Aidan Moffat's still thinking about Jade Goody
The death of Jade Goody has had no impact on my life, nor would I expect it to have any on yours, unless you happen to be a friend or a member of the Goody family. It’s tragic to see any young mother die before she reaches her thirties, of course, and her loved ones have my sympathy. But I didn’t know Jade, we’d never met; what little relationship we had ended the night she was evicted from the Big Brother house, when – like all the contestants on the show – she ceased to be of any use to me. And while I didn’t keep up to speed with her post-BB life, it was impossible to ignore her recent, Max Clifford-publicised death.
The scenes of thousands of mourners attending her funeral on the news were intriguing: was I missing something by not having Jade in my life? The final decision to investigate came when I read Sir Michael Parkinson’s horrific comments in The Radio Times. I was appalled to read that the amiable, down-to-earth former chat show host lovably known to British TV viewers as "Parky" considered her to "represent all that’s paltry and wretched about Britain today" because "she was brought up on a sink estate, as a child came to know drugs and crime" and was "barely educated."
Parkinson, the son of a Yorkshire coal miner, clearly feels he has transcended his working-class roots, i.e. the very background he employed to promote his affinity with the British proletariat. And as for education, if his online biography is correct then he has even less formal qualifications than I do, and I was expelled from school at the age of seventeen! His arrogant, pompous, offensive comments really angered me, so I decided to find out more about Jade, which wasn’t difficult – the Living TV channel seemed dedicated to little else this weekend.
So I’ve just watched Jade: With Love, and I’m not ashamed to say that I found it quite emotional. Some of you will no doubt be very aware of her story, and some of you may have just watched the same two-hour televisual wake that I have, but convention recommends that I now use a bit of space to give the reader a quick recap, so feel free to skip the following paragraph if you know this already.
Jade was brought up by her violent single mother, Jackiey, because her heroin addict father was usually somewhere else, either shooting up or doing time. Following an accident, her mum lost the use of her right arm, leaving five-year-old Jade to attend to the household duties. Then her mother became a junkie too, and naturally Jade’s burden became greater and education became less of a priority. She left school to work as a dental nurse, and in 2002 appeared on Channel 4’s Big Brother in the UK.
She was popular with the nation, not least because her admission of being a bit thick was rather endearing and often hilarious. She made it to the final but didn’t win, then walked out into a life of celebrity: she opened her own, doomed beauty salon, created her own perfume, etc. etc. She also managed to fit the birth of two sons in somewhere and then split up with their father, while her own estranged dad died of an overdose in a KFC toilet. Then she agreed to appear on Celebrity Big Brother (again on Channel 4), where she was accused of racism towards Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. She apologised profusely for this in any newspaper and TV show willing to allow her a platform, and I personally don’t believe she was racist. Stupid and easily led, yes, but not quite racist. Anyway, Jade – whose father was half West Indian, by the way – then agreed to go on India’s version of Big Brother to help atone for the incident. The show was introduced by none other than – you’ve guessed it – Shilpa Shetty! After only a couple of days in the house, in a foreign country with no friends or family to offer support, she received the news that she was dying of cervical cancer and was sent home. She agreed to have her final days of deterioration filmed, both as a warning to young female viewers who may need encouragement to attend smear tests, and also to leave a healthy inheritance for her two young sons. She also married her boyfriend, Jack Tweed, who seems like a shifty little shit to me. He was allowed to break his 7pm curfew – a condition of his early release from a sentence of eighteen months for assault – to marry Jade almost exactly one month before her death, which occurred on Mothering Sunday this year, a few months before her twenty-eighth birthday. Her funeral was shown live on the LivingTV channel.
Remarking on Jade’s intellectual failings is pointless. As she quite beautifully put it herself, she could try to rack her brains but she "ain’t got much to rack." She was extremely self-aware and remained constantly inquisitive – after all, you’re never going to learn if you don’t ask questions. Her lack of knowledge was a charming source of amusement for both her friends and herself, not to mention the millions of people who enjoyed her TV shows: it was the very reason a lot of people loved her. I found myself laughing out loud many times during her documentary, and I almost wish I had kept up to speed with her career trajectory after her Big Brother eviction after all. As for her ‘sink estate’ background, I think she deserves to be applauded for her emotional strength; she will forever be a good role model for any young person born into in a similar situation of seemingly hopeless deprivation. What this recently deceased mother-of-two does not deserve is to be insulted by a miner’s son who grew up to become a Commander of the British Empire, and who seemed to gather all his information from the Daily Telegraph’s hateful obituary.
When your parents are heroin addicts and your dad hides guns under your bed, you can’t be expected to result to anything spectacular. Through no fault of her own, Jade suffered some horrific struggles all of her life until an appearance on a reality TV show gave her the chance to better herself and her family in ways she’d never dared to dream of before, and while she certainly had no discernible talent (although perhaps her singing could have been nurtured to a professional level, she was really quite impressive) what she did have was personality. And, crucially, unlike the rest of the fame-hungry, Big Brother media-whore starlets, she seemed honest and genuine. She wasn’t born anywhere near a silver-spoon and could never have earned a doctorate, but as she said herself: "I’m not the sharpest tool in the box but I’m a good friend and a good mother." Watching her prepare her living room with Santa’s footprints in talcum snow on Christmas Eve as her boys sleep, that is impossible to deny. If that was a perfect example of ‘all that’s wretched and paltry about Britain today’, then I think we’ll all be fine.
So fuck you, Parky. May she rest in peace.