Hard to know where to start with the Jade Goody revival, her corpse exhumed by Channel 4 and slapped on a digital slab for us all to have another gawp, writes Suzanne Harrington.
‘Fat, ugly chav’ eviscerated by the tabloids, in an era when being eviscerated by the tabloids still meant something; her ignorance and gobbiness clashed with notions of how young women should look and act.
Graham Norton wore a Jade fat suit, and Jonathan Ross made comments about her that would today earn a ‘Me Too’ hashtag. She was mocked, reviled, ridiculed, described as ‘common as muck,’ ‘thick as shit.’
It was class hatred at its most virulent, with all of us colluding.
That is until former tabloid editor Piers Morgan got his Mirror minions to change tack, to prolong her shelf life. As Big Brother’s biggest ever name, she was red-top catnip.
So she became a plucky triumph over adversity, the child of working class drug addicts who somehow got on the telly; yet the reality — rather than the media version of reality spinning around her — was that prior to anyone having ever heard of her, Goody had extricated herself from her ultra-dysfunctional background towards reasonable functionality.
She’d become a dental nurse. She may not have had even a basic grasp of geography, but she had enough innate intelligence to turn coming fourth on a reality show into financial fortune for herself and her family.
She opened a beauty salon. She had her own perfume, the ultimate statement of arrival.
This is the point where she could have lived happily ever after, at least until cervical cancer killed her at 27. Except, by now she was as hooked on fame as her parents were on heroin, sold to her in glossy hits by an unscrupulous, insatiable media.
She went on Big Brother again, this time as a ‘celebrity’. Manipulated by the programme’s producers, she — mixed-race, bullied — revealed herself to be a racist bully. And overnight, another incarnation, her third of four. The one that got her the most attention of all: hideous racist chav, in an era when we still frowned on that kind of thing, before hideous racist chavs became elected heads of state. We hated her again, this time with genuine outrage.
Luckily for her career, she died. In terms of rehabilitating her image from racist monster back to plucky princess, dying too early and leaving two small children was peerless, a strategy not even Max Clifford could have conceived.
How she took charge of her death was almost Bowie-like, albeit with radically different tactics: she publicised it, monetised it, televised it. She married in white, her chemo skull unveiled; days from death, she secured a fat deal with a gossip mag, providing for her children. Her death was written about in the New York Times, mentioned by Gordon Brown. Her story is not so much about her, as about us.
If it makes us feel uncomfortable, then it is our own voyeurism that is causing our discomfort. We colluded all the way. We constructed her.