“Is it the first she’s released that’s her own and is not a cover?” one delightfully snobby guest on this week’s BBC Radio 1’s Review Show barked in response to the new Leona Lewis track ‘Trouble’. When swiftly informed by Edith Bowman that it wasn’t, his silly attempt at a joke was undoubtedly spoilt. Alongside ‘Antiques Roadshow’ and olives, the army of cultural snobs go up there in my personal triumvirate of all things annoying; my Room 101, if you will. You see, in my opinion, there is nothing quite as annoying as listening to someone harp on about the thing they dislike, if they can’t really justify it with a reason based on the thing they dislike alone. In this case, the said ‘contributor’ to the musical discussion was clearly a criticiser of what some may call ‘The X Factor culture’, disliking the Leona Lewis track based on her musical associations, not it’s musical qualities. Indeed, he complained that the song was ‘formulaic’ in it’s construction; an odd criticism considering nearly every mainstream, successful musical artist since Elvis Presley has put out music in the ‘formulaic’ method of ‘Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus etc.’ in at least some form. Indeed, Leona Lewis may be ‘formulaic’, but seemingly set-in-stone beacons of British musical creativity such as Oasis and Queen are also guilty of ‘formulaic’ music; they have used the exact same approaches to their music in the past. Take ‘Wonderwall’ for instance; a song that’s undoubtedly formulaic; except Lord forbid if you were ever to shower that song with such criticisms. It’s all pompous snobbery. Yet, this is only the tip of the pretention iceberg.
Take, for example, the army of keyboard warriors who bombarded articles about shows such as ‘TOWIE’ and ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ with comments questioning how any human with a moral compass and a sound state of mind could even consider watching something as awful as ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ or ‘The X Factor’ after the beacon of all-that-is-good; The Olympics. After all, according to this bunch of newly-recruited defenders of the javelin, whilst the Olympics celebrates ‘real talent’; any other form of talent or entertainment simply pales in comparison. They talk of the controversial showering of attention to people seemingly undeserving of such praise, under the warped impression that the word of the athletics has had a spotless record when it comes to respectability and fairness, suggesting athletes are perfect role models for the young people of our country. “Quick! We must shield our offspring from the terrible omnipotent demon-god that is Simon Cowell and his ‘X Factor’ creation!” they cry! Yet, these cultural elites are going to be sorely disappointed if they believed that the Olympic legacy would result in a mass rejection of celebrity culture and a country-wide trend of families running to take part in hammer throws at the weekend. Indeed, the truth of the matter is, Olympians are fantastic people that deserve to be showered with the praise that they have been showered with. They are true examples of people who work hard unrelentingly with a firm goal in mind; and this is a refreshing attitude in our society that is, undoubtedly, full of people who do not necessarily work hard for their fame. But let’s be clear, it’s this uniqueness that evokes such feelings of adoration and respect. If we were to eradicate the cast of TOWIE, or the Z-list Celebrity Big Brother participants, we’d be left with a dull and monotonous situation in which we’d spend our time actively searching to be entertained, to no avail. This is because, when push comes to shove, Hev’ off Eastenders and Prince something of somewhere being the victims of electric shocks whilst trying to cook a Victoria sponge may not be the epitome of talent and respectability; but it’s downright entertaining.
What makes this all worse is that there seems to be a gross misunderstanding of how popular culture works. If you shower something with enough attention and exposure for enough time, it’s bound to become a thing enjoyed, devoured and manipulated by the masses. Take poster-boy of London 2012, Tom Daley, for instance. A fantastic athlete and role model, of course, but someone who also said that he knew he’d “made it” when he’d been Heat Magazine’s Torso of the Week. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, and I’m not someone who feels the need to make the distinction between celebrity and athlete unwaveringly clear; he clearly deserves to enjoy the fruits of his unrelenting labour through the success and attention being showered his way as well as that glorious and admirable performance in London that landed him his first Olympic medal. But is his shoot with Heat Magazine posing topless as Clark Kent any better than a cast member of ‘Geordie Shore’ posing topless in that same magazine? The same type of magazine that values the very things that the celebrity-culture naysayers so desperately despise? Not really. It’s all just part of the all-encompassing celebrity culture in which we live.
You see, this is why I find the cultural elitism so hard to stomach. We are all truly one and the same; popular culture allows for no comparative elitism because it is atemporal. What’s fantastic one day is practically ignored the next. Take our Olympics for instance. Now the hype has died down, do you see hundreds of steeplechase enthusiasts lining the streets to practice for Rio 2016, in the name of their new sport? No; of course you won’t. Instead, our minds are on to the latest national story, whether it be Prince Harry stripping off with a bunch of scantily-clad females or Mel B ruthlessly informing a fragile OAP contestent on ‘The X Factor’ that she found him boring. Above all, the upsetting reality is that beside some of our most high brow cultural activities, nothing is immune to the contamination and subsequent manipulation, courtesy of the masses. Once you let Joe Public at something, it’s only a matter of time before it’s stripped of it’s exclusivity and elitism. Once you let everyone have a slice of the best cake in the world, or a room in the best hotel in London – it loses it’s charm and appeal, because everyone’s had their run-of-the-mill, normal grubby mitts all over it. It loses it’s uniqueness. Uniqueness that creates such cultural snobbery in the first place. This, above anything, proves cultural elitism is unbelievably stupid.