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

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Silhouette of clubber dancing Hacienda nightclub  

A comedian has opened an alcohol-free nightclub. Is he having a laugh?

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape