When Two Tribes Go to War

Well on rumbles the X Factor juggernaut. I originally intended to write this at the very start of the series, but time makes fools of us all….

You sit and watch the X Factor in a manner of disbelief (or at least I do). You wonder what the hell is going on, why hundreds of people devote to it, why thousands of people audition for it and, more importantly, why millions of people watch it.

First, track back to the start. When the show kicked off, it had tweaked the format ever so slightly to include auditions in front of the judges in a hall, not just in a stuffy conference room of a decidedly cheap hotel room. This revolutionised the way that bad singers were told they were bad, this time the acoustics were brilliant!

Once the wheat had been cut from the chafe….and oh what a lot of chafe there was, it was time for BOOTCAMP, which sounds like a high-pressure, intense-training atmosphere designed to force the hopefuls into a strict disciplinary regime with hard physical exercise and in the end they will be totally acquiescent and can join Cowell’s New World Order. Turns out it’s just a nice trip to Dubai and some song coaching from the judges, not exactly Gitmo.

Oh aren’t they hilarious! Ho ho ho!

These boot camp shows however reveal, for the first time, the truely worrying nature behind this show. The way it takes itself SO seriously. In these episodes we start to learn more about the contestants and hear their back stories (which are almost always ‘sad’, it just helps you to connect with them better, yeh?) as we lurch through the episode to the conclusions were we learn who will be going to the big, whizzy live finals.

The fact that they all have a sob story to help you connect is a real emotional misnomer with the rest of the show. The whole idea of X Factor, the reason people watch it, is to build people up, point at them and laugh at their failures in the auditions, to put them on pedestals only to knock them off as we shout and scream like the mob at a lynching. Its good, clean Gladiatorial family fun on a Saturday night. But these shows seem to be tugging on our heartstrings, like a teenage boy watching the 10 minute preview on the higher numbered Sky channels. Every single act that we see auditioning for the judge in their house, will also have a 10 minute segment either looking at the pool or staring out to sea or staring up their own arses all while ‘Clubbed to Death’ or ‘Requiem for a Tower’ pound over the top (2 of the most over-used ‘epic’ tracks around….I’m waiting until they discover Phillip Glass). During these we are treated to talking heads of the performing seals explaining that they would love to win because their wife died in a freak singing accident and it’s what she would have wanted, or that their granny’s dying wish was for them to sell 2 million singles and have a Christmas Number One and have bitches and hoes and ice and bling swilling around their crass house as they fill their vapid lives with groupies and booze. But then Granny was a bit odd.

This emotional broadcasting is designed to inspire us with a connection to the poor souls and to ‘pick a side’; to draw up battle lines with the world and divide up into camps. But it’s all a bit like falling in love with the lobsters in the restaurant, sure they look nice and have character, ambling round their tank but ultimately are be doomed.

And finally we come to the big show, the 3 ringed circus of the live shows! Woo!

This is where the X Factor takes on a whole new realm of gitishness. The screaming fans, the placards proclaiming love for Simon, or the wish to bang Cheryl (frankly, why this needs writing down is beyond me, it’s just a given) and the lights, oh the lights! It’s all part of the ridiculous show where the acts battle their way towards the prize, the year-long recording contract with Lord Cowell.

All this ranting leads me to my point. When I watch the show and see the contestants, I feel hatred or love or indigestion towards them. I yell at the screen when the wrong one walks. I laugh when a bum note is hit. I am enthralled. And I hate it.

You can be a cynic, you can pick apart the way they do things and bemoan them but at the end of the day you are drawn in. You believe in it and you have your sides and you fight for the winner with your friends, family, press and the public.

The producers have done such a good job that they could screen Sushi Factor, where idiots can ring in and vote for Nigirizushi or bellow at the screen when the Sake is served too hot.

And you know what? I bloody would do


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