(Sarah Lyall, NY Times, Feb 19 2009)
Crude-talking, hard-drinking, overweight, barely educated, in debt, the child of drug addicts, she appeared on the reality show “Big Brother” in 2002 as a kind of token lowlife.
This is reality television carried out to its most extreme, grotesque conclusion, one not even envisioned in the film “The Truman Show” all those years ago. The question of why, exactly, the story is so compelling — how to negotiate the line between poignant and voyeuristic, whether newspapers are exploiting Ms. Goody or she is exploiting them — has twisted the media into knots, even as they provide daily updates on Ms. Goody’s deteriorating condition and state of mind.
I'm really disturbed by this whole story, for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that my first reaction was amazement- that people in the UK still care about their Big Brother houseguests after they've been evicted. Most people in the US don't even care about them when they're in the house. The level of celebrity associated with BBUK fascinates me, and it makes me sad the US version doesn't share it even as I completely understand why.
to some extent, she only exists now in front of the cameras is exactly the kind of statement that could be an entire essay on its own. And while I haven't actually seen BBUK enough to really judge, I'd still love to see someone use Laura Mulvey to dissect some of this. Even the article about Jade Goody being dehumanized by the media is dehumanizing her. That's an impressive level of fail, or possibly an impressive level of self-awareness. It bothers me that I'm not sure which.
Lastly, they need to specify that they don't intend to broadcast her death. I'm not sure what that's saying about viewers, or about the media. (Side note: why is "the media" some type of giant Orwellian figure here? The very fact that it's the New York Times commenting on British reality television should lay to rest the idea of a single "the media" on some level, no?)
I know that I need to be looking at death as related to reality TV, given the context of Hunger Games, but frankly, this coverage is disquieting in a way that is wholly different from what I'd be looking at with that novel. And if I'm being honest, I find this coverage more disturbing than the book's. At least there no one's pretending they're not being exploitative.