A generation of death fetishists

“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?


  1. I just cannot accept this at all. What kind of morbid sickness perpetuates a tragic illness this way? Why aren’t the true stories about this as popular as the false iconic status of someone who only had herself to blame? It truly does upset me that as a society it’s now acceptable to bleed a sad plight dry whether it’s for the money or a pat on the back for being Jade’s friend. My feelings have nothing to do with the sadness and heart felt sympathy I have for her illness. But there are thousands of people everyday who suffer. They receive no extra help, donations and they aren’t placed above others either. The thought of people putting Jade on the level of Diana, for eg, is disgusting. No matter what someone feels about Diana’s somewhat controversial life she deserved respect and compassion and her approach to others wasn’t vindictive and uncaring.

    Jade is now venting at people because of her “husbands” questionable motives. And she wants us to say “hey he’s a thug but it doesn’t matter”. Again she is using her situation to put Tweed in a better and light and that will never happen. We’ve had celebs like Winfrey and King “bidding” for interviews and now Michael Jackson wanting to go and see her. Sickening all of it. Why don’t they interview and visit other cancer victims. They too worry about their child/ren and have no choice but to leave them with very little monetarily wise. Their partners have to finish work to care for them and worry about their finances. Tweed is on a curfew and can’t work but of course he won’t have to think about the money side until it comes to his own interviews. This again will use her death for his own pocket. Not bad for someone possibly facing another stint in jail. It’s wrong on so many levels and the media should be ashamed along with Clifford. As he said “Enough is enough”. My only “obsession” is the hope this will never happen again. May her boys be truly blessed in their futures and I even hope her demise is painless and peaceful. But think of all the others who suffer and who’s lives haven’t been touched with controversy, vulgarism and selfishness. Peace to them all x

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  2. Is the public interest in the tragedy of Jade Goody, as you state ‘Obsessive Voyeurism’ or simply empathy with the suffering of this young woman?

    I have never been a fan of Jade Goody, however, the dignity and humility she has demonstrated whilst fighting this dreadful disease has won my respect.

    She has made no secret of her determination to ensure that her two sons get a decent education, are raised in a safe and loving environment and, hopefully, given the guidance to grow into enterprising, respectful young men. To achieve this she has had to sell to the highest bidder her most intimate thoughts and fears, lay bare her suffering and sacrifice irreplaceable private time with her loved ones. Good for her! She has every right to provide for her childrens future! She herself had an appalling upbringing and who would deny her the wherewithall to prevent the same fate befalling her sons?

    God forbid, her mother could easily have been awarded custody, would they then fare any better than their poor, loyal and loving mother?

    Many young women will now attend appointments for their smear test that they would have ignored prior to the publicity given to this young woman’s fate. Some will be found to have abnormal cells or early stage cervical cancer and subsequently their lives may be saved.

    Thanks to Jade Goody.

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  3. I agree with enough is enough publicity Jade. You know we are all dencent people who empathised with Jade to make monre money for her family (although she had millions already) and happy that she reached out to those that would not have gone for smear tests (thickies). But for God’s sake, I never thought I would agree with Noel (Oasis) that Britain is embarassing now. Only because it has just gone too far and not many people are brave enough to say it because they will be labelled as harsh or insensitive. ….. We hear there is a public funeral arranged now and a film (allegedly played by Angelina Jolie). ..Enough already!

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  4. We’ve got other cancers like ovarian cancer bla bla lung cancer. You know I find it hard to accept we need daily pictures of this dying woman to get cancer awareness across. At first yes but recently no. Surely education is better than scaring the hell out of people. Now people are petrified of being diagnosed with cancer looking at the fate of Jade. My dad’s a GP and he said that there has been a deluge of teenage girls to the surgery wanting smears in a panic because of this, and it just us not suitable for young people to have smears (may lead to unnecessary treatment). Also he says that the type of cancer she has is a probably pretty rare type of cervical cancer (inside the womb). Allegedly ofcourse, please do not sue me … I suppose what I am saying is that it has caused a lot of panic too. Jade had symptoms at an early age that was probably a rare case . Also she did not follow up letters, so people pls do not panic! I will pray for her tonight and hope her suffering will be over soon.

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  5. 12 Mar ’09 at 1:53 am

    Richard Griffiths

    Roy Castle died of cancer and didn’t get the photo ops’ that Jade has ‘enjoyed’ after years of hosting Record Breakers – that man had talent!

    Bob Marley died of cancer and left a legacy of incredible music – no pics of him on his death bed in a silly hat (Now available in 12 colours from Primark – this seasons must have apparently!)

    What has Jade Goody done?! She’s famous for being stupid, having a ‘kebab belly’, ironic diets in celeb-azines, crap perfume and… [drum roll] Cancer! 1 in 3 will get some form of cancer in their lifetime but I doubt they’ll be getting £10,000 a photo… or is this the new NHS?

    Should we covet her for her live fast, die young way of life like Hendrix or Cobain?!

    Welcome to new Britain, the home of celebrating mediocrity and terminal illness.


    Pauline said…

    “I have never been a fan of Jade Goody, however, the dignity and humility she has demonstrated whilst fighting this dreadful disease has won my respect.”

    The dignity and humility of reinventing herself as a freak show for a quick buck before she kicks the bucket… brings a tear to my eye.

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  6. For goodness sake how much more do we need to here or see? Now they’ve already picked good old Angelina Jolie to play a part in a film? I am so sick and tired of this. Jade Goody does not and will never warrant a film. I know for a fact that thousands feel the same as I do and yet our voices aren’t heard. We’ve been called insensitive, uncaring and thoughtless all because we don’t agree with death being used this way. It’s disgusting. Please please someone stop this now. I saw the photos taken yesterday and they were morbid and sick. I’m so upset by what I’ve seen that my dream of emigrating to another country has grown stronger. It’s vile to me and is sending the wrong message. It’s nothing to do with cancer, it’s all to do with the vulturistic media and Jade selling every minute detail of her life to be remembered as an iconic role model. Well no not in my book. I just wish the public would stand up and say “enough is enough”. I’ve put my point across so many times and hoped it hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. But sadly at the moment like many others it has. Outrageous that’s all I can say. And before I’m accused, yet again, of being unfeeling it has nothing to do with the tragic circumstances of a young woman. It’s about the distaste and sick fascination to grab a camera shot at every given moment and using a dreadful illness to manipulate others. Upsetting isn’t a strong enough description. It’s wrong.

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  7. Naomi, a lot of people feel the way you do. Not everyone reads the Star, Sun or Mirror which have exploited Jade’s story. The trouble is we live in this type of society that rewards people like Jade, Jordan, Jodie, Kerry, Paris Hilton, Rebecca Loos, etc… mostly for making money out of just being famous. It is no longer important to have a talent to make a lot of money in this country or work hard, just hire a shrewd publicist who has power in that end of the media. I have nothing personally against Jade, but she says she wants her childrenn to get the best education but she has proved that you do not need that to make a lot of money at all! It is a contradiction in values and a little mixed up. Max Clifford is famous for making a lot of money for people like Rebecca Loos (just for sleeping with a celebrity) and not really assiciated with taste. If the majority of people in this country read those papers it is quite scary. … but what I would say is dont get angry, you are not alone. It is unfortunately something we have to accept about the culture we live in.

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  8. Thank you Trish for your lovely words and I whole heartedly agree with you. I just get so sick and tired of being called insensitive, etc, simply because I’m scared of this country focusing on the wrong things. We raise our children to be honest, for eg, and yet we’re bombarded daily with one of the worst cases of lies and double standards to date. I’m sure, like me, you’ve heard the lines “if you don’t like it don’t buy it” and it becomes irritating very quickly. How can we possibly object if we don’t look. Sometimes Jade’s critics are swamped amid all the false compassion and personally I feel like giving up. But voicing my opinions this way is hopefully helping to prove that we can’t keep accepting it. Our future generations need good role models who haven’t got where they are through controversy and contempt for others publically. There are sadly thousands of others who die terrible deaths through cancer. They don’t have the privilege of donations and being able to go home to live out the rest of their days and it’s wrong. I’m still surprised how upset it has made me. Many celebs get this disease, help others through it but leave their private lives just that. I’m so glad I’m not on my own and your post has been one of the nicest and most comforting I’ve read. I want to wish everyone with this disease peace and happiness whenever it’s possible. And thank you once more. All the best to you and your loved ones Trish and take care xx

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  9. I think the “if you dont like it dont read it” view is extremely ignorant as it implies for example if you see someone being attacked dont’ act, or if you didn’t like the Holocaust dont say anything. I think those type of people using that argument are simply cowards who are afraid to justify why they do what they do. In society it is good to have discussions and we can all learn from each other. Believe me a lot of people do not know who Jade Goody is, so just because they have not put opinions down on columns it does not mean they are invisible. You are obciously an intelligent and decent person who will not be manipulated by the press and can make up their own mind. Good luck. Now I’m off for a drink . I really dont want to think about this topic again as this country has more important issues to deal with, time to let go. Good luck again and bye xxx

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