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Jade Goody's disarming honesty

Razia Iqbal | 14:46 UK time, Monday, 23 March 2009

goodyshhh.jpgI'm not at all sure whether the argument that Jade Goody has forced people to think about cancer is anything but a smokescreen.

While it can't be a bad thing that more women will have smear tests, the interest in her untimely death says more about celebrity culture in this country than it does about anything else. The Sun alone has devoted the first nine pages of Monday's paper to her, not to mention a 16-page pull out.

She was of course, the product of a reality television show, but she was an unusual celebrity beyond that too. She had an ability to be utterly open about everything. Once she became a "celebrity", this was even more the case.

Where other celebrities hold a line between that which is public and private, with manufactured answers and a public face, with Jade, her most private thoughts, whether sensible or not, just trotted out of her mouth. For that, the media has loathed her, laughed at her but now, finally, they love her.

The sadness at the heart of her story as a celebrity is that she really wanted to be loved - and that only really came as she lay dying. Her willingness to acknowledge she wasn't clever, in the conventional sense, disarmed people. But what amazed me about her was her willingness to try and redeem herself in others' eyes, while all the time giving an impression of not caring a jot what people thought of her.

Why else would she go to India and take part in their version of Big Brother after being roundly condemned for her racial epithets against fellow contestant Shilpa Shetty? Okay, that was a media opportunity too. But she endeared herself to people. Among the tributes has been one from Ms Shetty.

Through sheer force of personality and chutzpah, she turned out to be a canny businesswoman. And, given the value we place on money in our culture, that too has been applauded.

The bile spewed by her detractors on internet messageboards over the last 24 hours is a reaction to that life lived in public. So soon after her death it seems unedifying, to say the least.

But, perhaps we no longer have any space between that which is public and that which is private. When social networking websites prompt us to live our lives in the open, Jade Goody has been a powerful symbol of our times.


  • Comment number 1.

    I cannot believe the level of pandering that is going on al lround from the media. I can beleive that a proportion on the red-top buying, trashy magazine reading populace would happily support and love someone who is 'dim', but for the press to be so sycophantic (we're talking educated people here) and sponsoring ignorance is revolting.

  • Comment number 2.

    This was a woman, a mother and a daughter who has died from cancer and should be grieved. The only difference between this woman and every other woman is that she was in the public eye for whatever reason and therefor more people were aware of her battle and more people are saddened by her demise, of course people want to hear about her and how her family are doing, so the tabloids give us what we want (this is after all their job). It's pathetic that some people would resent this so, and shows how lonely and bitter some people can be. I do not read 'trashy magazines' I read the BBC news website and do not feel the country is 'sponsoring ignorence' I feel they are sad to see a woman who although may not have been the sharpist knife in the draw, was a brave woman who battled this in front of the cameras when most women would stay inside and leave us remembring them befor they were ill. We are sad she has died in her twentys from a horrid disease leaving two young children motherless.

  • Comment number 3.

    Jade decided to earn her living by selling her life to the Public instead of taking a traditional job because it pays more. Thats fine but there is a price, people (the public) will have different opinions on her and not everyone sees her the same way. Unfortunately you could not avoid her publicity in the last month as she was constantly on front pages of press and magazines.
    I understand that AT THE BEGINNING it was about leaving her family with more money and talking about cervical cancer, but it went far beyond that - daily updates about private conversations just to keep her in the papers, daily photo opportunities set up by her Publicist of her physical degeneration, medical details of what part of her body has failed today. Was the latter part of the publicity cancer awareness or attention seeking? Is this what we need in this country to educate our children or is there something wrong with our culture? I've never seen anything like this. Shame on the media for going along with it. OK more people are going for screening but that always happens. People will soon forget after she's gone.
    It sickened me to constantly see the headlines "BRAVE" Jade Goody or STAR Jade Goody - star of what???. What's brave about showing how much pain you're in to the world? BRAVE is Wendy Richard who was quietly struggling. I think that she was unable to give up the media attention at the right time and her Publicist and family did not stop it at the point of decency and taste. Her story pushed down our throat constantly. Some poeple must be petrified of cancer now.
    What has shocked me is that people post comments on the net like they KNEW JADE personally, they never met the woman. It's far easier, to post on the net and feel so sad for someone you don't know, only on a TV screen than to get out there, get your hands dirty and HELP SOMEONE in REAL LIFE who has nothing or no one.
    Her kids will have constant reminders of just how sick and in pain their mummy was, for ever. Reminded by each press cutting and magazine article. The only dignified person in all this has been the kids' real father, Jeff.

  • Comment number 4.

    Jade Goody was certainly an enigma for people like me. On the one hand I loathed the celebrity culture she represented. Educationally a complete plank, she nonetheless had a certain savvyness about her. She successfully exploited the system and the public alike. Despite a very difficult upbringing in which she looked after her mother after an accident, she was ebuliant and had a love of life which as you say was endearing.

    But to me, Jade Goody did not use her wealth to educate herself, as evidenced by her outbursts on Celeb BB. That was the behaviour of somebody who was still ignorant and uneducated. Bigotry and racism are the natural bedfellows of such people. Jade Goody simply learnt what was required to earn enough money the live the life of a celeb. She only addressed her ignorance and bigotry when it hit the bottom line. She then went grovelling over to India to 'learn about them'. Not good enough.

    I agree with you about the cancer issue being a red herring in all of this. I have a sadness that this has happened to Jade, she did not deserve it. In the end she just an ordinary person making her chaotic way in a crazy world as we all do. But in the final analysis we must ensure that we have a culture where we value education, and understand that we can get the things we crave through that route, rather than the instant gratification of celebrity.

    Condolances to her friends and family.

  • Comment number 5.

    Can I just ask - having read the comments written. Are we only supposed have time for and respect ofr those people/celebrities who have had an education????
    Jade may not have had a good background, education or social graces in some circumstances but what she did have was grace, honesty, dignity and a positive attitude to her life, death, illness and family. I think we do right in applauding her openness in the face of cancer. I watched her and hope that god forbid anything like that should happen to me that I have the strength to deal with it half as well as she did.
    And yes I'd make money from it too!. Oh and by the way I have o levels, a levels and am working towards a degree - I came from a stable middle class background.
    So all power to her and may she rest in peace and her boys succeed in whatever makes them happy and benefit from all the hard work she put in

  • Comment number 6.

    I think this is what some people and parents despair about. The fact that this culture has produced a generation of young who will sell anything and just want to be famous as it is a quick route to money. This had little to do with cancer I'm afraid. I feel sympathy for Jade and her family, noone is putting lack of education down - just our declining standards in our culture. For example, my daughter said India's embassador to BB was someone like Shetty, and the UK's embassador was someone who Gordon Brown had to defend the Country's values for. I see you mention "hard work" Jade put in, perhaps we have a different definition of "work".

  • Comment number 7.

    "Her willingness to acknowledge she wasn't clever, in the conventional sense, disarmed people."

    Did Jade really have an alternative? She really wasn't clever in the conventional sense - much the way that Danny de Vito isn't tall in the conventional sense.

    Before she became ill with cervical cancer Jade was being reviled as an embarrassingly parochial and inarticulate bigot. Of course, it was easy for Jade to grow up with blinkers on - but her background was not much more disadvantaged than Peter Ackroyd's.

    The enduring lesson of Jade Goody's celebrity is simply that one need not be clever, or pretty, or magnanimous, or cultured in order to become very very very rich.

    Some of us already guessed that.

  • Comment number 8.

    The first 9 pages of The Sun were devoted to her, as well as a 16 page pull out?!!! Sorry, but I know The Sun is a pile of trash, and Jade is a celebrity because she wasn't very clever, but that's an absolute disgrace, no way does there need to be such coverage of her.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think that Jade Goody had huge appeal because lots of people could identify with her.
    Our society fosters a 'get rich quick' culture. Jade certainly got very rich in a few short years, without the benefit of much education. Many people would like to get rich. The sales of lottery tickets are proof of this, as are the number of contestants who apply to be on shows like 'Big Brother'. Celebrity and the celebrity lifestyle is also very much valued.
    Jade was a product of our society. We have ourselves to blame. We cannot in all honesty blame Jade.
    In the end she has made us all think and has provoked much discussion about attitudes and values. She has given us a different focus.
    I send my condolences to her family.

  • Comment number 10.

    Just wondering what do women think about this idea :

  • Comment number 11.

    oh dear 'total rubbish' you are completely ignorant to the real world arn't you (bless) you obviously are forgetting the fact that Jade has increased awareness of cervical cancer and has no doubt assisted in helping ensure young women are getting themselves checked. In addition, why is it only 'educated' people that should have your attention - get real - educated people these days prefer to have sex with prostitutes in their offices and then lie about it (Nigel Griffiths), not raise awareness for deadly diseases and raise money to ensure their children will always be fine, growing up without their mother. I despair of people like you.

  • Comment number 12.

    in addition - you need to use spell check or get a dictionary!!

  • Comment number 13.

    toffsaretrash: I would like to see the figures that that Jade has increased awareness of cervical cancer and that young women are getting themselves checked - I bet a lot talk about it but nothing happens. Giving every detail of your illness to a trashy paper is not brave- is undignified and not fair on her children. They are just young enough that the only memories they will have of their mother will be pictures and newspaper articles. Does anyone honestly think they want to see their mother in that state - screaming that she wanted to die as one headline reported? Where's the bravery in that? I think the argument about education is that a lot of people have contributed a lot more to society (artists, actors, writers, musicians, doctors, nurses) and will never get anything like the publicity of someone who's claim to fame is making stupid and racist comments. Sorry, but they should be the role models in life, not Jade Goody.

  • Comment number 14.

    Did Jade ask for the Sun to do that? no! they have done it because people wanted the information, whether some people like it or not Jade's death and fight against cancer was what people wanted to read about. I do agree that some of the coverage has been overkill.

    Jade may not have come across as the sharpest person in the world, but she has made a lot of money out of it which in my mind makes her quite clever!

    Jade made mistakes, she was the first to admit that but she wore her heart on her sleeve and what you saw is what you got with her. I think the reason she was loved by so many is because she was ordinary, she could so easily of been someone you knew and grew up with.

    Jade - your star will shine brightly in the sky watching over your boys, who will never forget your undying love for them. RIPx

  • Comment number 15.

    Oh, god, mawkish or what? There's just some nonsense it's not worth arguing with. Whenever my children encounter someone like Jade, I teach them to pity and avoid. Indeed, she could so easily have been someone I knew and stayed away from as I was growing up. Wish she was so easily avoided now ...

  • Comment number 16.

    It seems that Razia Iqbal is almost as dim witted as Jade Goody. She says how amazed that she was at how Jade tried to redeem herself in others' eyes, saying why else would she go to India, and then in the very next sentance saying the real reason she went to India. There is no way that going to India was her idea of redemption, she will have been advised to go there. She was not a canny business woman, she had no business sense and little common sense, though through celebrity has made lots of money. Her ability to make money was nothing to do with her business sense but the business sense of some clever people running the tabloids.

  • Comment number 17.

    Jade Goody isn't the problem here, she never was - people in general are, and their fascination to know about the ins and outs of everyones lives, the further up the loser-ometer, the better.

    Jade Goody has never offered anything to the world, other than mediocrity and bigotry. And to call her 'canny' or 'clever' is an insult to anyone with the ability to count to 2. If stupid people weren't so interested in reading about stupid people like Jade, then stupid people with nothing but mediocrity to offer, wouldn't be famous - and then we wouldn't have to go through this morbid grief-fest everytime someone that was remotely famous meets an untimely end.

    She'll be forgotten this time next week in the search for another pantomine villain to build up, then knock down, ad infinitum and we'll have another plastic wall of tears, another 100ft of flower tributes and another blanket news bombing of someone whose existence most right minded people never wanted to know about in the first place.

  • Comment number 18.

    Dear BBC. Will you please get rid of the second rate blogger masquerading as arts correspondant, Razia Iqbal, and replace her with someone who understands that fourth rate celebrities - alive or dead - do not fall into either of the categories often referred to as 'art' or 'culture'. If Ms Iqbal wishes to write for the entertainment section of the BBC website then I have absolutely no objection and I would wish her well in what is obviously a more appropriate career path, but please, please, please will someone stop sanctioning these dull, irrelevant and off topic little essays that are well out of the remit of an arts & culture section a media outlet.

  • Comment number 19.

    Toffsaretrash - criticising the spelling in another post while including the incorrect 'arn't' in your own post does slightly undermine your point, don't you think?

  • Comment number 20.

    What is really at issue here is the number of citizens in this country who appear to be morally bankrupt.

    Never is it more evident than in the comments about this blog, where question is raised as to supporting and loving those who are 'dim' or encouraging ones children to 'pity' and 'avoid' those who are intellectually less endowed.

    When did this country become a place where there was such intolerance for people who aren't considered to be 'clever'? What message are you sending to those children of today, who no fault of their own, struggle with academia. And what message are you sending to those who might aspire, like Jade Goody, to take a vocational training course (in her case as a dental assistant), to try and make something of themselves and a respectable wage earning career?

    And, incidentally for the poster who cynically demanded statistics as proof of her influence on attitudes towards cervical cancer screening - try a search on the BBC website, there are plenty of reports - and if you'd rather mock and scorn that furnish yourself with facts, then I'll save you the effort of exercising veracity - the answer is up to 21% as reported in some health authorities.

  • Comment number 21.

    Spot on Anna_elliott - excellent post.

  • Comment number 22.

    The population of the world is how many billion? Lets not lose our sense of perspective folks...oh and by the way intolerance of 'the not so clever' is maybe balanced by prejudice against 'the so very clever' Well no one wants to be seen as 'a swat'...just like no one wants to be seen as 'stupid'
    Enjoy the sunshine.

  • Comment number 23.

    I liked Jade because she was clearly a fighter. To become a dental nurse when both your parents are heroin addicts is in itself a massive achievement. To then capture the public imagination in the way she did is not a commentary on our celebrity culture - many have tried and failed (including every other Big Brother contestant). She achieved what she did because a lot of people warmed to her spirit, courage and lack of self-pity. To develop this public awareness into building herself a business empire within a few short years is also something people on website blogs tend to dismiss as inevitable, despite the fact that many people with so-called educations squander their wealth and talent and that many celebrities crash and burn.
    Also anyone who has ever faced death will recognise the courage it took for her to do what she did after she was diagnosed with cancer.
    And, in case anyone is interested, I do not come from Essex, I never buy celebrity magazines or red top newspapers, and I have O levels, A levels and a degree from Cambridge University.

  • Comment number 24.

    "Dear BBC. Will you please get rid of the second rate blogger masquerading as arts correspondant, Razia Iqbal, and replace her with someone who understands that fourth rate celebrities - alive or dead - do not fall into either of the categories often referred to as 'art' or 'culture'. If Ms Iqbal wishes to write for the entertainment section of the BBC website then I have absolutely no objection and I would wish her well in what is obviously a more appropriate career path, but please, please, please will someone stop sanctioning these dull, irrelevant and off topic little essays that are well out of the remit of an arts & culture section a media outlet."

    Firstly thank you Razia Iqbal for providing a platform for thoughtful discussion. That Arts and culture are hidden under mere Entertainment on this website/publication is not your fault. I hope the Editor/s are reading this.
    To the above in quotes.
    When something touches the hearts of people that is human, and as such, it is culture. I didn't watch Jade (I am not a fan of hers) and definitely do not watch reality television as I see it as an erosion of quality television, presentation, and content.
    For a moment for many people someone managed to transcend the medium in which they are immersed, a post-modern nihilism, to something more human and cultural.

    The earliest evidenced respect for fellow humans within archaeology is with ceremonial burial. That is the source of culture. Respect. To look at each other with each other and not carelessly to one side.

    So it is culturally relevant whether you or I like it or not.


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