Last Night’s TV – Jade: As Seen on TV

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Patsy Palmer narrated this documentary which explored the media phenomenon that created, destroyed then re-created Jade Goody ‘reality TV star’.

Patsy opened the programme by saying, “For seven years, Jade Goody lived, and ultimately died, in the glare of the media spotlight.

“In that time she went from chubby dental nurse to celebrity culture’s cover girl.”

With contributions from Max Clifford, John Stapleton and a variety of others, such as her friend and Living TV producer Kate Jackson, we heard again – but this time compacted into one documentary – how Jade found fame in Big Brother in 2002 where she went from being the most hated woman in Britain to finish fourth and become one of the most loved women in Britain…

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Her subsequent rise to fame was speculated upon by all the contributors to the film, but one thing everybody agreed on was that her meteoric rise to fame was probably largely due to her honesty. Some speculated that she wasn’t intelligent enough to be anything other than completely honest while others ventured that given her turbulent and troubled upbringing, she ‘used’ her status to openly talk about the emotional difficulties that stemmed from her deprived childhood and in doing so, found a form of cathartic, therapeutic value in ‘opening up’ to millions of people while she felt unable to do so with her closest family and friends.

We heard too how the shadow of the cancer that was to ultimately kill her had been present since Jade was just 16 years old when her first smear test indicated the presence of abnormal cells. This happened again when she was 18 and both times, she received laser treatment to ‘burn away’ the pre-cancerous cells.

During this time in her life, she left home because her mother was using crack cocaine and refused to stop so Jade lived an unsettled life but was always seeking something better for herself. We heard how she qualified to become an air hostess but in fact settled on being a dental nurse; until she auditioned for Big Brother in 2002 and her life changed forever.

jo_omeara_jade_goody_danielle_lloydThe rest we all pretty much know so there’s possibly little point in recapping but there are some points which are perhaps notable; while globally, hatred for Jade spread like wildfire following the alleged racism debacle with Shilpa Shetty, she apologised repeatedly and sincerely for her actions while those who also participated in what were deemed to be the racism fuelled rows – namely, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O’Meara – simply hid from public view. I think it’s worth making this point – again – because say what you will about Jade, it showed she had balls enough to say she was in the wrong.

It was arguably this that was pivotal in the revival of her career and of course, many will say that’s why she apologised so publically and profusely but I don’t believe that to be the case. After these apologies, Jade retreated from the world and in fact became so depressed, she was suicidal, so no, I don’t believe the apologies were a sham or an attempt to revive her career; I believe they were sincere.

However, Jade was subsequently taken ‘on the books’ of world famous publicist Max Clifford who headed up her return to the spotlight by arranging yet another Big Brother appearance, this time in Big Boss in India which was hosted of course by Shilpa Shetty. The two had long since settled their differences but it was a bold move when you consider that effigies of Jade were burned in the streets of India.

However, she was in the Big Boss house just one day when she received the call during which she was told she had cancer. We heard how Jade had had a smear as “an afterthought” while attending her GP’s surgery for her travel immunisations. Max Clifford was contacted by Jade’s GP and informed that the smear showed that Jade had cancer so Clifford then consulted with Dr Ann Coxon – who was to become Jade’s own physician – and she told him that Jade must return to the UK for treatment immediately.

Dr Coxon was scathing during last night’s documentary about the fact that Jade effectively slipped through the NHS net, but unfortunately, as many readers of this – and myself included – will know, this is by no means uncommon. Before going to India, Jade had been admitted to hospital on four occasions suffering from heavy bleeding, dizziness and other symptoms for which the hospital could find no cause.

Jade made an appearance on GMTV in which she discussed these admissions to hospital. Here’s footage of that interview…

Just six months after this interview, Jade was dead.

As I said, her experience of being made to feel she was a hypochondriac is one that many of us have been through with the NHS; that feeling of knowing there’s something seriously wrong with you but being told repeatedly that there is not makes you doubt yourself, and that’s exactly what happened to Jade too. So, believing that she was ‘overplaying’ or overreacting to her symptoms, she forged ahead with her work, but of course, there was something seriously wrong with her – she was dying.

In the last months of her life, she was as ever in the media spotlight but this jade goody in wheelchairtime, it was in a last ditch effort to raise as much money as possible to leave for her sons. She wanted them to have all the things she hadn’t, and particularly a good education. And during those months, she was, again, as ever, either hated or loved for what she was doing.

Public opinion of her was divided, and still is. There seemed to be no middle ground in people’s feelings for Jade; we either loved her or hated her and sadly, one of the worst indictments on our society is that even as she was suffering her last agony filled days, some people still saw fit to vent their hatred of her on internet forums, message boards and in the media.

Professor Chris Rojek, sociologist and ‘reality’ author, made several appearances during this documentary in which he tried to explain how Jade was in many ways “constructed” by the media. He said, “She’s a story which has a beginning, a middle and an end, and because she died so young, it was all concentrated in a very short time frame – six, seven years – so you can see the whole process of how someone’s constructed by the media, how it goes wrong and how she slides in public affection, rebuilds herself and then suffers a very young death in highly public circumstances”

Construct of the media or not, two facts remain true of Jade; first, she still divides public opinion, even after her death, and celebrities such as Michael Parkinson and John Stapleton seem to abhor Jade – which is reflected in the ‘half’ of the British public who feel likewise – while the second fact is that the number of young women demanding smear tests rose by 60% during Jade’s very public battle with her cancer.

Dr Ann Coxon spoke of what has become known as “the Jade effect”, saying, “Jade should not have had to pay this price, but she will have saved probably thousands of lives by making people understand that cervical cancer kills.”

john-stapletonYet still, criticism of her continues to rage, as does criticism of events since her death.

I mentioned John Stapleton a moment ago and on the subject of the planned musical about Jade’s life, he said, “I read with stunned disbelief that a musical was being made about her life” and he added with obvious incredulity that a nationwide search for who would play Jade in the musical had begun. With his head in his hands, he said “Where is this going to end?!”

I assume he meant that in Jade, we saw the rise, fall, rise again and death of arguably the first generation of reality TV spawned celebrities and now, in the wake of her death, someone else who was a ‘nobody’ before may be about to become a ‘somebody’ so the circle begins again.

I would argue, so what? What if it did?

People like Parkinson and John Stapleton seem to have issue with the fact that Jade had no ‘talent’ per se and only achieved wealth and fame because of a reality TV show, their inference being she did nothing to ‘deserve’ the fame and fortune that came her way. But I would argue, what does it matter how she did it? She did, and that’s all that matters.

I personally suspect that jealousy is a part of the equation for people who seem to loathe Jade; she didn’t get degrees in journalism or work her way up a corporate ladder or any of those things. In effect, fame and fortune – on the face of it – were handed to her on a plate but it was plate of our making, and by ‘our’ I mean our society’s almost blood lust for information about her, good or bad.

Heat magazine for example was on the brink of total failure before Jade came along and by putting her face on the cover of their magazines – which flew off the shelves – the magazine thrived and became one of the best selling magazines of the day.

I also believe there’s an element of “we made her, we can break her” to Jade’s story, and that of course is true to a degree but what can’t be argued with is the fact that during the seven years that Jade was in our lives, she changed the shape of celebrity as we know it and her legacy has been that she’s survived by two sons who will have far more opportunities than she did and that she’s saved thousands of lives.

The fact that she managed to achieve all that she did simply because she went on Big Brother is actually pretty irrelevant because like anyone who sees a good business opportunity – and who then surrounds themselves with others who can perpetuate that business opportunity and make it work – she went from being a person who’d lived a life mostly in poverty to dying a wealthy, and sadly a very young woman, in order to secure a better future for her children.

And I think it’s well worth repeating, she’s saved thousands of other young women from a similar fate by publically sharing her illness so how can any of that be a ‘bad’ thing?

Not bad achievements in the space of seven years for a “chubby dental nurse from Bermondsey” in my opinion.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.