University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

On the Small Screen – The X Factor

The Badger

ByThe Badger

Oct 21, 2011

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The X Factor’: You either love it or hate it, but whatever your feelings towards it, there is no denying its popularity; you would be hard-pressed to find someone in the UK who had never heard of it.

Since its birth in 2004, it has achieved huge commercial success, attracting an average of 7.4m viewers in its first series, with this more than doubling by the seventh. The question, however, is not whether you like or hate it; the question is whether ‘The X Factor’ is, in fact, the dream machine it claims to be?

‘This is something I’ve wanted from as early as I can remember,’ current contestant Marcus Collins claims. Is this due to the fact that over the last decade this is the main dream that has been channeled into a surprisingly large majority of the public, who regularly watch television shows such as ‘The X Factor’?

Talent shows such as ‘The X Factor’ instills the belief in viewers that if you really want it, you too can make it; that ‘despite ordinariness, you too can be special, super, noticed, discovered, successful’.

However, it always helps that if, by the time you were 18, both your parents had died, you had briefly been homeless and then raised eight children single-handedly. After all, a good sob story means more votes, and more votes means more pennies into Simon Cowell’s pocket. In the words of Abba, this is what it all ultimately boils down to: ‘Money, Money, Money’.

The directors of the series curate the show especially in the interest of making larger profits which raises questions about the morality of the decisions that have to be made.

In order for contestants to have a chance of being put in front of the judges, they are put through a series of un-televised pre-auditions to filter out the mediocre lot, leaving the good, the bad and the ugly.

The untalented contestants draw in as many viewers as the talented and it is this contrast in performance which makes ‘good television’ – and, therefore, profit. These contestants hopes are raised despite being often unaware of their tone deaf performances. Once they get through to the televised auditions they are then laughed off stage whilst being told by the judges that their cat could sing better than you.

‘The X Factor’ chews up its contestants and spits them back out, all at the same time crushing their dreams, just to up its ratings. And it isn’t just the auditionees who are left in tatters. Yes, ‘The X Factor’ gives people their 15 minutes of fame, and occasionally produces a star, but who can honestly say they can remember who won the show four years ago? Well, I will tell you. It was Leon Jackson. Remember him? Me neither. Neither does Cowell’s aptly named label, Syco, it seems, who dropped him in 2009 along with other winners Steve Brookstein, Shayne Ward and Joe McElderry. When the going gets tough, Cowell simply isn’t interested.

However, Brookstein is still making an arguably successful career without Syco; he recently played a gig at a pub in Cornwall with a £2.50 entry fee that was waived if you got a pint and a pie meal deal. Just what dreams are made of.

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