Are we tiring of celebrity culture?
It’s that time of year again – The X Factor starts this weekend and the countdown to Christmas begins. But is it really still ‘TV gold’, or are we a bit bored of celebrity life and knowing just a bit too much about the people behind the shows?
Following the massive success of the 2012 Olympics, much has been spoken about our wonderful new role models and athletes. Has the time come where we have moved on from idolising judges on TV talent panels and caring about what they are wearing, who they are going out with and if they get on with each other? Or do we prefer to watch something a little less contrived with real people who focus purely on their talent?
ABC and viewing figures – what’s the truth?
According to circulation figures released yesterday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), weekly celebrity magazines including Star, Reveal and OK! revealed a steep decline in circulation figures with readers not “just after celebs – they want fashion or real life as well”.Read more about the magazine ABCs here.
This year’s Celebrity Big Brother 2012 summer series launched with 2.7m viewers, averaging a 12.9 per cent audience share on Channel 5. This was double the network’s 9pm ratings in the past three months – so now I’m confused – do we want to hear about celebrities, or don’t we?
Is it that we haven’t got time to read about them or we don’t have enough money to buy the magazines? Perhaps we are all staying in to save money and TV is the best way of getting our celebrity fix. Not to mention that many of us have downloaded free magazine apps that offer constantly updated celebrity news, day or night, with less need to go out and buy a magazine.
The UK’s role models
X Factor hopefuls have a lot to live up to this year; we’ve seen the BBC show The Voice, which championed strong singers without all the sob stories (although to be fair these still managed to slip out during the live rounds).
I’m not saying that the singers who appear on The X Factor haven’t worked as hard as athletes all their life and don’t deserve a slice of their success – but you can’t really compare the dedication of Frankie Cocozza who made it to the live shows to that of Greg Rutherford, our long jump gold medallist. In reality, there are few singers who manage to be a successful without the baggage of their personal lives being splattered across the papers.
The X Factor, love it or hate it, makes for compulsive viewing. Here is a platform where it is quite acceptable to be rude and make a mockery of people for their lack of talent or their personality. This isn’t the way most of us like to behave in real life of course, but for one night only it’s apparently okay for us to all laugh and ridicule all the people who think they sound good, but quite blatantly don’t.
This year’s X Factor judging panel
As for the panel zzzzzzzz, boring, and I think I speak for many. Louis Walsh – yes, he is still there 10 years on. The lovable Irish judge, but is there really anything more he can say that he hasn’t already? Will he ever get to manage the girl singers, or is he destined for the groups again?
Tulisa – she is someone we like, but we don’t necessarily love, and definitely not in the same way as our Geordie pet Cheryl. Then there’s the new Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger. Many of us have seen her in this role before on The X Factor USA and she did it well; likeable, attractive and actually has a good singing voice. But how long will it be before reports of her not getting on with Tulisa? Oh wait; there’s already been one…
I really feel for Gary Barlow who has had the worst possible time recently after the tragic passing of his newborn baby girl. He will still have to sit behind that desk and be witty, articulate and friendly, when TV viewers may have the sense that he wishes he was anywhere but there, getting on with life, while things around him have crumbled.
I know I felt sad watching the brave and dignified Amanda Holden returning to Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) not long after she lost her baby son late into pregnancy. The tragedy she’d gone through was there for everyone to see when shots showed her clearly pregnant in the early pre-recorded auditions and then just weeks later in the live shows we see her sitting behind the judging desk with no bump and no baby.
We can’t pretend these things don’t happen to people in the public eye, but for many people programmes like the X Factor and BGT are mainly enjoyable because they sit in the fantasy world bracket of television entertainment.
Behind the headlines
Is the line between reality and celebrity life getting a bit too blurred and do we know too much about the people behind the programme? Perhaps more specifically I’m referring to Tulisa’s rather unfortunate private-turned-public home video, which was blasted all over the internet – I’m sure many viewers will struggle to get that image out of their minds!
Perhaps as viewers we expect too much, and without all the personal tragedies, background stories and bickering between judges, the show would be less appealing. Viewers criticised The Voice because the judges were ‘boring’ and ‘too nice’, but at the end of the day we applauded it for showcasing better singing talent.
After all of the Olympic role models we may have higher expectations of more talent and better behaviour from the singers and judges on the 10th series of The X Factor – but would we still love the format as much?
Julia Faulks is a freelance journalist and content editor.