My name is Laura Smith and I am an X Factor addict.
For the last few months of 2010 I could be found glued to my sofa most weekend nights, offering blistering critiques of the vocal skills, fashion choices and questionable dance moves of a bunch of complete strangers (otherwise known as shouting at the television).
I think I've decided that in 2011, this has to stop. I say I think I've decided because a) I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions and b) I'm not convinced that I will actually be able to give up my addiction.
Last year, if you didn't know who Brian Friedman was or have an opinion on whether that white vest was a wise choice for Matt Cardle, you were pretty much a social outcast. (Then again, amongst the anti-X'ers, if you were up on such trivia you were a Cowell-loving sell-out, so I suppose it's all relative.)
This year, however, it's time for some more worthwhile preoccupations.
No more rudely humorous wordplay on pre-pubescent boy-band names.
No more arguing with friends about whether it is socially acceptable to fancy a 16-year-old with cherubic curls and a dirty mouth (it's not). Or to fancy Simon Cowell (questionable).
And no more evenings of wanting to throttle a certain 'just sooo genuine' female judge (clue: it's not Dannii).
Perhaps, freed from the X Factor shackles, I will finally read some of the books lined up accusingly on the shelves above the television.
Or spend some time engaging in actual conversation with my husband over dinner at an actual table.
Who knows, I might even develop a hobby. I've heard that keeping track of the unemployment figures will be very 2011.
But the potential free time gained is not the only reason for ditching my addiction. Here comes the science bit:
1) The damage done to the British music scene. I was informed by a reliable source (a band manager) that X Factor has "stratified" the industry. There are those acts associated with the show...and then there's everyone else. It's not uncommon for the entire top 10 to be taken up with former X Factor contestants and artists who have performed on the show. She said a number of previously successful colleagues now struggle to make a living in the industry.
2) The damage done to our young folk. It surely cannot be healthy that an entire generation of teenagers now thinks that being famous is a legitimate career aim.
3) The meaningless platitudes that spew endlessly from the contestants' mouths. If I hear one more wannabe popsickle tell Dermot that it's "amazing" to be here and that they're "just so grateful to the public" I think I might have to gouge my eye out with a chopstick.
4) The sight of Simon Cowell telling me with such absolute certainty what is good and what is bad. Surely if he had any taste he would not have hair like that. Also, the way the 'straight-talking judge' formula is seeping into everything on television. I switched on a kid's show the other morning and saw a group of ten-year-olds being grilled X Factor-style over their ideas for inventions. The fear on their little faces!
So come on peeps, say it with me in the overblown style of the X Factor announcer: Let's. Find. Something. Better. To do. With. Our. Weekend. Evenings. And consign X Factor to our pre-2011 lives.
Laura Smith is a freelance journalist, writer and editor who has written for publications including The Guardian, The Independent, Marie Claire and the Evening Standard. www.laurasmith.org
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