Saturday, 4 April 2009
The Jade Goody Effect
There can be no disputing that Jade has had huge social influence. Her main legacy will of course be the impact she has had on the number of women ensuring they are checked for cervical cancer. As many people are aware, increases of more between 20% -40% in the number of women getting screened have been reported.
That fact certainly tells something about the 'what' of Jade Goody's influence. The Jade Goody Effect. She has also positively influenced people in other ways too. These other 'whats', such as her commitment to the welfare of her children, her confidence in making the best of the opportunities she was given, and the strength (some might say naivete, or ignorance) to speak as she found.
The intriguing aspect of the Jade Goody Effect is 'how' it worked and in some cases continues to work, and some ideas from social psychology throw some light on this.
The first is the notion of 'heuristics', the rules of thumb that we use to guide our behaviours. One type of rule of thumb has the name 'the availability heuristic'. This describes the way in which our awareness and familiarity of an event good or bad causes us to think that it is more likely to happen to us. This is why lottery companies tell us about winners, slot machines make a loud noise when they pay out, terrorists commit 'spectaculars' and so on. Jade certainly made her health experience available.
The second is the notion of 'authority' Conventionally this refers to our deference to people who have symbols and signs of authority, such as scientists and doctors with their white coats, badges of rank like titles, expensive cars, emblems, and of course celebrity.
For a significant number of people Jade was an 'authority'. Somebody who showed them that its OK to express themselves plainly, its OK to have a straightforward view of often complicated affairs, and its OK to do things your way without having to meet the expectations of what other people think is the 'right and proper way'.
Of course, there have been controversies. Some people have said these were the result of Jades ignorance and lack of education. I'd like to think of her ignorance not in the sense of its 'uncouth' meaning, but in the sense of 'un-knowing' or not knowing any better. For many this too is an appealing aspect of the Jade Goody Effect. I think Mark Twain summed up this aspect of Jade's appeal with the following quote.
"Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty"
I hope the people who thought they were better than Jade ponder on this quote.
In the end we are talking about a life cut short. A person and a fellow human being. And I think that the following quotes by George Bernard Shaw give cause for reflection.
"Do you think that the things people make fools of themselves about are any less real and true than the things they behave sensibly about? They are more true: they are the only things that are true." George Bernard Shaw, Candida (1898) act 1
"What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn't come every day." George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion, Act 2
Michael Parkinson suggests that Jade Goody was ignorant and puerile and what we're left with is a woman who came to represent all that's paltry and wretched about Britain today...she was brought up on a sink estate, as a child came to know drugs and crime, was barely educated
In response to Parkinson's analysis on the 8th April 2009 Bishop Jonathon Blake defended Jade Goody's memory by refering to her inherent gifts and untutored intelligence