Archive for February 18th, 2009

jadegoodyThe Anti-Roomers on the news that Jade Goody is dying of cancer and plans to live out her remaining time in the public eye. We’d love to hear your thoughts, feel free to jump in in the comments section.

LEIGH: Sweet Lord. Try as I might, I can’t stop rubbernecking the whole sorry saga that is Jade Goody’s impending demise. Any mum of two dying is awful; a 27-year-old mum of two dying, after getting a number of regular smears no less, is just horrendously tragic. But there’s something about the way this is playing out in the media that makes me want to rustle up a buttery bucket of popcorn. In a previous incarnation, I worked in British broadcasting ended up meeting Jade some years ago. She was effervescent, chatty, upbeat (playing the dumbass card for all it was worth, but hey ho). The world will most certainly be a less colourful place without her in it. But she lived by the unpredictable, two-faced sword that was reality TV and now she seems poised to die by it. Like most people, I initially thought it was PR spin gone too far, but it turns out she’s genuinely dying.
Sad stuff altogether, but I for one am finding this whole idea of Jade dying on camera completely preposterous. Max Clifford seems to be at the helm of things, for a start. The entire thing feels like an overblown soap opera (complete with its own Ken-Doll hero in the form of Jack Tweed. A tenner says the gormless teen-basher will be made into a fucking national hero out of this. Christ). And where’s her mum throughout all this? Could she not ‘negotiate’ her way into all of this? There’s talk that Jade is a willing participant in this bizarre soap opera because she wants to ‘provide for her kids’ – God knows, I’m sure she’s not doing it to hang onto what’s left of her celebrity status. But surely there is another way for all this to unfold? I guess my problem with the whole thing is that if you know you have a couple of months to live, why do it with a fucking camera crew in tow? Surely your priority should be spending genuine quality time with your family, not doing talking heads on how shitty it all is and making sure the camera gets all the proper action. I’ve worked in TV; even being the subject on a fly-on-the-wall documentary takes a veritable shedload of energy and effort. It’s not a million miles away from the way celebrity weddings have been forever tainted; they’re happy enough to let the editor of OK! magazine dictate the terms of their big day, pissing off friends and family in the process… and all for a fee.

It would be lovely to think that there is another ending for this story other than the one ending that seems by now inevitable. But my God, I’ve seen more of Jade Goody this past fortnight than I have seen pretty much anyone else in the universe. If this is the start of a new celebrity trend I will kick my own head in. 

HONORIA: What was most shocking for me was the disbelief factor, the kind of sense of denial that she was actually dying. It felt like the little boy who cried wolf. Not on Jade’s part but more on the sensational media’s part. The headlines that read ‘Jade may only  have months to live’ washed over me in the same way that ‘Amy Winehouse may be dying’ headlines did. The way the celebrity-hounding media can make a mountain out of a pre-cancerous cell made me think that somehow she didn’t really have cancer and she’d be totally recovered in a year’s time and making another reality show. But that’s not the case and it looks like she has only a matter of weeks to live. It goes to show how dangerous our sensationalist media is. One good thing to come out of this truly tragic story is that smear tests have increased massively in the UK due to the exposure Jade has given ovarian cancer.

The media has always had a love/hate relationship with Jade Goody, but the criticism of her decision to die in the public eye is shrill and judgemental. Goody has lived a chunk of her short life on screen, so why shouldn’t she be allowed to die there? If Jade had never become famous, she would have lived out her illness (suffering just as much) in anonymity with no means to provide for her kids. A job in any other field other than the hoopla of reality celebsville would have forced her to quit by now for treatment, rest and hospital stays. But doing what she does – being Jade Goody 24/7 – has allowed her the freedom to make money while being cared for, albeit so publicly. There are plans to film her wedding this Sunday. Some will deem it car crash Lady Di TV and turn it off, others will follow every morbid second of the story til the last. Either way, Jade will have snaffled a sizeable sum for her two sons, giving her one less obstacle to maneouvre around in the last months of her life.

PENNY CENTURY: There’s never been anyone in British culture quite like Jade. Made famous by reality TV, she built a career purely based on being her loud, gormless self, which is basically why she was a hate figure even before she disgraced herself with her racist behaviour in Celebrity Big Brother. Which is presumably why commenters on the Guardian’s Comment is Free this week felt it was fine to say things like “At least I won’t have to see her face anymore” when it was announced that she is dying of cancer, at the age of 27. I do instinctively feel there’s something distasteful about her stated plan to live out her last weeks in the public eye – but then death isn’t tasteful. And although, like Leigh, I can’t understand why someone would want to spend the end of their life with a camera crew in tow, Jade really is doing this to make as much money as possible for her young children. Only someone with a heart of stone could remain unmoved by her declaration that she wanted enough time to ensure her sons are well provided for and to write letters about their life together “because they might forget me. And I can’t bear the thought of that.” Jade isn’t the first person to die in public, and she won’t be the last. Respectable broadsheets have long featured columns by writers facing a terminal illness. So why is Jade different? Because she’s “common”. Because she’s easy to sneer at and hard to respect. “A lot of this is about class,” said TV presenter (and cancer survivor) Trisha Goddard in Sunday’s Observer. “It’s all right for someone clever like John Diamond to write and be brave and self-deprecating, but who is this awful kid who wants to die on camera? You want her to keep her dignity? Sling her a quarter of a million then and she can close her front door.” Very true.

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Who’s the daddy?

I watched the story of Alfie Patten, 13, and his girlfriend Chantelle Steadman, 15, unfold over the last week. The two kids had a baby and now it emerges that there are two other teenagers claiming paternity. It’s turned into a Jeremy Kyle-esque DNA test fiasco that’s now set to play out in the press.  

There’s also a sinister element emerging of Chantelle-as-predatory-slapper and Alfie as innocent boy-child. But clearly these were just two kids with little sex education or knowledge of consequences. Or maybe they’re vying for the much-desired fame/infamy that is the one true goal of all people of that generation – a spread in that day’s red tops. I also find it a bit strange that this story is in the papers – who went to the papers with it and what was their motivation? There is nothing unique about this case.

I did find it slightly disturbing that such a young girl would have slept with so many boys in the window of time that it was possible for her to get pregnant in, but at the same time I was sexually active when I was 15. But I sure as hell made certain that I had studied the crap out of my biology book, which explained the reproductive system and I chose the time of my cycle where it was virtually impossible for me to get pregnant and I used a condom.

At that age, I was simply terrified of the idea of getting pregnant – mainly because I didn’t understand how it all happened. My grandmother once told me over the opening credits of Look Who’s Talking about the dangers of sperm and how I should be very careful around that stuff, and especially make sure not to let any of it get on me or in the vicinity of my thighs.

I come from a family that didn’t really discuss sex. If I asked any questions, I was given a fair and honest answer, but mostly I would have been too mortified to raise such a topic of conversation as a teenager. I left the room when Bodyform ads came on. I was that teenager. But I still knew it was important to find out the basics by whatever means.

Surely, it is time to make sure that all children at least understand the basics of sex and reproduction, no matter how cringe-worthy it is for us olds?

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