“I’ve lived in front of the cameras, and maybe I’ll die in front of them,” said Jade Goody bluntly to News of the World. And why not? She’s set to earn £1.4 million from the sprawling media circus on her fight with terminal colon cancer. The bloated press has avariciously tracked our first reality TV baby since her birth, and they can’t seem to have enough of her death. So let them gorge on it; at least her kids can get what she never had: a proper education.
While Max Clifford caringly advises his golden PR ticket that “enough is enough,” Jade is shouting “show me the fuckin’ money.” Alright then, at least in this market there seems to be plenty to go around. It’s all about the money and it always has been. Although the ‘Jade Goody’ effect has apparently caused a rise in requests for smear tests, and calls to Macmillan Cancer Support help lines increased by 50% on the Monday after her wedding, for Jade and the media this is all just a useful by-product of an addiction to sensationalism and death fetishism.
It’s nothing new. John Diamond and Ruth Picardie wrote poignant newspaper columns about their ordeal with cancer to a middle class readership. Jade Goody obviously can’t write about her ordeal, she is a self-professed ignoramus. So she’s doing it through the only available medium, a medium that has abused, berated and made her. But more importantly, through her choice to be a sordid spectacle she is reaching a completely different audience.
Chavs are not going to read a cancer memoir by Joni Rodgers. They are going to read Heat. And amongst the most recent celebs that are suffering from anorexia or obesity is Jade Goody’s bald, contorted face in a state of crippling despair or marital elation. It may be morbid and grotesque entertainment, but it’s an enduring image. Maybe after seeing it they’ll consider checking for lumps, or having a smear test, or not having sex before 15. Maybe like her at their age, they won’t learn a thing.
According to the death fanatic Edgar Allen Poe, “The play is the tragedy “Man,” And its hero the conqueror, Worm”. Jade’s sadistic mutualism with the media has a sense of tragedy to it, but ironically, its final chapter has redeemed her. Her impending death has given her the respect she never had in one of her seven years under the tabloids scalpel. The media reflects and affects its culture; Jade Goody’s public fight with cancer has showed us a frightening reflection of the extents of our obsessive voyeurism.
She has inadvertently taught us something. Who would have thought?