The X-ploitation Factor Part I: Introduction

I intend to try and produce a commentary on this year’s series of The X Factor. You may think I’m starting late, but there’s a limited amount to say about the “initial” auditions process (and less so about the initial initial auditions, because we don’t get to see anything of these beyond a moronic crowd chanting in a cult-like fashion that their particular providence does, in fact, have a factor that renders them sellable to the masses). I wouldn’t say that Boot Camp was any different, we’re still being manipulated, but at least we’re done with the obligatory “they think they can sing but they so can’t LOL” snippets. I can’t stand these. They really are reared like pigs to the slaughter… they’ve made it through a multitude of preliminary rounds for God’s sake… and yet the audience buys into it every time: the judges are taken aback by how bad they are, and the auditionee is rightfully put in their place. Commence ridicule and humiliation. Just who told them they could sing, eh?

This entry, then, will serve as an introduction to my stance on The X Factor as a whole. I will now declare outright that I do, in fact, love this show. It makes for an entertaining Saturday night with pizza and wine, is a firm part of my build-up-to-Christmas excitement, and its format is so accessible. Anyone can have something to say, be it about the talent, what Cheryl Cole is wearing, or my favourite topic: the transparent shoddiness of the whole saga. For me, it’s a fantastic game of predictions about how the producers will play their cards. This is especially true after the live shows start (always a welcome relief from the dire post production editing-fest that is the “First” Auditions, Boot Camp and Judges’ Houses), whereby the order of events COULD be out of the producers’ control… though it rarely is.

Take, for example, the memorable moment from XF ’09 when the talented Lucie Jones (who?) landed herself in the Bottom Two with John and Edward. Morons were in upheaval. The media was in heaven. It was never in the producers’ interest to do the “right” thing – Jedward had drawn far too much attention to the show, they were hardly going to exit just yet. Conveniently, the blame could be placed on St Cowell Himself – he made the “defining” decision to put the matter to the public vote, with Cheryl and Dannii’s reputations safe and Louis’ “village idiot” persona no worse than it was already. I can’t remember what crap Simon came out with to justify this, but it remains obvious that he knew exactly which of the two contestants had the least number of votes, and so it was safe to proceed, and a disposable contestant was lost. The “judges” offer a lifeline to the show, as well as adding suspense, just in case the audience haven’t quite swallowed everything they’ve been spoon fed. I really hope it’s obvious to anyone reading this that the 4 deities sat in the front row rarely, if ever, make the decisions… save for SC of course.

Ideally, the final 5 contestants in the line-up will be desirable winners, leading to significant SyCo profits at a later stage – the audience vote stands, else Ofcom will be all over The X Factor like a pack of dogs. Of course, this hasn’t always worked. Leon Jackson (who?) was meant to draw in some Granny votes in XF ‘07, but never had they wanted him to beat Rhydian Roberts. Eoghan Quigg (Eggnog) of XF ‘08 came dangerously close (their attempts at trying to ditch this kid were desperate to say the least). Again, all part of the fun.

The audience vote is a secondary element of meta-entertainment. They’re a truly fickle bunch, that’s for sure – one look at the voting results published after the series finale will tell you that. Rachel Adedeji (XF ’09) was placed in the Bottom Two for the first two live shows. Number 3 saw her burst onto the stage with the kind of manic energy of someone with bipolar disorder, and the audience loved this because they thought it was inspirational, or something. Rachel hauled in the most votes that night. The following week, she was in the Bottom Two again, and out.

Finally, we can’t forget the Digital Spy forums. Logging onto these immediately following the weekly elimination is pure gold dust, and if I keep this blog up as a I plan to, I may post a few highlights each week. It’s not so much that they’re obsessed (I am too, after all), it’s the fact that they’re obsessed and yet still fail to see the show for what it is. I find that fascinating.

I’ll conclude with a link to Steve Brookstein’s (who’s?) blog. The guy offers a pretty invaluable insight into the show itself, having actually won the fucking thing 6 years ago. His commentary makes it clear why his post show success wasn’t to last: there’s an ounce of intelligence, self-respect and creativity there. The XF-worshipping media will have you think he’s washed up, but I think the real victor of a show like this is someone who emerges from the other side and still maintains their integrity.

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