16 November 2011

X Factor: What's The Attraction?

by Angelene Goodman

So what is it about the X Factor that is just so fascinating? Surely we have seen it all before? And yet we are still so keen to see yet another singing competition.

I have to admit that X Factor is one of my guilty pleasures. But while I do find it entertaining, part of me is troubled by it all. The pursuit of fame as a means to find meaning can only ever be a quest doomed to failure.

Chasing the “American dream” used to mean the pursuit of happiness, having the freedom to reach one’s dream of a more prosperous life. However, today it has evolved and the pursuit of wealth has been overshadowed by the pursuit of fame. This is the American dream of our century, and the popularity of these same shows in NZ show how pervasive the idea is in our culture also. You know you are significant because people know who you are, and the more people the more significant you are and the more your life takes on meaning. But how empty this all is, as those who attain the dream discover as it turns to ashes in their hands (just think of Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and Lindsey Lohan, and countless others).

As Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the movie “Country Strong” (a brilliant portrayal of the meaninglessness of fame) says, “Love and fame can’t live in the same place”. Somehow our culture has traded in the truth for a lie, love for fame, relationship for image. True meaning in life is found in relationship, knowing as we are known. Fame can only ever be a cheap imitation of this. There is no true knowing with fame. All one knows of a celebrity is a façade, an idol to worship from afar, or a fallen idol to judge without understanding.

And this is what troubles me as I watch shows like X-Factor, particularly when I see kids who have already bought into the lie that is the “American dream”. They are so excited to get chosen from an audition, and I am sad because I know that even if they attain what they are dreaming of it won’t satisfy them.

How different from the path of Christ who made himself of no reputation.

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