Friday, 10 December 2010

Wouldn’t it be great if… Simon Cowell didn’t control Christmas

Now in its seventh year, The X-Factor has once more taken over our TV screens in the ubiquitous Christmas countdown. It’s difficult to avoid this whirlwind of pseudo-celebrity hysteria as Cowell and co march into our lives every year, bringing with them a stream of cyclical carnage from which I often wonder if I’ll ever be free.

I could probably manage if The X-Factor was just an innocent TV programme. But it isn’t. I can’t talk to my family on weekend evenings anymore and Facebook is a no-go zone, particularly if there is a ‘shock’ elimination, Cheryl has adopted Minnie Mouse’s ears or Louis has had another binge on the Just For Men. Not to mention the poor old genuine recording artists who struggle to reach No. 24 in the charts at Christmas, thanks to Cowell and his merry band of generic wannabes. And woe betide me if I want to eat breakfast without Jedward gazing out of the window of a sad, sorry advent calendar. I bet he’s elated that we already managed to abbreviate Christmas to ‘Xmas’ ourselves; that’s one X-Factor related prefix that needs no further attention. Perhaps we’re all subconscious suckers to the corporate machine- especially here at eXeter University.

Of course I only intend to use The X-Factor as a symbolic metaphor for all that is wrong with Christmas in the glittering spectacle that is the twenty-first century. I’m not a raging scrooge-in fact I love Christmas. From around the 20th December to the 5th January, I am happy as a twelve-year-old girl in the front row of a Justin Bieber concert. However, given that decorations start to appear in shops in early September and the ‘January’ sales continue well into March, it pretty much occupies half the year. I think that Christmas needs stripping back, not to its religious beginnings, but to what makes it special, year after year.

‘X-Factorisation’ as it shall henceforth be known, takes Christmas away from family, food, community and the exchanging of gifts and turns it into an unrelenting commercial juggernaut. I don’t want to see the world turned into an apocalyptic vision of red, green and gold, but I do want to make mince pies and drink mulled wine. There is a difference. A certain air of joie de vivre pervades around this time of year, but the moans of ‘Tesco had tinsel up in August this year! August, would you believe it!’ mar what would otherwise be an intrinsically warm and fuzzy feeling. We don’t need the excess and we definitely don’t need Terry’s to bring out 4 different flavours of Chocolate Orange, when Milk is always going to be the best anyway. I don’t want an uber-deluxe cracker containing a bejewelled crown and a full size chess board and I would rather buy my little sister something tasteful than a JLS album.

Christmas is a brilliant excuse for catching up with family, visiting friends that have been unintentionally neglected and spending time on things that really matter. Simon Cowell wouldn’t have it this way. He wants you all to eschew Saturday and Sunday night invitations and stampede around HMV buying thousands of copies of The X-Factor winner’s Christmas single, which will undoubtedly reach No. 1 unless a global campaign blights chart domination.

There’s also a sense of ‘togetherness’ that is forgotten through X-Factorisation. Those of us without bottomless wallets can still enjoy Christmas to the maximum because it shouldn’t be about the biggest or most expensive present. It’s about enjoying what you’ve got with the people that you have. This year in particular, the spending cuts have ensured that extravagancy is no longer relevant. If you expend vast amounts on the products of X-Factorisation then redundancy will not a merry Christmas make. Moreso than ever, we need to ignore the bells and whistles of Simon Cowell’s monotonous, materialistic venture in order to find that satisfaction is gained whilst beating tipsy relatives at Trivial Pursuit.

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