Ofcom related to the treatment of ten year old Hollie Steel. However 80% of the complaints were about the unfairness to other contestants that she was given a second chance. Only 14% were questioning the ethics of having children on the show. The remaining 6% complained about the treatment of Susan Boyle. So for the 14% of complainants, they really need to contrast one crying ten year old with the other kids who appeared on the show. Shaheen Jafargholi gave a vocal performance that a adult would be envious of, and dancer Aiden Davis had to cope with having a moving stage sprung on him at the last minute. Then we have to consider that kids cry all the time. They get extremely upset about things that adults consider trivial. They cry and scream when they have to go to bed early and cry in supermarkets and roll around the floor and wet themselves if they can’t have sweets (I know I did).
There has been a great deal of emphasis on what the producers of BGT could be doing to protect the contestants from distress and in particular Susan Boyle. One thing that springs to mind is 24 hour protection from media intrusion but clearly that’s impractical. Of course BGT stage managed the whole thing from the outset. The run up to the audition ensured that our expectations of Susan Boyle were lowered. Judges sneered and audiences sniggered and rolled their eyes. It was a well-crafted piece of television designed to get strong reactions. We were all manipulated. However, I don’t thing anyone could have predicted the impact this few minutes of television would have, helped along by YouTube and Twitter. And exactly, who is going to regulate those? Paul Flower in his blog echoes sentiments from the first BGT winner, Paul Potts, who pointed out that he only had nine days of press attention whereas Susan Boyle had seven weeks from audition to finals.
One thing we need to turn out attention how we collectively take responsibility and rethink out attitudes to celebrity and whether we condone editors paying fortunes for ‘pap-snaps’ of people in distress. In the hotel incident with Susan Boyle in the run up to the final, two journalists allegedly deliberately set out with the intention of causing her distress. They did not report the news but created it, just for the sheer hell of it.
Susan Boyle has ‘enjoyed’ a lightning speed rise to celebrity-dom, which apparently makes her fair game. Some have commented that ‘she needs to get used to it as it goes with the territory’ but few have questioned the morals of hounding someone who just ‘entered a talent contest’ a couple of months ago. It’s welcome news that the Press Complaints Commission have emailed editors reminding them of their code of practice.
Even seasoned professional media-manipulators would have had problems dealing with the media attention, speculation and intrusion Susan Boyle is receiving. Let’s hope the banality of Big Brother spectacle will provide Susan Boyle with some respite so that she can recover and pursue her dream of ‘being a professional singer’ rather than the main attraction in a media circus.
I suppose we should at least be thankful that no-one has used the term ‘subogate‘. . damn. . spoke too soon!