There are lots of problems I could have with the X Factor. At best, it’s a wake for the death of the music industry, where acts thrive so long as Simon Cowell can make a few quid out of them, regardless of their talents. At worst, it’s a freakshow giving the nation permission to join in the humiliation of the weak and talentless who’ve bought into the capitalist myth of celebrity. But, I’m afraid, it’s also top drawer Saturday night entertainment: I get to shout at the telly; fantasise about feeding the lovely Gary Barlow up nice and plump again; and occasionally hear some lovely singing while Babyface and I eat dinner. Ace.
And generally I don’t feel too guilty about doing so. The end result of the show is generally a happy one for all concerned, and it gives me something to talk about with tories. But last night I felt more soiled than usual by the show, after seeing Kendro. The ultracamp teenagers were introduced with the pantomime of ‘picking out a random act in the queue’ (followed by pre-recorded footage of the pair getting ready beforehand), set to music used by last year’s token gay duo, Diva Fever, giving any hard-of-thinking viewers a slap in the face hint that we should support these boys because they’re already well on their way to the final.
They bounced onto the stage with an image and attitude which screamed ‘We’re gay – isn’t that just a hoot!’, and pouted while they reapplied lipstick, just in case anyone had failed to notice their sexuality. With this gesture that transported us back to 1970s sitcoms, they had the Manchester audience wrapped round their self-consciously limp fingers straight away: if there’s one thing homophobia has taught us it’s that men in drag is hilarious, and that gay men are perfectly acceptable, so long as the their sexual preference is their defining characteristic.
I can’t blame these two kids though. They’re growing up in a country with a long tradition of cauterising the perceived threat of homosexuality with humour. Ooo, you are awful, but I like you …I’m free … I’m the only gay in the village … I’m a lady! With this high camp performance, gay men desexualise themselves with faux feminity, and become complicit in the heterosexual oppression.
Straight men can rest assured that a gay man isn’t going to sneak up on him unannounced so long as he’s clearly marked apart with a pink sparkly armband. But a gay man who dresses and behaves just like any other man? Now there’s a worry. Backs against the walls, boys.
This at the end of the week where straight-thinking Britons congratulate themselves for relaxing the ban on gay men donating blood: so long as they have not had sex with another man in the past 12 months. “A step in the right direction”, say the gay rights group Stonewall. However, I don’t see a ban on blood donation from women who like it up the bum, or straight men who don’t use condoms.
Kendro, unsurprisingly, sang like cats fighting over a dead rat. Nonetheless, Louis’ Irish eyes were smiling euro signs as he planned their one-hit; Kelly Rowland clicked her fingers, rippled her hair, and called them ‘girlfriends’; and Tulisa from NDubz (joke: what do you call a girl with two cunts?), also gave the thumbs up of professional fag-haggery.
But our boy Barlow made me want to set aside an extra pudding for him as he put his once pudgy foot down, puffed up his skinny chest (his sexy moobs now empty fur flaps – I’d imagine), and told Kendro they were ‘exactly what this show doesn’t need’. Unfortunately, our Gary’s display of conscience was to no avail, and the pair have gone through to boot camp. Or fluffy stiletto mule camp, perhaps.
To add to my regular disappointment with bourgeois society, just as I was starting to wonder what my new hero would look like if he fattened up and grew a nice big Marxist beard, I turn to ITV2 where Gary Barlow shatters my illusion by answering the question ‘How do you write your songs?’ with the most cynical words any musician could utter: ‘I sit down and imagine what they’d play on Match of the Day when a goal is scored’.
I should hope that were Billy Brentford asked the same question, his answer would be: ‘I stand up and imagine what the proletariat would sing in the moments before the Revolution’.