Julie Burchill: Sight of next Jackson generation makes me pine for 'The X Factor'

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The Independent Online

Michael Jackson has been dead for more than a year but there was a stir of echoes recently when, to mark the forthcoming release of the first new material since he bowed out, both his children and father spoke up from their different sides of the grave.

The children – so light-skinned that they resemble the result of an illicit liaison between Nicole Kidman and Casper The Friendly Ghost – were cool, calm and collected as they paid tribute to their dear old dad who, despite his habits of dangling babies over balconies and having sleepovers with rug-rats, turns out to have been just plain folks at home. "He tried to raise us without [us] knowing who he was, but that didn't go so well... I kind of felt like no one understands what a good father he was," Jackson's daughter Paris told Oprah Winfrey, touchingly. "I'd say he was the best cook ever. He was just a normal dad, except he was the best dad."

Meanwhile, Jackson's own dad, the horrifying Joe, popped up like a Demon King, also on Oprah, to recommend the strap as a surefire way of keeping one's kids on the straight and narrow. On hearing that MJ's children are now living with their grandmother, the long-suffering Katherine, I did wonder whether that meant this slap-happy old maniac had access to them and whether the reason MJ might have made them wear masks was to keep them safe from their own grandpa as much as from the prying eyes of Looky-Lous.

And despite seeing the darker side of fame played out on their father's poor ruined face, they told Oprah they plan careers in showbiz – Paris, 12, as an actress and Prince Michael (good try, but not as classy as his uncle Jermaine's son's name: Jermajesty), 13, as a director.

I've noticed this about showbiz dynasties. The parents always give interviews about how lonely it is in the limelight, and how they were just going about their business helping puppies cross the road when the Fame Fairy came down and thrust herself upon them, and how civilians don't understand the pressure (of being caked in make-up and having their photo taken on a daily basis – sort of like being a brain surgeon crossed with a coal miner, pressure-wise) and how they'd give it all up like that for a little house on the prairie and true love.

Then they have a kid – and for all their talk about paparazzi intrusion they thrust that tot into the spotlight as soon as it can scribble its childish scrawl on the dotted line. Look at Madonna – boasting recently about how strict she's been with her 13-year-old daughter Lourdes, never letting her watch television and forbidding such fun teen pastimes as hair-dying and hottie-dating. But she's bragging about her daughter's alleged down-to-earthness at the launch of their junior clothing line, Material Girl, at Macy's.

The message is clear; life beyond showbiz is barely worth living and the best start you can give your brats is to make sure they stay firmly within the limits of the plush playpen. All across the trashy/classy scale, from the ghastly Osbournes to the vile Redgraves, this rule holds – no wonder popular culture often seems so exhausted and uninspired, weighed down as it is by so much lucky sperm and afterbirth washing around.

In light of this the recent hysteria about the authenticity of TV talent shows seems naive and reactionary to say the least. The X Factor, far from being some sort of imperialist Zionist plot, is one of the few places where the unconnected, non-famous-named performer can actually be heard. It doesn't matter who goes home or who stays; if they have a voice, chances are they'll have a career at the end of it.

If he was alive, it's pretty certain that Michael Jackson would be appearing on the season finale; as it is Prince has been tempted out of retirement. To be sung off the stage, no doubt, by Rebecca Ferguson – not Sting's or Adrian Edmondson's or Jools Holland's daughter for a change, but an artiste of amazing skill and promise who, without The X Factor, would probably get no nearer to fame than handing back some dumb WAG's dry cleaning.

Ruled by Etonians as we are once more, with social mobility slowed to an all-time low, the sense of entitlement for the few and jam tomorrow for the many hanging over this country like a suffocating smog slips away, for a few hours on a Saturday night, for a handful of people who would otherwise be condemned to spend their lives doing boring jobs that Kelly Osbourne and Jade Jagger would be far more suited to. You'd have to be a real lemon-sucking killjoy – or else the spawn of a useless mob of free-loading no-marks with a famous name – not to get that.

Praise be to the San Francisco of the Middle East

Woo-hoo – my favourite city, Tel Aviv, is the Lonely Planet's No 3 pick for 2011! "Hedonism is the one religion that unites its inhabitants... By far the most international city in Israel, Tel Aviv is also home to a large gay community, a kind of San Francisco in the Middle East," says the guide.

Last week, viewers of the Israeli equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing were treated to the sight of two blondes in fishnets taking it in turns to lead when Gili Shem Tov, a gay TV presenter, chose to be paired with pro dancer Dorit Milman. "This is my way of life and this is my agenda, and I wanted to express it. For me it felt natural," she said. Miss Milman said she was "thrilled", and indeed did look pretty happy not to be dragged around the dancefloor by some clod-hopping man.

Those hypocritical halfwits who claim that the Middle East would be some sort of earthly paradise if Israel wasn't there never face up to the gay question. Yes, you can get round the gender apartheid of Islamist states by claiming that Muslim women like being dressed up like the cages of insomniac parrots and saying it's their choice, but is it similarly the choice of homosexuals in these countries to be routinely beaten, tortured, murdered? Once again, we see the bigotry of Islamism versus the enlightenment of Israel.

I wonder who's going to be me in the jungle?

I'm very much looking forward to I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, which starts this Sunday; this was the second year I was asked to do it, and again I turned it down because a) I'm not a celebrity, b) I'd miss my husband too much and c) I'm greedy and would eat all the rations, which would be rotten for my fellow campers.

When I nixed Celebrity Big Brother, they got Germaine Greer instead, so I'm curious as to who will be my jungle substitute. If there's a rude one, or a fat one, or better still a fat rude one, that'll be where I was meant to be – and am so glad I'm not.

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