Last night I had the misfortune to catch a few minutes of the X-Factor on TV. Now autumn is coming on, Mrs Crox, Crox Minor and Crox Minima (not to mention Canis croxorum, Felis croxorum, Feliculus croxorum and, I dare say, Serpens croxorum) are glued to this proletarian tripe for several hours each and every Saturday evening. I can sometimes avoid it by going to the pub; having a long, leisurely bath while reading BBC Focus; or shutting myself in my shed listening to my tapes of week-old kittens being impaled on red-hot skewers.
Yesterday, however, I was constrained to watch some of it, and the segment I watched consisted of some teenage soulstress (whose singing was, I must admit, terrific) being asked why she wanted to compete. Because, she said, it was her ‘dream’ to alleviate the plight of her several siblings and mother cooped up in a council house. Every utterance was intercut with shots of said siblings in tears, and the howls and whoops of the dreadful plebeian audience.
Why couldn’t we have a contestant who said that they had a comfortable, middle-class upbringing in (oh, I don’t know) Godalming, with both parents in attendance, and who got good marks in their exams – and who was quite open and unashamed about these facts – and wanted to compete simply because they wished to be judged on pure talent, irrespective of anything else?
Why not? Panem et circenses, that’s why not. The X-Factor (with its premium-rate phone-lines), is like the National Lottery – it is a tax on the mawkish sentimentality of the poor and deluded for whom such things as education and advancement are neither here nor there, and whose idea of betterment is to get rich quick. But as all true pop-stars know, and what all conscientious, middle-class taxpayers realize, there is no such thing as an overnight sensation that doesn’t have many years of hard work and dedication behind it.