The Sex Factor

There are a number of podcasts that I listen to weekly/fortnightly/when I get time to catch up while Dawn is asleep [delete as appropriate]. One of these podcasts recently involved a discussion of their top five fantasy celebrity hook ups (go on, since you twisted my arm… Alison Brie, Holly Willoughby, Kat Dennings, Christina Hendricks, Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

One of the more unusual choices from the female discussee (is that a word?) was Rupert Grint. Leaving aside the fact that he’s a bit funny looking (though given one of the choices on my list, I can’t mock the ginger angle), this was an interesting choice because she had grown up seeing him in the Harry Potter movies, so had picked up the crush at a young age and just carried it through to adulthood. This is something I can entirely understand, as until fairly recently Christina Ricci was high on my list for similar reasons (I first fancied her, when I was about 10, as Wednesday Addams… which is arguably as odd as fancying Ron Weasley). Unfortunately, she then got really skinny and dropped off my list… unlucky, Christina.

Anyway, all of that somewhat tangential pre-amble leads on to my main topic for discussion, which is my annoyance at the whole celebrities-must-be-attractive culture we have, particularly in the music industry. Now, I don’t have a problem with celebrities being attractive (I have a top five list, after all) and we can, of course, think of great actors or singers that aren’t good looking and range from funny looking, through to ugly as sin. However, there is no denying that being a handsome chap or pretty young lady can carry you far in the celebrity world. This has most recently been bothering me in the current series of X Factor (that’s the UK one, if I have any US readers).

The full range of humanity comes through those doors for auditions, but the edited version we see is already sorted on appearance. The strange looking folk are always terrible because if they were good, they’d never make it through the live shows anyway (there are exceptions, but the subject of “why Susan Boyle isn’t quite as good as everyone thinks” is probably best saved for another time). Then there are the ordinary looking men and women with exceptional voices, who we are supposed to marvel at because they look so normal. Finally there are the attractive youngsters who are either terrible (to make us ordinary plebs feel better) or good (but generally not quite superb).

In the current series, Sam Callahan was a big offender; put through by Louis because “the girls love you”, it quickly became apparent that he was a fairly indifferent singer (better than the average person, but not remotely in the same league as the other contestants). However, the most frustrating decision by the producers was to glam up Sam Bailey, rather than just let her compete on her own merits. In some ways I’m glad they did, as it gives her the best shot of winning (now Abi’s gone, she’s my current favourite), but I’m also sad that we live in a culture where they had to do so.

All of that complaining out of the way (feels good to have a little whinge every now and then), I do have an idea to get around this issue – X Factor on the radio. Do the exact same format (auditions, boot camp, live shows), but without any visuals and just based on the voices. Now, this would never actually work in practice (they wouldn’t get enough listeners to be worth it, and pictures of the finalists would end up on the internet anyway), but if they could pull it off, I bet the winner would surprise everyone when the public first saw them.

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