Ian O'Doherty

Wednesday 20 August 2014

'X Factor'? It brings tears to my eyes as well

Published 10/10/2013 | 04:00

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Melanie McCabe, the Irish ex-'X Factor' hopeful
Top of the league: Tommy Robinson, defected leader of the EDL

The increasingly deranged and manipulative twists played on contestants in The X Factor has come under fire recently, and Dr Rick Norris, author of Think Yourself Happy, has criticised the emphasis on blubbing and says: "It seems as though we're becoming obsessed with a sob story rather than someone's genuine talents and passion to become a singer.

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This is why TV producers keep upping the ante and adding these cruel twists to their shows. Television programme makers are placing an emphasis on getting high viewing figures."

And in fact it is you, the viewer, who is to blame because: "After a while you are less likely to sympathise with them because you've heard so many. This is why producers have to add so many twists."

Have we all become so cold and pitiless that watching young people being emotionally eviscerated at tea time is the only way we can get our kicks? Have we, as one, become a giant, amorphous sob-monster that can only be satiated by feeding off the distress of young people?

Well, everyone needs a little fun in their lives.

But the well meaning shrinks may be missing a rather crucial point. Because for some viewers, it's not about wallowing in misery, it's more about laughing their asses off at the ridiculous tales of woe that invite derision rather than sympathy. And that is entirely understandable.

In fact, the only rational reaction to such solipsistic snivelling is to snort with laughter at the increasingly cynical contestants and their feeble attempts at emotional manipulation.

But there is a more culturally pertinent point at play than some idiot tearfully dedicating their song to the painful memory of that day last week when the weather was bad, or whatever giblet of trauma they want to use.

This week, for example, this newspaper is bringing some much-needed attention to people's mental and emotional health. So it's as good a time as any to be mindful of the fact that the ability to express your emotions is crucial to maintaining your mental equilibrium. But emotional incontinence is hardly the way to go about it.

And whatever about the hysterics of the female contestants – teenage girls remain a species far beyond the ken of any man, and let's be honest they're barely comprehensible when they're talking, let alone crying – there is something truly terrifying about looking at a bunch of healthy men sobbing like big girls' blouses over something as inconsequential as a karaoke contest.

In fact, you'd have to feel sorry for the parents who are reduced to watching their once-strapping lad turning into a heaving, sobbing caricature, drenching their surroundings with snot as they inform everyone that: "Since I saw the ad for this audition last week, it has been my life-long dream to enter."

I can pretty confidently assert that I used to be a teenage boy – most men were, if you dig back far enough into their life story – and blokes just don't behave like that. Do they?

The seemingly never-ending story of Melanie McCabe is bad enough. She has developed a meta career which sees her turn up each year and sob that this is her last chance. Again...

But the sight of a teenage lad bursting into tears before he sings, while he sings and after he sings, before committing the ultimate sin and actually begging to be kept on the show, is surely as good an argument for the fortifying power of growing some balls as you could imagine.

Some people might claim that just means all these kids are in touch with their emotions. But it actually demonstrates the complete abandonment of any emotional fortitude, something that is vital in a world as cutthroat as showbiz.

So, being a typical Ivory Tower, sanctimonious columnist I can point out the problem without offering an alternative, right? Wrong.

Here's my genius idea – why don't the producers take a leaf from Arabia's Got Talent, which hit the fan this week when a contestant appeared and promptly bit the head off a living snake before skinning it with his teeth?

Or, failing that, one of the judges could simply say: "Stop crying. You've failed an audition. Get over it."

Yes Louis – that means you.

MAYBE HE COULD HAVE PUT IT ANOTHER WAY?

All sorts of rumours are doing the rounds to explain his decision, but he is resolute that he hasn't come under sinister pressure and is just worried that his followers are starting to behave like nutters.

Nobody will argue with that. The problem with Robinson was that he took perfectly legitimate concerns and made them so toxic that real debate was strangled.

He was joined at the press conference by Quilliam's founder, Maajid Nawaz, who boasted: "'What is commonly perceived as the UK's largest anti-Muslim street movement – the EDL – is being decapitated."

Really, Maajid? Decapitated?

Whoops.

HOW WOULD THEY GET IT ON?

The San Francisco SPCA has come under fire after they launched a fake website offering to sell condoms for pets.

When potential customers clicked on the link they were instead directed to a site which encourages owners to spay or neuter their pet.

It's a clever gimmick and one that raises an important point, but one terrifying question remains – who on earth thought it would be a good idea to buy a box of johnnies for their dog?

I mean... the practicalities.

Ugh.

Irish Independent

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