The 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.
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.