You can tell it’s Autumn. The X Factor is on TV. Simon Cowell takes control of Saturday nights from now until 2013, it’s the law.
Using the pre-recorded highlights of auditions (although in reality not actually broadcasting much of the actual singing for some reason), the weekly show is at that early cruelty stage.
The X Factor cruelty stage involves putting people on in front of hundreds, maybe thousands of people forming the live audience so that they can be mocked and taken the piss out of.
Before anybody gets as far as singing in front of the judges and packed auditorium, they actually have to go through two, sometimes three other auditions.
The first audition takes about 30 seconds or so and is front of one of dozens of ‘researchers’ whose job it is to initially and quickly catalogue the auditionee on voice, style and how they will look on camera.
There are three main categories that an auditionee will fall in: outstanding, ok, or crap.
Most of the ‘ok’ ones get sent home. The outstanding and crap ones move to the next hurdle, which is to perform in front of the Producers. This time they get much longer than the initial 30 seconds, as well as told exactly what they will sing if they are lucky enough to be recalled to perform in front of the judges.
Of course, quick naturally, the ‘crap’ ones having got to this stage don’t know they are crap. If anything they think they must be good or even ‘outstanding’ to have been chosen to get this far. Lulled into this false sense of security, on go the crap ones in front of the judges, TV cameras and live audience.
The purpose of allowing them to sing really badly for a good few minutes before finally stopping them, is to ensure that the judges are able to pull all the right faces to the camera. After all, the show is about them, not about the contestants. The judges have to pretend they are shocked, in pain, or anything that’s completely uncomplimentary to the auditionee.
Seeing their faces on the monitors, the audience is always quick to join in with this modern day bullying for mass media entertainment.
It is at this point that for the very first time the auditionee actually realises that they are only there to be laughed at. The hopes and dreams that they are good enough to get somewhere in the competition rapidly fade as it dawns on them and any family, friends or supporters, that they are only there to be mocked.
As the judges deliver their crushing pre-written one-liners in front of the baying arena audience, the television audience gets to laugh and join in with this almighty bullying fest as they watch close-ups of the victim’s expressions as they try to understand what has just happened.
And, of course, they can always visit Youtube to play the clip of the victim over and over and over again forever.
The cruelty stage of X Factor finishes once the live knock-out competition finally starts. No longer are contestants put in front of the audience to be laughed at. Instead, this is the point at which the homogenisation begins.
Whatever unique individual charm the contestant had that made them appeal to audiences initially is slowly knocked out of them week after week until they are beaten into becoming not much more than a karaoke singer.
All contestants slowly morph into exactly the same as the weeks pass by. Those that fail to properly submit to the process and show any flair or individuality are told off and humiliated by the judges. This ensures that the next week they do as they are told or fear a further battering.
Week by week the good contestants are voted off until its only the mediocre that are left. Out of these, one is chosen as a winner. They are forced to sing a slow dreary ballard and release it as a song. It automatically gets to number one in the charts for Christmas, regardless of how awful it is as a song or how it doesn’t suit their voice or style.
One glimmer of hope is that less and less people are watching The X Factor year on year. The audience is disappearing. But why? Are people getting tired of being presented with a succession of victims and watching their hopes and dreams being shattered?
Whatever the reason, maybe The X Factor has finally lost its. Let’s hope so.