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  Alex Ogg - The X-Crement Factor
By Alex Ogg - Blackpool Rox 9 - (2006) submitted

My partner watches a lot of reality TV. It’s her way of chilling after a day with the kids. Don’t blame her for that. And I’m not going to pretend I try to seize the remote to switch to something that will make us ‘grow’ as people. I just want to watch the cricket from time to time. But that’s by the by. The fact is, I’ve been exposed to a lot of reality TV. Most of which is horrible, but there’s something I find particularly disturbing about the last series of the X-Factor. Whatever unsettles me has been ramped up over recent series. Yes, I can laugh at the attempts of the plainly, spectacularly untalented. At least until it reaches the point where you know that competitors are being put forward solely for their comedic value. The point at which we are expected to laugh because prospective pop stars are wearing a Turban. I mean, that’s hilarious. Isn’t it? Or is it just ritual humiliation underscored by a sneaking distaste for anything that is a bit different? Everyone loves a prat-fall. Well, I do anyway. And part of the appeal of Pop Idol et al was always watching those whose talent existed in inverse proportion to their self-opinion. A bloated ego always looks better for the deflating. But what makes the skin crawl about the last series of X-Factor was the sheer pornography of it. The totalitarian relationship that exists between judges and contestants – the message, hammered home at every turn that the aspirants are worthless and dispensable. Their destiny is entirely in the hands of the judges. And if they fail them, their ridiculous aspirations to a creative career end right there. Over. Buried. I was lucky, I guess, that things weren’t like that when I grew up. The punk culture meant that the onus was always on yourself to make things happen. You didn’t bend your knee and plead for things, you made them happen. What upsets me most about the X-Crement Factor is the resounding subtext that there is no alternative - if you don’t please us, you will never ‘make it’. You will be ordinary. That’s right, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. You will be NORMAL and have to shop at Asda and get the bus. Any pretension to romance and adventure in your pitiful life – extinguished. Boy, I’d love to have a read of the contracts these lemmings sign when they actually defeat the odds and make it through. I bet they go something along the lines of: “You’re fucked, at every turn, we make the money. You don’t. We own your arse.” Do you think those poor sods who have put themselves through endless hours of public scrutiny (Tears! Give us tears!) are going to make a rationale decision about what they sign up to? Or are they going to go, “Thank you Simon! Thank you Sharon! Thank you the Irish git whose name even his ex-wives probably can’t remember!” Ambition makes you look pretty ugly. Raw, unadulterated cynicism ain’t so pretty either. Panning shots of contestants, who quite clearly would sell their entire families to Lucifer never mind their own buttholes for a glimpse of the action, only reinforce the power divide. There were always close-ups of contestant faces. But now they linger, as each of our Pavlovian subjects weeps and pleads and begs to order. Please, please, please. Where is Uncle Punk Rock to tell these fragile teenagers that, hang on, who the fuck fuck fuck are these tossers to grant you acceptance or validation? I don’t want hissy fits followed by contrition. I don’t even want no-hopers squealing that they’ll prove the judges wrong. I want them to turn on their heels and tell them how completely and utterly irrelevant these horrid trollops are to the tradition of good music, real entertainment, or anything with any lasting quality. OK, I’m being idealistic. Couldn’t they at least happy-slap them a few times?

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