X Factor. The average, the bad, and the smarmy.

What's my back story?
What do you want it to be?
It’s no secret that reality television has become a mainstay of the industry over the past number of years. To say that some have been ridiculous is an understatement.
Think of The Swan, promoting all sorts of cosmetic surgery as the key to happiness. Or the wild Who’s Your Daddy?, where a daughter left up for adoption at birth has to bond with various men and decide which one is her birth father. More recently, Jersey Shore has caught the world’s attention with a strong focus on abs, tan and grinding.

Not to say that it is as controversial or as morally wrong as any of the above, but I have garnered a strong dislike for a certain reality show in recent times, and that show is The X-Factor. Recently adding a US branch to its UK foundations, the show has gotten more and more ridiculous and extortionate with time, and it really pushes my buttons.

So for those of you who are yet to be affected by its alluring powers, here’s what you can expect from The X-Factor.

The Judges -

The X-factor has four judges - along the same lines as American Idol - but has struggled in recent times to bring in respectable people to actually judge. The longest standing member of the UK judging panel is Louis Walsh, behind every UK boy band in the past two decades. Anything pompous, boring and borderline attractive to females under 15 is his forté, and anything cheesy will get his seal of approval. This approval is always in the form of repetitive comments, which often include “You’re a star in the making,” “The audience just loves you,” and, my personal favourite, “You have such likeability.” I’d honestly prefer a little more “You’ll be a hairdresser again in 3 months.”

Not only that but you have presenters who are all so MTV and hip to the groove that you just wish they would choke on their own skinny ties.

Back Story Over Talent -

So, how do you judge these contestants? Why, by their drug rehabilitation stories, of course. Or maybe the loss of their parents. Or their alcoholism and homelessness. Let’s substitute the overdramatic classic music with some light, weepy piano and watch as the ‘best singers’ in the world cry their way into our hearts. After all, how better to deal with the problems of narcotics or mental problems than to put them on national television and praise them for their unique voices?

Smarminess and pretension -

Worse than this is The X-Factor’s fundamental pretence of being a show to help people. The American Dream, if we still believe in that. We’re going to make you a star and give you a £1 million contract. Fantastic, but what happens to the other millions of contestants who sign their name and don’t quite get the contract?

The recruitment stages of the show are the most base of the lot. They have absolutely no shame in the blatant exploitation and ridicule of the contestants. These are naïve people, eager for a chance at stardom, or more often than not just love and attention. Not only do they suffer the humiliation of this ridicule by the judges and a television audience, their contract forces them to tour with the show, as the comedy section of the entertainment. So much for the American Dream.

The Dead-End Promises -

Ok, even if you do happen to progress in the competition, or even God forbid win the thing, still they’re only messing with you. 

Of the seven series completed, only one competition winner is actively in the charts any more. The rest make cameo performances here and there. But most likely outcome is the washed-up-before-I’ve-even-started role, where any chance of a singing career is impossible. 

More likely is the children’s television presenter and the Christmas pantomime performer, unless you’re willing to completely sell out and travel the never seen reaches of the UK, looking for another old man’s pub in which to be ignored.

But we begin with the deep announcer’s voice and O Fortuna, like our lives depended on it.

The Audience -

This is the most frustrating thing.

We lap it up.

All of the exploitation of emotion, all of the false hope regarding fame and importance, all of the dramatisation and the deceit.

But we are happy with it, because we have the power. All of the power clichés are true. We love it because we’re sure that we can make or break the futures of these people. We choose the star. We choose the success. 

And we can take it away just as quickly.

But after it all, once the season ends, all of these “stars” will disappear regardless. And what then?
Well, who cares? We’ve done our job. We’ve chosen our fifteen minute hero, and we’re all patting ourselves on the back for helping them, for making them what they are. Which, of course, they no longer are. They return to their job pumping gas with a nice story to tell.

But we’re happy. We go on with our lives.

In the end it’s not a singing competition. It’s a brash fanfare, it’s novelty, it’s kitsch. 

It’s a sober Las Vegas. 

It’s sob story mixed with circus freak.

And we love every second, then just change the channel.

Conor is an Irish writer based in Chicago, and when not striving for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, likes to relax in a good movie, book, or whiskey. His short term goal is to one day get around to finishing his own website - www.conorohagan.com.

1 comment:

  1. i think they're making a soap opera not reality tv


Respond? - it's a predominantly un-moderated forum - within reason BUT in order to avoid a lengthy moderation process a profile needs selecting.

Want to be anonymous? Just select 'Anonymous' from the 'Comment as' menu, and you'll be asked for nothing more.

Got a blog? Use the Name/Url function (or whatever rubs your backlinking Buddha).

Rant on people, rant on.

Hyper Smash