SOMEHOW, and I’m not really sure how it happened, I have become caught up in the X Factor.
The Girl has insisted that we watch it and, although I see myself as more of a Strictly Come Dancing viewer, I have caved in without a fight. I am at that stage of motherhood when it’s important to treasure every minute I spend with my daughter before she finishes growing up and leaves home.
If she wants to wallow in the creation of yet more instant ‘celebrities’ then so be it.
I’m guessing that the X Factor is one of the hot topics around the water cooler in the sixth form centre and, as such, is a viewing essential.
When I was at school, we conducted a weekly post mortem on Top of the Pops. There was no BBC iPlayer and video recorders were simply a gleam in the eye of the Tomorrow’s World presenters, so we had to actually stay in to watch our favourite weekly airing of chart toppers. If you missed it because of a prior commitment – and it had to be something of MUCH greater importance (and I can’t think of many things that were) – then the following day you were a social pariah with nothing to say and no-one to talk to.
And it wasn’t just the music that hooked us in. Pan’s People, the lusciously nubile dance troupe with their outrageous costumes, represented the dreams and ambitions of every fashionable teenage girl back in the 1970s.
We wanted their clothes, their hairstyles and their toned bodies. They were so absolutely fabulous that we wanted to be them.
We’d spend first break on a Friday morning analysing their outfits and moves of the night before. They were so influential that when they wore hot pants for the first time, it sparked a rash of copy cat leg flashing at the Friday evening youth club disco 24 hours later.
Such is the power of television. It’s a power that 30 years on has been successfully harvested by the likes of Simon Cowell for vast financial gain. And there’s no doubt about it, the X Factor is a winning formula.
Although it almost pains me to say it, I’m quite enjoying the programme, but more for the shared experience than the actual content.
It’s a rich seam of material for mother/daughter bonding, allowing us to discuss virtually anything and everything, from the finer points of Cher Lloyd’s exceedingly thin eyebrows (also body) and Katie Waissel’s ludicrous eyelashes to the way such a programme can change lives, for better or worse.
When historians study the early 21st century they will, I’m certain, see reality programmes such as The X Factor as social barometers.
It is a product of our tacky times – dishing up other people’s hopes and dreams, then destroying them with lashings of public humiliation, all in the name of entertainment. It’s neither edifying nor educational but it’s highly addictive.
The programme is almost gladiatorial in the way it ruthlessly pits the contestants against each other while the virtual crowds jeer and bay for blood on Facebook and Twitter.
All Simon Cowell needs is a throne, laurel wreath and an opposable thumb in good working order and he’d be a Roman Emperor with the power of life and death: “Sorry Guys, but it’s the lion pit for you.”
Of course – and this is a topic I will raise as we get our X fix this weekend – the Roman civilisation finally fell into decadence and disrepair.
And we all know what happened to Julius Caesar.
Let’s enjoy it while we can.