Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Mockery and name-calling is unfair to X Factor twins

Is the X Factor turning into the most vile show on television? On Saturday night sections of the audience began booing Dublin twins, John and Edward, before they even sang a note.

It was a reaction more in keeping with the Jeremy Kyle show than a slick talent contest.

So why did the audience react in the way it did? Quite simply because they have been conditioned by some of the judges, principally Simon Cowell, to regard the twins as a talentless freak show.

It is a theme that has been taken up willingly by sections of the media who have described the twins as “vile”, among other names which the boys and their parents must find distressing.

On Saturday night before they came on stage Cowell described them as a “horror show”. What gives him the right to use such language?

It is clear that he regards them as of little talent. Fair enough. But they are not alone in that. Even the two pop stars on the panel, Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue, will never be remembered among the great voices of popular music.

Indeed the twins are asked every week to do what Cheryl did not do when performing her debut solo single on the show — dance and sing live. She sang to a pre-recorded backing track.

Singing while dancing is, apparently, one of the most difficult acts in entertainment. They do it every week — as do some of the other acts. That is asking a lot of kids with no experience of big time audiences and big time performances.

No matter what their level of talent, every one of the acts deserve the utmost praise for performing as they do.

The astonishing thing about the twins — who it should be remembered are only 18 years old — is that they seem to take the most vitriolic criticism in their stride. The audience booing, the smart alec comments of Cowell and the patronising remarks of Dannii and Cheryl — none of them seem to have an effect on the boys.

Instead they get on with their zany act which in recent weeks has been the main reason for watching X Factor — just as John Sergeant was the main reason for watching Strictly Come Dancing last year.

He was no dancer, but he was a star in every other way and we remember his performances long after the flawless foxtrots of some of the other contestants.

Sergeant, of course, was different to John and Edward. He was an experienced television professional who knew how to play the game.

He was more than capable of holding his own when it came to criticism and eventually he left the programme on his terms.

They couldn’t get rid of him, so he resigned rather than bring the dancing contest into disrepute. A masterstroke.

John and Edward are in a different position. They auditioned for the X Factor, got lucky and got picked for the finals. They didn’t force anyone to put them on. The least they should expect is to be treated with courtesy.

Why should they be subjected to odious name calling and uncouth booing from an audience whipped into a frenzy of unthinking banality?

Cowell’s talent shows have always liked to poke fun at those who audition for them. Why else would we be shown the seriously deluded who annually try to win a place in the finals? Why else would the worst of the worst then be paraded on the night of the final to remind us of their delusions?

It’s not clever and its not really funny.

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