Christ on a bike with stabilisers, Big Brother is an infuriating beast. Of course, it's crass, manipulative prolefeed of the most heinous variety. This gives some supposedly educated people the excuse to watch it. They argue that, if you consume it in an [INSERT AIR QUOTES HERE] ironic manner, then that's somehow subverting the whole premise of the show. Except that, when the Endemol and C4 money men tot up the viewing figures and the phone-vote revenue, they don't actually set a portion aside and say "that pile's ironic, it doesn't count." Whether your frame of reference is Barthes' Mythologies or Heat magazine, if you watch it, you're part of the problem, you witless sucker. And I bet you thought Nathan Barley was sooo funny, didn't you?
Out here in the (other) City of Angels, I can avoid the BB-related water-cooler white noise, but I still get splashed with digital sewage as the virtual juggernaut trundles past. Those nice people at Amazon actually took the trouble to send an e-mail advising me that Jade Goody has [MORE AQ, PLEASE] written an autobiography.
Now, this is where it gets difficult. Jade Goody is, in theory, a classic example of all that is foul about the BB phenomenon. For weeks, the viewing public laughed at her drunkenness, her ugliness and, above all, her grotesque ignorance. How could the nasty producers set her up like this, we asked. It had all the elements of a Victorian freakshow, but with 24-hour night vision and the occasional blowjob. But then she staggered out of the house in her dinner-lady-at-the-disco frock and pulled off a stunt that no contestant before or after has managed; she exceeded her Warhol-sanctioned 900 seconds. (Well, maybe Chantelle will join her - but remember, she was a celebrity already. Sort of.)
So, in a chinny-strokey cult studs way, Jade deserves to be taken [LAST TIME, HONEST] seriously, kinda. Like Thatcher and Murdoch, she has forced the cultural cognoscenti into a position of defensive, grudging respect. Here, a Guardian hack attempts to get to the bottom of the Jade phenomenon:
"Is she thick or just pretending? 'I'm not pretending to be thick. A lot of English people will pretend that they know something when they don't. I'm not like that. My mum always said, "If you don't ask you'll never find out." It's like I didn't know what an asparagus was so I asked. Now I do and I eat it.' Is she strategically deploying her ignorance? 'Don't know what that means,' she says with trademark honesty."
Well, honesty is a good thing, isn't it, even if somebody is cynical enough to make it into a trademark? But here's the problem. If Jade is authentically moronic, then someone must be running her, which conjures up the image of Max Clifford hanging round special schools. And if she's entirely her own woman, and the 'Jade' that seeps into our collective awareness is entirely her own construct, then she can't be as stupid as the wall-to-wall coverage makes out.
But running with the 'honesty' meme, if she's playing (wittingly or otherwise) with concepts such as 'honesty' and 'authenticity' and 'reality', then why does she pretend to have written a book? Surely that's the prerogative of dumb celebs who make a virtue of their fakeness, like Posh Spice and Naomi Campbell? Maybe she'll just come up with the line that she doesn't know what 'autobiography' means, like 'asparagus' and 'ferrets'. Of course, I might be doing her a disservice; she can sometimes come up with profound meditations on the whole crazy notion of branded identity that would have Naomi Klein spitting with jealousy. Here's a gem from the launch of her perfume, Just Jade, at the Dorchester last week:
"People think they'll smell like Jade Goody. But you're not having my BO or my foot smell or anything like that. You're not actually going to smell like me. There's no parts of me in it."
Now that's not even on the verge of parody. It stares parody down, asking if it wants some. Or so we think; until we come face to face with Ms Goody's core market. And then we find parody being stomped underfoot and toe-poked into a parallel universe where questions of Jade being authentically stupid are irrelevant, because here, Jade is simply not stupid, at least in relative terms. On Amazon again, this is Mrs. L. Turford on the subject of the aforementioned Jade: My Autobiography, which is, like, the autobiography of Jade, by Jade, the one off of Big Brother:
"Bought this book on the release date. I though the Jordan book was good but this is a million times better. Its an easy read, just the type of book to chill out with on the beach. What can I say.... well done Jade! I just couldn't put it down. Also, my husband has started to read it and hes a Dan Brown fan!!!"
Well done, indeed, Jade. I think I'll buy some of your perfume now.