Editor Reports: The eXploitation Factor

The X Factor returned on Saturday night with huge audiences and a slight tweak in its format. ATV Today’s editor Doug Lambert reflects on the programme in this edition of ATV Reports.

All auditions are not only performed in front of the judges but also a jeering crowd who are practically watering at the teeth to laugh and boo are all the atrocious acts ala the crowds who watched people being thrown to the loins.

Reality television can be a cruel and harsh place which ruthless exploits the venerable in our society for the entertainment of the masses. A quick glance at Big Brother confirms this fact with desperate and fame hungry wannabes exposing themselves to millions, or maybe just a million if this years ratings are anything to go by, of viewers in the hope of getting their 15 minutes of fame and a front page cover of Hello magazine. The Big Brother contestants exit, and usually enter the house, to jeers and boos from the crowd outside but at least the crowd is just a mere handful of people.

How many people were in the auditorium of The X-Factor auditions on Saturday evening? A mere handful? Not likely. The number was in the hundreds if not thousands and those who auditioned in front of the judges also had to do so in front of the masses sat there. For anyone auditioning in this new style it’s a hugely frightening and intimidating experience especially when those gathered masses start to boo and jeer at them. In fact they were practically watering at the teeth and the mere possibility of laughing, jeering and booing at the atrocious acts that inevitably audition in front of the judges. If these acts got a cruel word from the judges, especially Simon, then the crowds cheered and clapped. How sympathetic to the venerable people in our society who are being ruthless exploited by the ratings titan for laughs and giggles.

Of course these acts have appeared ever year on the X-Factor in the early rounds of the show and many people tuned in just to watch those awful ones. But the difference this time around is they can see, their and then, not just the reactions of the judges but also the audience and the audience shows no mercy. The audience is lapping up every out of tune performer, every deranged wannabe pop star, every auditionee who is obsessed with one of the judges panel – they love it all. But not in a good way. They don’t show these people any support instead hundreds, if not thousands, of watchers point and laugh, boo and jeer. Just imagine how utterly soul destroying and devastating that is.

But what is this comparable too? Well I’ll probably be accused of over-reacting here but actually it’s rather like the throwing of people to the loins in ancient Rome. Thousands would watch and victims were thrown to the meet their deaths in the Coliseum, the audience would jeer and laugh as the victims tried to escape the loins. Gladiators would fight out amongst themselves as the audience would watch and jeer, laugh and clap. It’s entertainment at other people’s expense and The X-Factor left a very nasty taste in my mouth on Saturday evening.

I didn’t even make it half way through the programme before walking away in disgust at the show. The early rounds may always have been about exploiting those poor people who think they can sing but at least it was done in a way that the only harsh words came from the judges. At least they didn’t see the reactions of the audience and weren’t humiliated right in front of thousands of people. There’s a comfort to it being done through television as you feel somewhat detached from it but when you can see the actual reactions of other audience members then you start to feel guilty and ashamed.

After all what does it say about our society if we are prepared to watch such antics and think of them as entertainment?