X Factory

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I watched the instantly notorious ‘bullying’ episode of the X Factor twice on Sunday. Unfortunately, as it transpired, they were disjointed parts of an unwatched whole. A cultural hole that I had not really wanted to inspect in any depth, or at least at any length. Should have had more perseverance of course then I wouldn’t have missed anything crucial going on in the unwatchable hole. I didn’t have the patience to sit through any extended period of what was a dour formula franchise talent show promising few highlights and over which I was rapidly losing interest.

Even the live audience seemed to be over it too, unable to reach the hysteria of previous shows. The energy was ebbing away. Dom seemed nervous. Like a lot of the pitchy singing in the New Zealand accent it was noticeably flat. Unlike the last series.

Walk through the aisles of CDs in any shop and you will find the finalists. Benny Tipene, Whenua Patuwai and Jacqui Thomas, and maybe the young girl released something too, certainly they have all had concerts, tours and generous media coverage after the X Factor had finished. And everyone remembers Tom. These characters made that series – and that series made them. They were a gratifying representation of the country. In so far as reach and penetration of their ‘brand’ (and the recognition of their musicality) is concerned within Aotearoa the X Factor should be deemed a success. Why NZ On Air has to help pay Simon Cowell for the privilege of supplying this basic platform however is highly marginal.

So flicking between the live channel on TV3, and then also – after an hour – between the plus one channel, I get the impression that this series may not have any really talented characters to root for. There’s not enough to make me care so far – either in their personalities, their back-stories or their musical abilities. I can envisage everyone of them in the corner of a bistro, but none of them filling Vector. Not at the moment anyway. The characters, by default, are the four judges. If they are carrying the show alone then this is a problem.

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So, burdened with the distractions and diversions of active television viewing I never saw the fatal faux pas that has ended the judging stints of the poseur undertaker and his gothic Cleopatra wife. I missed it – and missed it completely, despite watching it once and a half.

It wasn’t until the following day that it was news and I was none the wiser. What could possibly have happened? Did someone deny the holocaust, or burn a cross, or nipple-slip or something!? A rude tat showing? A loose testicle perhaps? Did Dom drop the F bomb? A racist outburst maybe? I still haven’t watched it because I want to give my assessment of them both beforehand.

All I know is that there is a consensus that the pair were bullying one of the contestants. If that contestant – Joe whoever – is the guy from Invercargill who keeps screwing his face up in a torment and proceeds on the brink of blubbing for the entire time he isn’t actually singing, then I will forgive them both in advance if that was the direction of their criticism.  Any person observing his intense expressions will at least be aware – alarmed – by the off-putting Wagnerian drama being playing out across the furrowed brow of that most peculiar Southlander. Almost as off-putting as the face-pulling of the Tuvaluan guy, which is so bad they have to cut away on his close up when he starts rumpling his nose and doing baby faces at the judges. I suppose he thinks it’s cool – it’s cringingly infantile. His comatose eyelids suggest a self-medicated scenario. There’s a fine line between cool and impish, and being a mumbling man child. They are both essentially trying to project an alternative persona to have some stage presence, but are young novices uncertain and ungainly. Such bad looks and bad habits. Someone has to tell them and tell them early so they can work on it. It does them no favours not to, but I suppose the spousal tag team of Dracula and Morticia went too far.

The first criticism of them is their casting as a married couple. Whoever cast a couple must not have flatted with a couple before or they would never have considered it. The couple are a bloc and act as a bloc – which is why couples shouldn’t be judging anything together in such intimate circumstances in a public forum and especially as it turns out live on air. They are cast as a couple they will act like a couple, and apparently they did act like a couple which got them into trouble; but whose fault is that ultimately?

What did the producers expect when they cast a husband and wife as judges? Obviously there would be conflicts of interest and partiality. Obviously they would defend each other and support one another despite this being against the principles of any independent judging situation. How that would make good television or lead to a good outcome though is not clear to me. An embittered pair of otherwise estranged exes would have been ideal.

The second criticism of them is I don’t really know who they are and neither does anyone else. I do recall a music video of a Nick Cave meets Bobby Darrin weirdo guy who was reputedly from New Zealand. I think that was definitely him. Weirdo is OK, but he’s no Bowie. Looks like a rich kid who had Daddy pay for the first few rungs up the ladder. If he’s going for private school ponce as an image then he’s winning, spiffingly.

The third criticism of them is they say dumb shit. He says ‘record’ all the time when he means song. She says all kinds of smack talk – when she isn’t flirting with her pets – and she says it with varying accents so you aren’t sure what place the toxic chameleon is from or what it’s trying to turn into. She can start a sentence in Essex, be somewhere in LA by the middle, and end up in Wainuiomata at the end. If she doesn’t know who she is then I don’t know who she is either. She hadn’t demonstrated much to endear me to her, but done a fair bit to repulse, so when she began each session of feedback on Sunday night by reading out a pompous script she had written I wasn’t in her zone. Not my tempo. Not part of the core.

So now, I’ll go into youtube and watch the sackable incident.

I see the incident is up from multiple sources, the highest viewed of which is 437,000+. 10% of the total population. Quite impressive for 48 hrs – truly viral. It’s all Willy Moon and Natalia Kills and bullying. Shortest is 41 secs, the longest 3:32. Ok, so it must be a short rant that’s offensive. The poor guy – and it is that dude from Southland – is caught in the freeze frame on some of the clips and it looks like a school ball photo of a guy who is being told he’s getting dumped. They probably couldn’t have done this to a more fragile contestant. Maybe that’s why they did it? Time to watch – longer version, so I can see the full horror.

And now I’ve watched it.

Oh holy fuck what a crazed rant from that yapping chuahua. OMG. Stan is just sitting, way, way, way the fuck back in utter disbelief at what he’s hearing. He’s shocked into silence. As are we, the horrified viewer. Is this a joke? Is there a punchline here? She loses her rag over this guy dressing in a suit? She’s ashamed to be on the stage with someone who dresses in a suit and wears hair product, because that’s been patented by her husband – apparently – from what she’s said.

Maybe she should have stuck to her wanky pre-scripted ramblings that were – no doubt – meant only for her and her husband’s mentored contestants. Her better half is calling the guy a psychopath. Even I wouldn’t go that far, not Norman Bates far. It is interesting he picked up on the vibe, but his harangue about dresses and stabbing people was bizarre and misplaced: he himself better fits that bill than Joe thingo. The overall effect was so nasty. It was like she was threatened by his mojo, and she felt it necessary to tear at his self-confidence. Tellingly she chose such a shallow issue. Quite nasty. It was an attack, not criticism. Nothing mentioned about any musical issues, just sartorial issues. It was all about the costume and how that means he’s not a good person. So ridiculous in essence, but so profoundly venomous, caustic. One hesitates to use it, but… so evil.

She was so unrelenting. The woman of no fixed accent was claiming that someone has no identity! What gobsmacking, gobshiteing balderdash. And the basis of logic on which her tirade of abuse turns is that it is because the guy is wearing a suit. Like how her husband does. Well, the lady is a loon.

And this was bullying in real life – all the way down to the seemingly powerless on-lookers who hesitate to intervene. The innocent way the poor guy dealt with it was by far the coolest thing I’ve seen from him. Maybe he was confused by the hostility, but he seemed to show a lot of class with his responses under that pressure. The pretentious foreign bunnies being out-classed by what they see as a nutbar from Hicksville – what a mad scene it was.

The hypersensitive clammering through social media and the resulting sacking is simply extraordinary. I can’t imagine the X Factor having an audience-created double elimination of the judging panel as part of the plan. It’s a mess. This underscores the important point that live TV is what makes TV TV. A live network event still has the power to create a collective experience that other media cannot replicate. And as we have seen the nation is insular enough to share the collective moment and create its own force. Producers have been paralysed by popularity for some time as it is without the online frenzy of the modern era to contend with. Have we witnessed reality TV eating its own heart out?

8 COMMENTS

  1. Great descriptive article.

    L00L ! What a load of puerile old crap the whole thing is and was. It speaks more about the inane quality and standard of modern TV than it does about the ‘ incident ‘ itself.

    Much of what passes for TV these days is the visual equivalent of elevator music.

    Thank goodness I don’t own one !

  2. I think one word sums it up Tim, STAGED. This appears to be a blatant publicity stunt, and it worked too. Just like sex tapes that “accidently” fall into the wrong hands. That stunt has made a minor celebrity a household name on many occasions. I had never heard of any of this people until yesterday, or the show even being in New Zealand for that matter.

  3. Excellent commentary!

    I didn’t watch it, but have seen enough of the promo’s for the show during the 6 pm “News” (if that is what it can still be called) to know that I didn’t miss anything.

    Love the term “Gothic Cleopatra”. I’d already settled for the term “Cleopatric throwback” from the promo’s Id seen, but “gothic Cleopatra” is definitely better! As for the “husband and wife” angle, well that remotely smacks of the kind of “in-house favouratism” that we used to see in the ingrown board-room decision-making of TVNZ.

    I agree with Liberty4NZ and the earlier commentator on RNZ “Nine to noon” (Gavin Ellis was it?) that the tirades were staged; at least that is how it appeared to me in the newsclip. Either that or the person (whose performance I missed) is a bloody hero for standing up to the tirade in the way he did – with an amused, if not expectant smile on his face (suggesting to me an ‘anticipated acceptance” of the critique).

    However, I don’t really care much whether he’s a hero or a stooge – ‘cos as I implied above, i don’t find this kind of TV even remotely entertaining.

    Whatever happened to the BBC documentaries that I used to enjoy so much?

    Oh yes, now I remember, we have to PAY for worthwhile TV these days. And I refuse to!

  4. Classic commentary Tim, all the biliousness described to a tee and, as you say, not a squeak about the music. It was all over “image” and the wrongness of using “intellectual property” when referring to a suit. Yes, this is surely “Pop Eats Itself”. Simon Cowell should be squirming in his bermudas over it.

  5. Okayyyyyyyyy – so on The Daily Blog The X Factor is basically fine to watch despite the objectional behaviour of the judges, while The Bachelor is objectional even though it’s just a dating game with people looking for love (or maybe other things).

    In other words, verbal violence is acceptable on television but verbal sex is not.

    This suggest that taking a political position toward The Bachelor runs the risk of being a form of left wing prudery in disguise.

    Personally, I prefer love/romance/flirting on television over violence any day of the week.

  6. If “reality” shows like The X Factor are the pinnacle of human development, then our ancestors should have stayed in the trees (and left the Monolith well enough alone)…

    I’m not surprised one iota that, eventually, something of this nature would occur. This is idiot tv, created for a dumbed-down populace, to sell products we mostly don’t need…

    The only good (?) thing to arise is that, again, our nation has had it’s collective attention focused on the problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”!) of bullying…

  7. So tired of seeing the plastic faces of Kills and Moon, such egotists have no place in NZ nor on the Daily Blog.

  8. Nice piece of writing, Tim (good ol’ Pete sent it through). The funny thing for me is the subsequent commentary focusing on the similarities between Kills’ and Moon’s own work and that of other people. Ha! That tells me that this comment, at least, wasn’t manufactured. There really is nothing new under the sun: the styles of the past are constantly regurgitated (she does look like the Hollywood image we have of Cleopatra, after all, and who is Willy Moon if not a wanna-be member of the Rat Pack?), many of our musical artists ‘sample’ their heroes (with or without acknowledgement and/or royalties being paid), etc.

    Best thing about living in Australia? The ABC.

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