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Jade Goody: let her be

Those who argue that she was a down-to-earth young woman who spoke her mind and had boundless energy and a lust for life tend, in the main, to be those with otherwise sad lives and tabloid journalists who saw (see) Jade Goody as Tabloid Gold.

She did after all fill hundreds of their pages and endless hours of TV time in her seven years in the public eye.

To them she was tenacious, optimistic, a super mum, hugely courageous — and, above all, great fun.

Granted she may have possessed some, or indeed all, of these fine qualities — her last letter to her sons touched me, I'll admit, though I thought her handwriting had quite a Cliffordesque calligraphy to it — but Jade Goody, and there's really no nice way of saying this, was (also) vile, bigoted, stupid, arrogant, racist, and ignorant.

And yes, I know, she had a deprived upbringing and I know that lack of a good education is a terrible thing, but do we have to have her whole life and her whole death paraded before us in slow-mo for breakfast, dinner and tea?

I suppose if I'm honest it's not Jade herself that I am jaded with — I'm actually indifferent to her (my problem, I know) — but rather with the whole Max Clifford circus, aided and abetted by most media, this paper included, that seems to have gone on for ever and a day and now culminates in a funeral set to get blanket coverage from rolling news channels, with people up and down these islands whispering her name and that of Princess Diana in the same breath.

Look, readers, it's simple. Get real. Jade Goody is dead. Quietly move along now folks, there's nothing more to see.

Unless you count her grief-stricken family and frenzied fans, balling their eyes out like some light had gone out of their (the fans') lives.

I found it frightening to see the growing legion of mainly young people (my own daughter included) being slowly sucked in by the Max factor.

Hundreds of thousands of people, who would be ashamed to be caught rubbernecking at the scene of a car crash, found themselves opening the newspaper to see “how Jade is doing”. In other words, to see how bad her cancer was getting.

And they were wholeheartedly encouraged by the victim of this particular fatal smash, leaning out of the wreckage and beckoning them in. See how bald my head is now See, what flavour my lollipop is See my wedding day snaps, but you have to buy OK mag

I sadly suspect that her decision to exploit her pitiful plight to raise money for her sons was driven as much by her constitutional need for publicity as by anything else.

The whole sorry saga — diagnosis on camera, the losing of her hair, her weight loss (“I think it suits her”), the wedding, the terrified look on her face going home for the last time — was rolled out before us in episodic fashion. Most of it aired, ironically, on the Living TV channel. Thankfully, they stopped short of showing us the face of death in some one so young. You could almost hear that Geordie accent: “Today, Jade has to make it through her wedding ... without collapsing ”

Jade Goody was arguably our (your) first reality TV star — she was certainly the first to die.

Reality/Celebrity TV is the new religion, its stars the new gods. The new opiate of the people.

The awareness of cervical cancer aside, maybe she did, for many, embody the urge to go from no one to celebrity.

Reality television is more likely the product, not the cause, of that bewildering but insatiable urge to turn our lives into drama, to measure ourselves against celebrities.

The factory workers of the mid 20th century were encouraged to cast themselves as members of a proletariat who would be swept to power and prosperity by the inexorable forces of history.

Or they might even have gone to church.

John Lennon famously remarked that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ. Jade Goody has one up on the Fab Four here.

Then, lo and behold, the Jade Goody Show ends with a twist few would have guessed at.

Didn't she go and have the audacity to get cancer and die right before our very eyes. Robbing us of many more years of her inanities that would guarantee reams of newsprint.

Her decision to hold on to the conventions of reality television while she was dying made me feel uncomfortable, like a throwback to the Coliseum with the great unwashed baying for blood.

I pray her lovely boys, Bobby and Freddie, are not pursued by the paparazzi, like Diana's boys initially were, in the thirst for more of the same.

Surely we have moved along the road from Roman times to where a life and its extinguishing, the finality of its no-moreness, should be seen as sacred and treated accordingly.

And with a certain respect for privacy and reflection? Not paraded on primetime TV.

(But then maybe I'm naïve, given that the hapless, starving, dying African child is now part and parcel of our TV feed.)

Maybe I am naïve but I'll say it one more time. Is there nothing sacred any more?

To paraphrase the Nobel author Doris Lessing, how are we in our minds going to change with the new (reality) which has seduced a whole generation into its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free

In short, that we find our own lives passing us by while we're busy watching others live, and die, on a 42in plasma TV screen.

Belfast Telegraph