Friday, February 20, 2009

A Reality Star is Dying

For those of you who know me or read my blog regularly know that I have been a reader of the London papers every day for over a decade. I'm sure it's a combination of my anglophilia and the sensationally trashy style of the rags in England, but I start each day with my daily dose of all things British.

One particular young woman is the perfect example of today's British culture and I've been reading about her exploits for years. Jade Goody is a self made reality star who got her start on the voyeur show Big Brother and became both reviled and beloved for her uneducated, endearing, funny and honest personality. She became a millionaire, released her autobiography, opened some hair salons and even sold her own perfume. She was a staple in the tabloids for her in-your-face lifestyle, her love life with a fellow reality star and then a boy toy convict and her constant run ins with people who either loved her or hated her. Oh and then there was her lesbian 1 armed mother who she often battled with and the death of her father by drug overdose in a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant bathroom.

A couple of years ago on another reality tv show Jade called a fellow contestant (an Indian actress) a racist term and became the most hated woman in Britain. The media circus was so extreme British politicians apologized to the Indian government and people for Jade's behavior. Jade flew to India last summer to try and make amends by appearing on the Indian version of Big Brother and while she was there, on live television she got a phone call that she had cancer. Jade Goody is a 27 year old mother of 2 young sons and she is dying.

In the months since her cervical cancer diagnosis Jade has been allowing a tv crew to film her journey as a cancer patient. Cameras have rolled while Jade had chemotherapy, while her hair fell out, when her boyfriend was released from jail, when she found out her cancer was terminal, her boyfriend's proposal and her wedding planning while she also plans her death.

So the woman who was created by reality television is going to marry her jailbird boy toy fiance Jack this weekend in a wedding dress donated by Harrods and filmed for tv, all in the hopes that the money she makes in her final weeks will ensure the future of her motherless children. The British people are fascinated with this beloved but equally despised woman and her decision to live and die through their newspapers and televisions.

The fact is Jade is the reality of reality television, she is the epitome of class division, a poor uneducated woman who has taken every advantage of society's obsession with watching and judging to create for herself a new reality. The sadness is that Jade Goody is dying as she front of the cameras and that keeps me up at night. I watch and read like every other fascinated observer to Jade's tragedy and I hope that the money she earns in her final days and the happiness she finds in her perfect wedding is enough as she kisses her children goodbye as the cancer claims her.

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