Thursday 18 January 2018

A headline a day keeps 'X Factor' rivals at bay

It's back, this time with alleged death threats. Eilis O'Hanlon reports on the ongoing saga that is the 'X Factor'

Can the X Factor get any bigger without collapsing under the weight of its own hype?

Last year was mad enough, as Jedward divided the audience and sent the tabloids into warp drive, garnering the sort of hateful headlines along the way normally reserved for serial killers and Latin American dictators. But at least the X Factor waited until the live shows had started before taking over the world.

This year, the craziness started before the audition stages had even been broadcast, what with Danni's baby and Ginger Spice getting booed and Cheryl's malaria, through all the subsequent allegations of mental instability and prostitution against some contestants, to the current ninth circle of celebrity Hell where the former Mrs Ashley Cole is allegedly receiving death threats for not picking Zimbabwe-born Gamu Nhengu as one of her three girl singers to go through to the public vote.

Stick-thin, big-haired, trembling Cher, and Katie of the Zeigfield Follies-style eyelashes and "cutesy" (ie, nausea-inducing) parasol wouldn't have been my choice either, but death threats? Opportunity Knocks never had this problem. Hughie Green didn't need armed guards to protect him from a general public outraged because Pam Ayres and Lena Zavaroni wouldn't be back again next week.

Of course, this could all be part of Simon Cowell's master plan for world domination. A headline a day keeps the rivals away, and all that. It's surely no coincidence that every time there's the slightest chance that hysteria might be flagging, another controversy conveniently comes along to stoke up the X Factor fire. Usually it's just rumours of backstage rivalry between the female judges over who gets more attention from the camera, or tensions between Simon and his disgruntled acts. Nothing guarantees a ready-made drama more than the threat of a walkout. This time they've simply added the possibility of one of the judges being topped by an obsessive nutter into the mix.

Even the UK Home Office did its bit by choosing last week to threaten Gamu and her mother with deportation for outstaying their visa. Is the British government on the Cowell PR payroll too?

Happily, Gamu's safe for now. The deportation order will not be imposed while Zimbabwe remains politically unstable, so there's less chance of her being filmed as she's dragged kicking and screaming on to a plane at Heathrow than there is of anyone remembering who the hell

Diva Fever are this time next year. But no matter. The rumours played their part in the ongoing epic saga which is the X Factor.

It's hard to know if the threat which was allegedly directed at Cheryl Cole was a genuine cause for concern, or merely part of the overheated chatter which passes for rational debate online daily, where promises of violence are two a penny against anyone who disagrees with some blogger's personal agenda.

The Sun managed to track down the man responsible, and it turned out that he'd simply sent the offending, and actually quite vague, message to 89 people on his BlackBerry. If the police ever saw the texts I send on my mobile, they'd lock me up. What you say to your friends in private isn't necessarily meant to be taken seriously. But what was interesting was the culprit's stated reason for stirring up this cauldron of disaffection, which is that, by omitting Gamu from her chosen trinity of hopefuls, Cheryl was being "racist".

It's a charge that could hardly stick. After all, she was married to Chelsea and England footballer Ashley, and that surely has to supersede all that bother from the days when she was known simply as Cheryl Tweedy, when her most famous interaction with what Americans might call a "person of colour" was that notorious incident in a Guildford nightclub which saw her charged with racially aggravated assault against a black female toilet attendant.

The singer was found guilty of assault, though cleared of using the unpleasant racist language which was reported at the time, but was lucky that mud didn't stick and her X Factor appearances made her the nation's sweetheart.

Then came Gamu . . .

You can't help wondering, though, what the haters really want. For Cheryl to show favouritism to all black contestants in future for fear of being accused again of racism? It's nonsense to suggest that saying no to a black singer is racist in and of itself, unless you've already made a judgment that the person saying no has a problem with the colour of other people's skin. It's not an accusation Cheryl Cole could ever answer either, except by making her choices on a quota system. One white, one black, one Asian -- there, all the boxes are ticked. Yes, we know it's supposed to be a singing competition, but music must take second place to social engineering.

Not only is this unfair on Cheryl, it's not fair on Gamu either, since it's now become impossible to say yes to her in future without being seen to be kowtowing to whispered threats. Most unsuccessful contestants can return for another spin of the wheel, like Treyc Cohen. Simon Cowell relishes such stories of triumph against the odds as much as the next vaudevillian. But if they see Gamu at next year's auditions, the producers of the X Factor are more likely to see a walking problem than a performer.

As for Cher and Katie, they're now also being targeted on social networking sites by fans urging each other not to vote for the two girls in protest at them making the cut over other contestants deemed more worthy. The logic seems to be that the only way to combat perceived unfairness is to single out other people in similar acts of unfairness. That's the law of the playground.

Why not just judge them, now they've made the live shows, on their performances each week? Or have the fans forgotten already how much they hated Jedward at first and how much they've since succumbed to the eccentric charm of the twins?

Short memories make for bad decisions.

Sunday Independent

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