Jade Goody media circus is getting out of hand
As anyone who has read my previous posts on Jade will know I was initially pleased that her decision to allow the cameras to film her treatment and the resulting media coverage has brought about an increased awareness among the public regarding cervical cancer. However, while I still stand by my earlier comments, I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the element of ghoulishness which seems to have taken over as Jade’s condition worsens. I still believe she has a right to die as she lived in front of the cameras, if that is her wish, but the level of salacious interest with which the media are reporting and the public are following the story is bordering on death porn.
Initially I believe Jade’s story captured the public interest as a sad story of human tragedy – a young woman, a mother of two small boys, a celebrity, dying of cancer but it appears now that it is the prospect of witnessing her imminent death which goads the viewing public on. We have become voyeurs of death. The fact that Jade’s decline is so rapid ties in neatly with a daily reporting style. Cancer is not normally so obliging- it can be a long drawn out saga, often with periods of remission which does not lend itself to daily reporting.
As I mentioned earlier, while I am glad that a heightened awareness of cancer has been a direct result of the Jade story, I am now begining to see that the way in which Jade’s terror and pain is splashed across the tabloids is also contributing to people’s terror of cancer. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I too believed, that it was a death sentence. While this is sadly true of some, many of us, receive treatment for cancer and go on to live long and happy lives. In fact, for some, cancer is a life affirming and enriching experience. There is no denying the nights lying awake in fear, the visceral feeling when hair starts to fall out during chemotherapy, the chemo induced nausea and fatigue, the hot flushes, the cold sweats, the days when you want to hide away and the days when you wonder if you will ever feel ok again, but there are also the many kindnesses shown by people, friendships made and friendships renewed, the chance to stop and take a look a look at your life and relationships and make whatever changes you feel are necessary.
Nestled in among all the prurient reports of Jade’s story in the Daily Mail, is an article written by James Landale, chief political correspondent for the BBC News Channel and himself a cancer survivor in which he eloquently writes of ” our modern inability to deal with death – our distance from it, our desire to hide it away in nursing homes, hospices and distant battle fields. Here, in the shape of a 27-year-old woman from Essex, we can experience death – but vicariously, from the safety of our armchairs.” He continues to say, ” I agree there must be better ways of dealing with death and grief than hiding from it. But the public circus and hysteria of a celebrity death is surely not the answer. In the coming months, there will be much talk of legacy as people look for meaning in the life and death of a celebrity. My own hope is, at the very least, for a more balanced portrayal of the realities of cancer, and perhaps some fresh thinking about how we as a society approach death.” Finally, he concludes: “In former times, there was more public ritual and ceremonial – the wearing of certain clothes, the black-edged cards, the wakes held in same room as the body, the sharing of stories about the life just gone and how it touched others. Death was part of life. Now, it seems, it is perilously close to becoming a form of entertainment.”