13 November, 2010
Guilty Pleasure? X Marks the Spot
It has arrived. The sun is shining, the kids are kidding, the parents are sleeping, the girls are gossiping, the boys are…boy-ing, the runners are running, the players are playing, even the cynics are smiling and only the winos are whining. Yes, there is a buzz in the air and a skip in Simon Cowells step that can only mean one thing – it’s Saturday. And a universal excitement has crept up on the nation and is buzzing its way through hearts and houses far and wide.
Could it be because we don’t have work today? Because today we’re going to finally treat ourselves to that dress we’ve been eyeing up all week? Because tonight we’re going to elatedly down the wine and/or beer that’s been chilling expectantly in the fridge since Monday tea time? Or maybe it’s because it is officially only 6 weeks until Santa fails to appear on our rooftops again (and aged 24 we’re still slightly disappointed) and we get to be festively merry?
Maybe. But tonight is extra (terrestrial) special, because tonight the nation will be joyously united in the singing, dancing, bitching, judging, crying, laughing, opinion splitting, back stabbing, heart stopping, wine requiring extravaganza that is THE X FACTOR.
Now then, I know it’s not cool to admit you’re arranging your Saturday night around a reality TV show, it’s certainly not chic to ask your friend to arrive at 7.48 “because that’s when Dermot O' Leary comes on” and it’s even less a la mode to arrive at your Saturday destination 10 minutes after the final performance, claiming you were “stuck in traffic.”
But come on people! 14.9 million of you tuned in last week to see Katie “weasel” Waissal sing for survival yet again, 14.9 million of you put money in Simon Cowells too high up pocket just so you could see if Cher Lloyds swag was still on, and 14.9 million of you sssh’d your loved ones so that you could fully appreciate Matt Painter/Decorater without his hat on. One of you even fell asleep after the sheer exhaustion of the X factor rollercoaster, thereby missing your entire Saturday night out (not me)! That 14.9 million suggests to me that the X Factor is currently the UK’s biggest collective guilty pleasure and we should not be ashamed.
But quite why has X Factor fever taken hold of level-headed adults, restless students, too young to know what’s happening 2 year olds and unable to follow the ‘plot’ grandparents?
First of all, X Factor gives us license to do the taboo and openly bitch, judge and stereotype like never before. We can’t do it at work, for that would be schoolboy and could lead to our professional and financial demise. We can’t do it at home, because aren’t family dynamics too complex to even go there? We 100% will not do it amongst friends, because we love our friends like we love Dermot O’Leary in a suit. But we can do it behind the safety of a TV screen, unheard and unseen by our targets, securely on our sofas, brazenly shrieking at them over our wine glass.
We can laugh when Katie cries and she won’t see us. We can hiss when Danni does another annoying “you go girlfreyyyyynddd!” gesture and she will never know. We can moan inappropriately when Matt descends the stage in strangely sexy but oddly coloured trouser and he’ll never realise we’re a little bit psycho over him. X Factor is an official license to express judgment we just could not get away with in the real world. And we love it.
Second of all, it warms our hearts. Girls or boys, men or women, drunk or tea-totals, minted or skinted, lonely or with friends, in bed with a bowl of ice cream the size of your face or in a bar with a bottle of champagne on ice, northern or southern, gay or straight, Scrooge or Santa – everyone’s loving it and everyone’s watching it.
You know when you’re secretly enjoying Wagner, someone 300 miles away is surreptitiously loving him too. You know when you’re laughing at Louis Walsh’s shocked cry of “every week you come out here and sing!” and millionth “…you remind me of a young [insert example]” someone is laughing with you. And you KNOW that when you’re looking at Cheryl Cole with a creepy expression on your face, somewhere in the region of 14, 899, 999 others are doing the same thing. And that makes you happy.
Finally, it is just damn entertaining. Who doesn’t love it when Katie sits on the stage and exclaims “OH SOD IT” after trying to prove she deserves to be in the competition and is in fact “like totally just like myself, just like this is me and I’m like totally loveable and genuine honest”? Who actually doesn’t get tingles and tears when Rebecca declares in perfect harmony that she just wants to make us feel her love? And really, who doesn’t enjoy it when every now and then Simon criticises Cheryl and she totally wipes the floor with him? No one. And if you disagree, you’ve either a shoddy heart of stone or a lack of television.
So do not deny, X factor lovers, that you have the forbidden fever and that come the grand finale, there will be a hole in your heart, a void on your sofa and an embarrassing number of views on the Youtube repeats. You are not alone! And if your near and dear try to deny their love for the shameful show, you can throw 14.9 million in their face until they beg for mercy and join you on the sofa tonight.