Colleen Figg

Creating heroes

2009-02-27 13:52

Colleen Figg

I don't know why I never chose to get into the PR line, rather than the substantially more interesting (but less fiscally rewarding) line I am in. The PR people are the ones who are really making the money out there.

They are the ones who form and shape public opinion, who smooth over rough hewn paths and allow their clients to walk bathed in the bright light of public approbation, garnering kudos left, right and centre.

They are able to take a tarnished image and with a single flash of genius, create a hero, a man (or woman) of the people.

Take this Jade Goody character. Last year or so she was the polecat of the world after directing racist slurs at Ms Shetty. A public outcry of such magnitude ensued, almost creating an international diplomatic incident between India and the United Kingdom.

She was the epitome of all that was bad about the new age Britain: young foul-mouthed ignorant yobs who have more children than general knowledge like her are a dime a dozen over there.

Media darling

She infamously and very publicly wondered whether Rio de Janeiro was a famous person and said the city of Cambridge was in London; gaffes like that became part and parcel of how the public perceived this rather vulgar individual.

In 2006 she attempted to run the London Marathon but collapsed halfway through and told Gordon Ramsay when he asked how she had prepared for the race, that she had been eating curry, Chinese and drinking. That very answer perfectly encapsulates the rather dense type we are dealing with.

She seemingly had no nous regarding her own saleability and the public's perception of her; because at no time did she attempt to develop herself on any kind of level but continued with this yobbo persona, unfettered.

However, since she decided to marry and die in the public light, following the cervical cancer she had metastasising all over her body, leaving her with only months or weeks to live, she has become the darling of the press and must be one of the most discussed and covered public figures so far this year.

Which shows me that her publicist is extremely intelligent and very savvy at selling the sad fact of her imminent death in a way that has completely changed the public's perception of Jade from a badly behaved racist into a saintly heroine.

Whatever her motives for choosing to sell her wedding and whatever follows to the highest bidder in the fourth estate, no one can deny the massive show of support that has been pouring in from around the world.

Forgetting the past

They've even named an "effect" after her, citing some percentages - no doubt pulled out of the publicity mill's hat - that indicate more women are going for cervical smear tests now than ever before.

I find all this grates on me though, because no one is saying hey, this is the same woman we were slagging off in 2007, the same one we said we were so ashamed of, the same one we loved to hate.

Seemingly each and every slur associated with or related to Jade Goody have been washed away by the big whitewash brush of the PR team, but without our sheep-like obedience, would they actually get it right?

I certainly do not think so.

Send your comments to Colleen.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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