You may or may not have heard about a “punch up” on the UK version of singing competition show The X Factor, but the cringe-worthy video has been doing the rounds of the commercial media over the last few days and I am fairly appalled at the free pass they’ve been giving the utter bastards who set it up.
The short version is that two tone-deaf, oblivious English teenagers were deliberately put on stage before a large arena full of people, and then on television, in order to be publicly humiliated. (It’s apparently called an “Audition”, but it defies belief that contestants were just put out there without any kind of run-through beforehand.) During this ordeal they hit out at the crowd that mocked them and the judges who pointed out that they were terrible, before the one who’d been snappier asked Natalie Imbruglia “who are you?” and her friend, finally realising that this attitude was going to lose them whatever sympathy to which they might previously have been entitled, backhanded her in the face as she fled the stage. (It’s not really a “punch up”, since there’s only one strike, but anyway.)
Sadly you kind of have to see it to get the cruelty of it – which, annoyingly, means another hit for the ITV YouTube account.
Obviously these are two teenagers with some serious growing up to do, starting with the realisation that singing is not their strong point and they should find something else to which to devote their lives.
But that’s not the thing that gets me. It’s that they were cynically and deliberately put in the above position – and I doubt most of us have been heckled by a large crowd before, so who knows how we’d react – by adults who should’ve known better. It’s that this TV program has been able to use the incident to generate huge amounts of free publicity (and I get the irony that this post inadvertently contributes to that), without an ounce of criticism that I can see. Where’s the commentary about the ethics of deliberately putting teenage girls who the producers must’ve known cannot sing at all, up on stage in a talent contest? It’s monstrously cruel and unnecessary. And the judges sitting there acting as if they’d been fooled, as if they were shocked, as if these girls were making a mockery of them – come on. Surely Cowell, at least, was fully aware of how they’d got there – which is, at the very least, by the people holding the earlier auditions implicitly lying to them that they had progressed because they had some chance in the competition, that they had even a vague prospect of not being the victims of a total public crucifixion.
It’s a talent show. It might be entertaining for the mob to take advantage of the naivety of teenagers, but it’s not consequence-free. I suppose everyone will laugh really heartily if one of those girls commits suicide now? Seriously, what was the point? Who enjoys this level of public humiliation of others? And why have the ghouls who profit from destroying kids so viciously not been held to any kind of account?
The first thing I thought after watching that video was – that should not have happened. Somebody with sense must have realised what was about to happen to those girls. What are the X-Factor producers putting into place to make sure it does not happen again?
Please tell me I’m not alone in that.