Woman with blues by Pants
‘A Primark Princess’, that’s what Russell Brand dubbed Jade Goody. I wonder if he realises how insightful an observation he’s made. Perhaps he’s also sat on the top deck of the No 55 bus as it crawled through East London on a Saturday afternoon and tried to focus his attention on The Guardian but registered only half a dozen prattling girls arguing over who has the flyest ever boyfriend/nailart/ringtone. Perhaps it was also obvious to him that they were on their way to Primark,
Jade Goody was a dominant figure in the superficial egalitarianism that came to epitomise the new millennium
There were over 22 million hits on Google for Jade Goody last time I looked. Of those, several thousand were news items. It’s fair to say Jade had well and truly arrived before she unexpectedly left. She’s been called the ‘ultimate’ reality star. That kind of presupposes there were others. I can’t think of any apart from James Hewitt who came with inbuilt infamy and has been louching his way across our unfortunate collective consciousness for interminable decades. No one could deny that Jade did sculpt a very credible silk purse from a most lamentable sow’s ear, but she did rather more than that. She was given just one big opportunity and she not only ran with it, she came first. My own path is littered with squandered opportunities so I can appreciate, however grudgingly, the insight, focus and acumen required to turn an active vocabulary of thirty-seven words (half of them made up) into a multi-million pound fortune.
Predictably the comparisons with the death of Diana, the former diva of attention magnetism, have proliferated to mark Jade’s departure. Just as Diana’s life and early death were compared to that of Marilyn Monroe a generation before, Jade’s demise seems now to complete an unlikely trinity of martys to femme fatalism. What’s it all about? Many have tried to explain. None of it looks either logical or pretty. Let me try to make sense of it – I don’t imagine I’ll do worse than any of the thousands who’ve already been there.
Marilyn Monroe was a screen siren and very beautiful. Diana was a pure princess and very beautiful. So far, so archetypically sustainable as explanations go. But then along came Jade and she was, like one of her implausibly successful product lines, Just Jade. Enter the paradox. How does the ordinary become the exceptional by doing nothing more than remaining resolutely ordinary? Some qualities Jade shared with those other thick, peroxided birds with kamikaze sex genes we can’t seem to stop missing.
She had that whole absurdly vulnerable and needy yet hard as nails when it comes to protecting your self-interest thing going on. But Paula Yates had that in spades. She was bleached, blithering in the love department, died shockingly and left young children but there were no teddy bears and helium-filled, heart-shaped balloons left outside her house. Is it because she wasn’t thick or because she didn’t have the compulsion to share the minutiae of her daily existence? (That was a lucky break. Too much information about Bob Geldof and/or Michael Hutchence may have rendered the concept of tomorrow untenable).
Jade was compulsively confessional. Like Diana and Marilyn before her, she wanted everyone to hear about her trials and triumphs. To know the intimate details of a person’s life renders them a kind of proxy intimate. Many commentators have drawn the comparison with soap opera – a scenario of long-term tribulation trailing. That’s not so interesting. Historically it’s women principally who emote over the early demise of the famous. In 1926, the entire American supply of smelling salts was exhausted by the ‘grief’ of the nation’s women at the premature loss of the laughably camp, even for the whoring twenties, silent movie actor Rudolph Valentino. Plenty have argued that this sentimentalising belongs in a time when women were given nothing more meaningful to do. So how come it’s still happening? What perversion of the feminine mystique is this?
That’s not what the whole Jade hate/love/grief triangle is all about however. Her life and death tells you everything you need to know about
I often wonder if British men understand that women are a separate gender rather than inferior men in drag.
As a woman, I always feel as if my bippy’s being yanked when I’m asked to produce sympathy where it’s clearly not required and I wonder what the men are doing while I’m searching for a clean hankie. There’s an inexplicable zeitgeist embodied in the late Jade Goody, the fascination for which I hope doesn’t last very long. I especially hope the phenomenon that was Jade, laudable as her considerable personal achievements might have been, doesn’t morph into a hideously crass role model for aspiring girls from deprived backgrounds that absolves the government of the day from providing them with an equal and decent education. And I pray, oh yes I pray, that Elton John is not penning V3 of CitW as I type. If there is a god, let her smite him now before such an evil thought should enter his mind …