Why I think X Factor is a bit cruel

SimoncarolineBecause of the live audience, last night X Factor felt cruel. It felt like the cool kids were picking on the not-so-cool ones and it left me feeling a bit uneasy (clearly because I will, regardless of years, always be a not-so-cool kid).

It’s the fact that we all now know that the auditions have a number of stages BEFORE the one that we see, the one in front of the judges. So, those performers last night had passed through a number of stages and each one would have layered them with a little bit more confidence. Each audition would have made them believe a little bit more in their dream. But for some of them the only reason they were put through was for TV, to get them in front of the judges, in front of a huge audience and for everyone to have a big laugh.

I know, I know, that’s entertainment and that’s how the show works, but last night there seemed to be so much more of it.

Last night, ‘Stunners’ performed. They clearly thought that they were both stunning and had good voices. Someone had fuelled them, but there is no doubt that their success in the various stages before getting in front of the judges would have added to that. We saw and heard people laughing at them. We watched their dreams being shattered and, well maybe I’m getting far too soft in my old age, but I didn’t like it. I feel the same when I read a negative review of a book, it makes me think that dreams and ambition should be protected more.

I guess the counter argument is that if you put yourself out there, then you should be ready to accept criticism, that it’s part of the ‘game’. And that if you’re not good enough then someone should tell you, but staged humiliation in front of thousands of people, that just feels so cruel. As I’ve said, I’m getting soft in my old age.

But, saying all of that, I can’t help but be devoted to X Factor. I know, I know, I’m a hypocrite.

I loved the live audience last night. I love love loved seeing Simon sing along (3 mins 36 on the clip) with Jamie Afro. I did think that Miss Fitz were incredibly gorgeous and talented. And Rozelle Phillips, she gave me goose bumps and had the best smile in the world.

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  • Posted August 30, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    The thing about the X Factor is that it makes me feel like I can make it with my writing as well if I only try hard enough. (And have Simon winking at me, obviously.) And I already know that facing rejection and having people say unkind things is all part of that. I felt a bit sorry for those girls too, but I’d never really thought about the way the audition process fuels delusions. I always wonder why people’s friends don’t tell them they can’t sing as an act of kindness.

    Simon is still incredibly gorgeous though.

    • Posted August 30, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      First off – I think he is totally lovely in so many ways. And seeing him sing along to Jamie Afro really was perfect! I also should add that I’d very much love a hug off Dermot.

      Simon is (always) right and when he said last night that X Factor can change a person’s life forever – it hit a chord with me. One minute ‘someone’ can be sitting in their bedroom dreaming about success and then in the next they can be catapulted into stardom. I love that about X Factor and it must be what attracts so many people to audition.

      It’s the same with writing, isn’t it? One minute you can be an unpublished author submitting to agents and publishers, then in the next, be it a phone call or an email and your life changes. It feels like forever coming, but then it’s there, it’s happened in an instant and you step onto another path.

      There are similarities and maybe that’s why X Factor bothered me last night.

      Last night there seemed to be too many of the really dire ones, the ones that I wished never got through. I only want good ones to get through, but that’s not how the show works. I just wished that someone had had a quiet word with the rubbish ones and spared them the humiliation. I worry about what happens next to those people, in the real world. It takes a lot to shrug off the humiliation and turn it into a positive.

      How many of us would go in front of a panel of judges with an unpublished manuscript? Would you let them critique you in front of a live audience? Maybe some of us would.

      And that’s it. I am probably looking at the show and projecting too much of me onto it. I’m sure there are loads of people who like the attention, any attention.

      And – I am a hypocrite because I love the show so much! I just think I like boot camp and the final bits more.


  • Posted August 30, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    No it’s not being hypocritical I don’t think, this is a very balanced point of view you’re putting across. I think it would probably have made me feel uneasy too: I haven’t seen X Factor in a while but there were, from time to time, moments which made me feel the same as you describe.

    Yes it’s entertaining, and yes people are, in a lot of cases, setting themselves up to fail, and it can be as compulsive as it can be uncomfortable. Sometimes, perhaps, it’s only right for people to be told “this isn’t for you” or whatever, but it’s how that’s handled that’s the crucial point I think.

    I’m not sure I have much of a point to make, just thinking aloud.

    • Posted August 30, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Thanks honey! See my comment to Helen (above).

      I think it’s to do with knowing how it feels to ‘dream’. I feel like this about negative book reviews too. I can’t help but wish that if people hated a book, then they shouldn’t review it… but that’s me being all idealistic and ‘happily ever after’.

      I’d hate for anyone to feel humiliated in public, maybe because I know that feeling too well. I think I want the world to be a happy place :)


  • Kerry
    Posted August 30, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you on this, it feels like a watching an insect be burned with a magnifying glass….the people who have their dreams shattered are clearly vulnerable and more often than not don’t have much else going for them (chicken factory worker anyone?). Every year I fight the morbid compulsion to watch (and usually fail) but now I am in sunny Saigon and don’t have option! Thank god.

  • Posted August 30, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you completely.

    I missed X Factor last night as was deep in edits, but had a look at your links and think Jamie was fantastic, so shall now have to watch the repeat programme.


  • Posted August 30, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree. I don’t really like the auditions, it all seems too cruel and manipulative somehow. I prefer bootcamp onwards where it seems more of a level playing field and less of a freak show. But being the shallow person that I am it doesn’t stop me watching…

  • Posted August 30, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Hi Caroline,
    love your blog. I’m a newbie and an X Factor addict and think the most heartrending shots in the show are of Danni trying to make eye contact with Cheryl for caring/sharing moments that are never reciprocated. Poor Danni’s face battles the botox to look crestfallen. She so needs a hug from Dermot but never gets one…..
    Anna May

  • Posted August 30, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Caroline, I also feel increasingly uncomfortable watching the (obviously) mentally unstable, or those who are deluded, on X Factor…

    I love Simon too, but the way that the judges are now becoming the luvvies – The be all and end all of the show with less time spent on the auditionees – This concerns me; And how the show’s undercurrent appears to be about fitting in and being the most beautiful, (at least in the case of Danni and Cheryl ;) ), and no longer just about finding raw talent…

    And yet, I too shall be mesmerized, but for me it’s about finding that performer who makes the hair on the back of your neck prickle because their voice actually touches somewhere in your soul… And then real tears will spring to my eyes, not the staged tears apparently so beloved of the ‘stars’…

    Rant (possibly!) over…

    Take care, Caro, and thanks for all that you do!

    Fhi x

  • Posted August 30, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Kerry – sunny Saigon? Wow! Can I come and join you?

    Debs Carr – gosh, that is self control. I hope that the edits are going well.

    Cathy – I’m exactly the same, loving Bootcamp but still watching every week. Clearly, though, I only watch in the hope that one day Simon will send me a coded message.

    Anna May – thank you! And don’t you think that everyone in the whole wide world needs a Dermot hug?

    Fhina Crawford – I’d like to see more raw talent too. In 75 minutes, I had 3 that stood out. But in a few weeks it’ll all change and Bootcamp will begin. I think that I am becoming a bit hard these days, refusing to be touched by sob stories, although when that child ran onto the stage last night it made me cry… but not for musical reasons. Please do come back and rant whenever you wish :)


  • Posted August 30, 2009 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I loved it last night, I adore the feature of the new live audience. The good thing is that the audience encourages who they like and offers a chance to those who might not impress the judges alone. There’s some pretty good singers in the early stages this year, making for a promising live show outlook.

    I am feeling good about this one. <3


  • Posted August 30, 2009 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    You said that better than I could have. It’s a sad day when we have to humiliate kids for entertainment.

  • Posted August 31, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I am of a similar opinion to yourself Caroline, even though by choice I would not watch it, but the time it’s on coupled with the demand of my family and my stomach make it impossible not to sit through. (Convincing the kids that the judges do not see every single hopeful is itself a challenge in logic and statistics I rise to every week.) There seems to be two breeds of no-hopers, the ones that think that they are good and can win, and the ones that seem to carry on regardless as it were, have a comedy element which makes people smile. The former is sad and uncomfortable, the latter I think makes good TV.

    PS I can’t stand Simon but he does know what he’s talking about.

  • Posted August 31, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit that I have been watching, but i have gone off it a bit. Last week I thought the new live audience format was genius but after watching Saturday’s show I thought twice. I’ll probably still continue to watch though as I’m a sucker for car crash tv!

  • Posted August 31, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    DJ MacDonald – I’m looking forward to bootcamp!

    Amanda Renee – the guy who had his shirt buttoned up wrong. I had a Facebook comment about why no one told him… it’s wrong, so wrong :(

    Brom – it always scares me, more so this year than any other year. Maybe because I’m waiting to hear on a book deal… there is logic to that.
    PS I love SImon even a little bit more than before.

    Lily Sheehan – I wish that I wasn’t, but I’m a sucker for it too!


  • Posted September 3, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Loved all the people you mentioned there at the end, especially Miss Fitz, though I hate the spelling. I felt uncomfortable watching that particular episode as well. And then I had to sit and think if I’d felt as uncomfortable watching in previous years or if I’d changed recently. I didn’t come up with anything particularly, but I was quite sad watching it. Won’t make me stop, I love the show too much. But you’re right. I wouldn’t be able to handle that level of humiliation and my heart goes out to those that have.

    • Posted September 4, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      I did and felt exactly the same. I just think the feel for this year is different and maybe the edits have been cut with a particular audience in mind.

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