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The C Word

By:Mark Chatterton
Date: Tue,31 Mar 2009
Submitter:Mark Chatterton
Views:12199

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Unless you live outside of Britain, you won’t have escaped the immense amount of media coverage on the death of Jade Goody, in the past few weeks. She died last week of cervical cancer after being diagnosed with the illness just a few months ago. Rather than choose to remain in private with her illness, she decided to “go public” with her last few weeks alive and as a result, her passing was the main news story both on the TV and in the tabloid newspapers the day she died.

Whether you think this should have happened or not in the first place is up to you, but many would argue that as a result of her actions, many young women have come forward for cancer screening – and in a roundabout way, her actions have helped save some lives. The interesting thing about Jade Goody was that just a few years ago, she was working as a dental nurse in London and it was only through her appearance on Big Brother that she shot to fame, causing her to become one of the new types of “celebrity”.

Thirty or so years ago the notion of celebrity was much different than it is now. You were either famous or you weren’t famous. You became famous because you had done something worthwhile or positive; something which had enhanced many people’s lives. It might be because you were a politician, a film star or pop star, or the best in a particular sport.

The media praised you for your efforts and you were allowed to have a private life – provided you behaved. Nowadays it seems that anyone can become famous, or should I say a “celebrity” for just appearing on a TV reality show. As soon as you come into the living rooms of millions of people watching the TV, you instantly become a “celebrity”. It doesn’t matter what you have done to “earn” this celebrity status – your past and social background are irrelevant – just being on a TV show is all that you need.

Some might argue that this situation has arisen thanks to the media, choosing to write about a certain celebrity in their newspapers or magazines – of which there has been an “explosion” of celebrity/gossip type publications in the past ten years. Privacy has gone out of the window. If you are a celebrity, you can be photographed by a paparazzi photographer, having a coffee in a café, taking a dog for a walk, or merely walking down the street. You’re just doing mundane ordinary things, yet that seems to be important to many people – the people who buy these magazines. Yet who’s doing the exploiting here?

Is it the general public who choose to be interested in a celebrity’s private life? Is it the publishers who publish these magazines, knowing they will sell hundreds of thousands of copies because there is a thirsty, gullible public out there waiting to snatch up the latest “exclusive” photo of a certain celebrity? Or maybe it is the celebrity themselves who have “courted” the press in an effort to become famous?

It seems to me that many people have confused what is reality and what is fantasy in this world of instant celebrity. When you have tabloid newspapers putting a headline about a soap star on the front page and a story about starving children in Africa has been relegated to page two, then something is not right. Sure it is fine to have a hero in your life – someone you can look up to, someone who inspires you. It could be someone inspirational like Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Princess Diana or Ghandi. But it can just as easily be your own father or mother, a teacher or even a work colleague. It’s what they do that counts, rather than what they look like, or which TV programme they have been on.
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