21 Aug 2010
Guilt Schmilt | The X Factor And The Barlow
A statement regularly met with surprise, disdain and mildly withering stares. The kind of glance one doles out to over-confident teenagers waxing lyrical on the meaning of life. Should the listening party be so obtuse, a snort or condescending bark might also make an appearance. Perhaps it is simply that one would not expect someone like myself to regard this kind of programming as anything other than brainless tripe: on any given day I can be found vehemently expounding on the general vomitous nature of series’ like Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity, Someone Do Us All A Favour and Drop an H Bomb. I am a bit of a music nerd (by no means possessing an encyclopedic knowledge, but nonetheless am endlessly enthusiastic and eager) with a penchant for the lo-fi/underground musical spectrum. On the whole, chart fare goes a long way to making me want to remove my own eyeballs with a rusty, blood-spattered spectrum simply as a means of distraction (there are exceptions to this rule, more of which will be covered at a later date).
Guilt? Cripes no! I revel in my X Factor love. I say it loud, I say it proud. I have detailed conversations with friends and family during (Twitter) and after (phone) each episode. If I am forced to miss an instalment, I make sure I am free for the repeat: either at 1am on Saturday morning, armed with a ‘bab and a can, or simply the next morning – a most soothing way to cure a hangover. Yet sadly minus the ‘bab.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not extolling the virtues of X Factor, nor am I pronouncing it high-brow. I *know* it is the entertainment equivalent of McDonald’s. It is dirty and sinful and firmly places bucks in the hands of Satan’s corporate babies. It is the lowest common denominator, possesses very little nutritional value and the hype oft seems to outweigh the actual experience. But you know what else it is? Highly enjoyable. It is sluttishly good television: a genuine indulgence. Largely comedic, occasionally impressive, peppered with the odd moment of pathos, all accompanied by a soundtrack of Journey, Blondie, and ABBA. Is it cringe inducing? Absolutely. A little cruel in the way it gently mocks some entrants? Perhaps. Tacky, gaudy, and everything that is wrong with the music industry? Some might say. Does that make it any less awesome? Absolutely not.
Let’s take a closer look:
It is as camp as Christmas (I’ve never really understood this saying. Like ‘teach your Grandmother to suck eggs’. What??):
Gloriously OTT, The X Factor is unashamedly bold as brass. If you distilled the very essence of Pat Butcher, Bet Lynch and every Eurovision entrant since the dawn of time, carefully moulded it into a televisual format, sealing the cracks with glitter glue, and buffing it to a sheen with a lotion made of The Nolan sister’s tears on a cloth made of Dolly Parton‘s hair, it would look a little something like this. Us Brits, we love a bit of gaudy theatre. It may as well be monikered ’Carry On: The Musical’.
The Judges: Love or Hate?
Occasionally, it produces some actual talent:
Ok ok, so for every good’un, there are a squillion monsters, and the incessant heart-string twanging becomes tired *very* swiftly:
“I decided to enter because, like, my neighbaah who lived like 10 doors daan, got like cancer, and I fort, like, I jus owe it to maiself to go for it. I mean, alriiight, it wasn’t actually cancer or nuffink, it was more liike, an ingrowing toenail, but it touched us all so much and *sniffle* Shanice, this ones for you”. So far, so snore.
When I asked my sister to provide me with a supporting quote, she replied:
“Because it just rules all. More eloquent than that?”
No Big Barlow, I think that sums it up quite nicely.