Joan Smith: Jade's history may have cost her life itself

The tragedy of Ms Goody reflects ill on us all

Share
Related Topics

I've hardly ever seen Jade Goody on television. But I've been aware of her since she first appeared on Big Brother – and I've always felt uncomfortable about her. She has made a career as a "reality" TV star, earning more money than is usually available to someone from her working-class background, but at the price of confirming a huge number of prejudices. Her fame has been founded on negatives, from her lack of education to her dysfunctional relationships. Now she has been told her cervical cancer may be incurable, and an agonising set of circumstances is once again being lived out in the glare of publicity.

At one level, Ms Goody's reaction to the devastating news is understandable; she needs to go on working to secure the future of her two children, and living her life in public is the only job she has. Until her illness, she made good copy but got a bad press, becoming a single mother and graduating to Celebrity Big Brother, where she became embroiled in a row about alleged racism. The recent change in attitudes towards her says a great deal about class in this country.

For years, Ms Goody was treated as a semi-house-trained pet, willing to perform without fully comprehending the malicious pleasure she evoked. It wasn't just Big Brother fans who laughed at her ignorance of basic geography; gleeful commentators claimed her as a symbol of the worst aspects of working-class culture, as though people from her background are congenitally stupid. In fact, far from being stupid, Ms Goody made the most of an unexpected opportunity. She grew up in south London, with parents dependent on drugs, her father in and out of prison. It's hardly surprising that she did badly at school. She went on to have two children with someone from the only world she has ever known as an adult – another "reality" TV star. But she was never going to marry a Wykehamist and open a health food shop, was she?

Now we know that Prince Charles calls a black friend "Sooty" and the Queen thinks it's OK to sell golliwogs, the furore over Ms Goody's behaviour towards the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty looks like double standards. While every possible excuse is trotted out for the racism of the upper classes, working-class people are torn to shreds.

I always thought Ms Goody's boorish attitude to Ms Shetty was more about class than race, a feeling which was confirmed when it emerged that Ms Goody herself is mixed race. She duly apologised and agreed to appear on the Indian version of Big Brother, which is where she received her original diagnosis of cervical cancer. The worst that can be said of Ms Goody is that she enjoys fame as much as Princess Diana, whose connection with the public was equally morbid.

In the princess's case, star quality and an aristocratic background transformed her hunger for attention into an improbable series of positives: empathy, informality, compassion. Ms Goody has had no such luck and she also failed to get treatment after an abnormal cervical smear, like too many working-class women.

The lack of education that made her a laughing stock seven years ago has shortened her life, and you would have to be very callous indeed not to see that as a tragedy.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past