As if perfectly scripted, so the tragicomic death of Jade Goody coincided with the publication of OK! Magazine’s ‘Jade Goody obituary edition’: an obituary edition that was published before she actually died. Surely a ringing endorsement to the media handling of Max Clifford and the ongoing ‘exclusives’ agreed with OK! Magazine and the Living television channel (an irony surely) that these two events blended so seamlessly.
Seamless and choreographed in much the same way that much of ‘The Truman Show’ was (see earlier post here). In the film, the star of the show – Truman Burbank – finally unlocks the door to escape the world created for him and so ridding himself of the constant gaze of the cameras. In many ways, the door is a metaphor between the ‘real’ and ‘un-real’ worlds that we choose to inhabit. For Jade, and unlike Truman, she chose not to open the door. Instead, she chose to firmly lock it from the inside, never wanting to escape nor wanting the cameras to be turned off.
No matter how hard we try, no matter how many locks we put on the door however, none can ever escape the ‘real’. Like so many finding themselves in the same circumstances, Jade didn’t choose to open the door: death did it for her. Whether we try and keep the door open or shut, beyond the temporal – the here and now – all of us are as weak and vulnerable as each other. For Jade, it was death that forced the ‘real’ back into the room. It was death that showed her complete and utter vulnerability.
In the midst of life we are in death etc (Ethel Watts Mumford via Morrissey)
Yet as predicted, the reality and is exposed vulnerability has been subsumed as the new ‘People’s Princess’ has been posthumously crowned the ‘Essex Princess’. At once the title beatifies her in the church of anodyne celebrity culture, at another it demarcates her from the far more ‘cultured’ original People’s Princess. Even after death, Jade will remain what she was always voyeuristically seen to be: one of the great unwashed – the un-civilised classes – and nothing more.
And with her death has begun the great outpouring of quasi-grief: Umberto Eco’s authentic fake being manifested in the ethereal language of heaven, angels and poetic imagination. At the same time that Z-list celebrities – Cleo Rocos and John McCririck amongst others – begin to express their grief and sadness, so flowers, teddies and candles are being laid to commemorate her life in makeshift shrines. Her pilgrims are journeying to her Essex home, not just to pay homage but to try and make sense of her (their own?) devalued life, desperate to locate a moral or spiritual significance. How long before an apparition of ‘Our Lady of Essex’ will appear to one of her followers?
From those followers unable to make the pilgrimage, so text message ‘ribbons’ – made from carefully placed crosses (Xs) – are being circulated to friends, family and contacts to show ‘respect’ for Jade. Respect for a caricature that garnered little of the same before being diagnosed with terminal cancer; respect for a life that was created, disseminated and subsequently bartered to the highest bidder; respect for the exclusive rights that took in her very last breath. Yet many aimlessly and unintelligently forward their ‘respect’, never even asking ‘why’ or ‘what for’.
“… he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7)
Unquestioningly, Jade’s flock will continue to revere, aspire and long for her superficiality as a means of giving value and purpose to their own emptiness: the emptiness that so many in today’s vacuous society clearly long to fill with material consumerables that bring pleasure and meaning for the mere fleeting of moments.
And so, as the death bell tolled the circus master cried that the show must go on. Now that exclusive rights are irrelevant and worthless – no longer will OK! Magazine have the sole rights despite its unprecedented ‘death before death’ coup – the free market media scrum will ensure that all and sundry will jump onboard the Essex Princess bandwagon. Quite irrespective of whether they did or did not know Jade, myriad voices will all be quizzed and questioned on what she was really like, each pouring ever more sycophantically over their increasingly hyperbolic memories.
Her memory, her legacy will be the host with which the media feed the insatiable appetite of her pilgrims, her followers, and those no doubt soon to be converted. All will devour and pick even the tiniest piece of flesh off her rotting carcass, keeping her alive in the form of various pre-packaged consumerables from which only a resurrection would prove to be more lucrative.
Interestingly, the definition of a ‘consumerable’ is:
something that is capable of being consumed; that may be destroyed, dissipated, wasted, or spent
And Jade is/ was all of that. The consumerable personified par excellence. Whether in life or death she was/ is capable of being consumed, consumed in such ways that she may be destroyed, dissipated, wasted or spent and all for the delectation of her clamorous audience, as indeed she was in life.
She is gone but she will come again. The Second Coming will be entirely fitting for the 21st century, in magazines, souvenir editions, autobiographies, memoirs, diaries, perfumes, DVDs…
Previous writing on Jade Goody:
This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.