Jade Goody and her legacy

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I shudder to admit that the whole Jade Goody saga has always made me feel very queasy.

So, Jade Goody has died of cervical cancer.

What will be her children’s fate, I wonder?

I must confess that the whole Goody phenomenon makes me feel very squeamish. It has sometimes been hard, at the centre of this unedifying saga, to force myself to remember that the fate of two small children hangs in the balance.

What chance do they really stand, unless Goody’s money is enough to buy them a well-balanced, caring nanny around whom their lives could centre? I mean: a heroin-addict grandfather, a crack-addict grandma, their mother dead and their thug of a father in jail? It is not the best start in life. Other than the money, it is little better than Goody’s own beginnings.

The whole thing has been so horribly low-rent. Right until the end, with the ghastly Max Clifford as publicist, I was cynical enough to think Goody might stage a ‘miraculous’ recovery much in the manner of Ernest Saunders, and that the whole thing would turn out to be fake. Instead, it has turned out to be a real tragedy.

I feel bad therefore about the part of me that still wishes it wasn’t all so Hallmark – even her demise on Mothering Sunday has the feeling of a managed event, though it must surely be a complete coincidence. I find myself struggling to empathise with people I wouldn’t have wanted to know in real life, but can only attain a kind of family-of-man sympathy.  

Here in France, we fortunately came to Jade Goody quite late. I have never knowingly watched a reality TV programme ore read a celeb magazine, and would rather gouge my own eyes out than watch Big Brother, so the first we heard of her was when her rascist bullying of Shilpa Shetty brought her international notoriety.

As a Brit living abroad, it really made my heart sink to see this woman, who appeared to be nothing more than a stupid, racist, loud-mouth, representing my nation, and it tells me everything I don’t want to know about my celebrity-obsessed culture that her stupidity had already made her a millionaire. She was the kind of woman I would have crossed the street to avoid and I would have been more than happy to never hear of her again.

And yet, and yet. There are two children in the case, and they have done nothing wrong. And Jade Goody herself was not a thief or a murderer. She was merely an inadequate and unintelligent person of the kind the British for some unfathomable reason always take to their hearts. Whatever her shortcomings, she did not deserve to die an agonising death at 27. It is not something you would wish on your worst enemy.

She was as much gulled by the media as they were gulled by her and I expect she made many a publicist, photographer and marketing man rich beyond their expectations. Even Max Clifford, who doubtless intended to earn a fat wad of cash off her back will have got more than he bargained for when she suddenly contracted the disease that killed his own wife. God knows, it is an outcome no-one expected.

Goody was up-front about her desire to earn as much money as possible in her last days and weeks, so that she could leave it to her children. So she must be forgiven for that. And she was determined to do it all on camera – she seems to have always mistaken attention, as many media people do, for actual affection. Her early death has done more to raise the profile of cancer screening than any amount of government campaigns, which is a legacy most of us could not achieve.

She didn’t snivel and whine about the unfairness of her fate – she got on with things. And by the manner of her death, not the manner of her life, she finally attained a kind of strange redemption. 


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