How celebrity TV manipulates our responses - and grief

By Alan Simon ( China Daily ) Updated: 2009-04-16 10:29:15

The British Prime Minister recently led the tributes for TV "celebrity" Jade Goody, who lost her battle with cervical cancer at the tender age of 27.

How celebrity TV manipulates our responses - and grief

"I am extremely saddened by her death. She was a courageous woman both in life and death," said Gordon Brown. "She will be remembered fondly by all who knew her."

You might be forgiven for thinking the PM was delivering a eulogy to a Head of State. The fact that he paid tribute at all spoke volumes for the modern-day status of celebrity and in particular, reality television. After all, can you imagine Winston Churchill addressing the nation to lament the passing of a TV personality? Within hours of Goody's death hundreds of people had visited her home outside London to deliver gifts for her two children and thousands more had already paid tribute online.

Goody was an unknown teenager with no qualifications other than a troubled upbringing when, in 2002, she made a loudmouthed appearance on Big Brother, a program in which people share a house together under the 24-7 glare of cameras at every turn. She made such an impression that in 2007 she was invited to appear on Celebrity Big Brother, during which she launched a tirade against Indian actress Shilpa Shetty, calling her among other things "Shilpa Poppadom". She later admitted those comments were "embarrassing and disgusting".

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