Let’s look at the X Factor ‘talent’ show, but we could equally be looking at any or all similar talent shows, even those not owned by Simon Cowell (assuming there are some).
Now, the keyword here is ‘talent’.
The show is looking for somebody who displays the most ‘talent’.
In the case of the X Factor, this means the person who can sing the best. Maybe not just sing, but present a consistent pleasing package of singing and stage presence – an entertainer. It’s about finding somebody who will be able to sell records and chart.
The X Factor (the ‘live’ stage shows, not the pre-recorded initial auditions which are more designed to serve those who enjoy freak shows and outright cruelty) start off with 16 contestants and by eliminating the one with the least votes each week, tediously whittles this down to just one eventual winner 3 long months later.
The viewing public provide the votes. They vote for their favourite each week.
But what are the public actually voting for?
Are they voting for the act showing the most consistency or vocal talent? It seems not. They are openly encouraged to ignore those qualities.
Less in the most recent series, but there was a time when the most important part of the X Factor was the ‘talent’ back-stories. You know the sobbing ones – usually their mother had a wooden leg or their wife had been tragically eaten by bears, or they needed to become famous so the money they’d make would pay for a heart and lung transplant. The tragic back stories were more important than the ability to perform.
Immediately this would give those who had the right type of back-story an advantage over those who didn’t. Suddenly an act’s vocal talent was unimportant compared to how sad their life was. They would get the sympathy vote. Literally.
One of this year’s hotly favoured contestants, Marcus Collins, supposedly comes from ‘Liverpool’. The regional paper of course bigs him up, as do posters displayed in shops, just as last year it bigged up Rebecca Ferguson (who? – Yep, how quickly we all forget!) and encourages locals to vote for Collins because he’s ‘from’ Liverpool (Actually, he’s not ‘from’ Liverpool at all. He’s from an area outside and to the north of Liverpool in a totally different Borough, but annoyingly everybody within 20 miles of Liverpool likes to pretend they are ‘from’ Liverpool).
Last year Rebecca Ferguson was definitely from Liverpool. And every week the X Factor judges made comments about the fact that she was from Liverpool. (Incidentally, they had to wait until this year’s X Factor before they could release the first song from Rebecca Ferguson on the back of it, such is her ‘talent’ compared to the tedious fact that she’s from Liverpool.)
Again, can this be right? Surely viewers of the show should be voting for the best singer. Nope, people from Liverpool, it seems, voted for the act from Liverpool regardless of how much better the other acts were. This year they are doing the same. This year, people from Liverpool (with the possible exception of those who hate gay hairdressers) are voting for Marcus Collins and are successfully keeping him in the top ratings and up to the winning four or five.
Are they voting for him because he’s good? Are they voting for him because of how some songs he sings remind him of dead people and he can turn on the waterworks? Are they voting for him because he’s ‘from’ Liverpool?
Voting for somebody for reasons other than their actual talent has got to be very wrong, surely? It’s a bloody talent show, for goodness sake!
Indeed, if people were encouraged to vote for acts because they are Black or they are White or they are Asian, we would soon see screams in the media and there would be questions in the House about outright racism.
But surely even encouraging people to vote for an act because of the geographical area he or she comes from is in itself exactly the same thing. It is extremely discriminatory and it is deflecting from any concern about the contestant’s ability to sing.
It also continues to divide the country based not on ability or talent but on where a person comes from.
That’s got to be wrong.