The X Factor – addicted to story

It seems like everyone in the world is talking about the X Factor results show (at least on my Facebook feed!) BBC News are talking about the millions that Simon Cowell is earning from being paid to make a show that gains him revenue from advertisers so desperate to attach their brands to the new act that he’s going to launch, selling millions of CDs and downloads. You literally couldn’t pay enough money to a TV station to get them to promote a debut single to the extent that Cowell and co have every year – and he gets paid for the pleasure of it! “Mat Osman of Britpop band Suede: ‘It just seems to be the greatest con of all time.'”

The article goes on to say that the X Factor is not as varied as the old Top of the Pops shows of ancient history (although better than American Idol, for example). The difference in my mind is down to the story of X Factor. It’s all about overcoming adversity and harsh criticism; emerging from humble roots, a complete nobody achieving their wildest dream; comebacks, comedy and celebrity. In fact, it’s like Simon Cowell has re-created Christmas in his own, ultra-commercialised image!

Even those of us who don’t buy into the year’s biggest karaoke competition are helping buoy the story – whether it’s Biffy, Rage or Cage, it’s all about who can win the epic struggle for the Christmas number one. Even though most of us over the age if 14 don’t care who’s number one for 51 weeks of the year, suddenly we’ll sign up to Facebook campaigns and even buy four-and-a-half minutes of silence just to prove that our story is superior to Cowell’s.

What does the X Factor prove? That people really do love live music on TV? That the British television-watching public are so gullible that they won’t notice a three-month advert for SyCo’s next single interspersed with even more adverts? That you can make (a lot of) money out of people’s choices if you let them choose things they don’t need but care about, while selling them things they don’t realise they need and probably can’t afford? That we’re so desperate for a story to believe in that we’ll sit down and faithfully listen every Sunday evening (oh, not just that, Saturday too!) to the message?