Sir Michael Parkinson is either very brave or very foolish to launch an attack on Jade Goody’s memory, but his words will strike a chord with many who have been alienated by the Diana-style public grieving.
Jade suffered a terrible death she did not deserve and lives have probably been saved as cervical cancer screening rates have improved. That doesn’t make her a saint but we should show some generosity towards the recently deceased except when they were particularly awful.
Goody was exposed in the Celebrity Big Brother house as a bully who needed everyone else to conform to her worldview. She was not afraid to use a race as a stick to beat her victims with, but was not particularly racist. She’d have been just as at home calling someone for being too fat or too thin. Her husband is a thug, twice convicted of violent assault. On the face it, poor role models all round.
And yet while Jade Goody was no great role model, she was not so bad that we should deny her fans their moment of grief.
A product of her environment — criminal, drug addict parents on a rough estate — Jade Goody was uneducated, easy to mock and easier to judge. Sadly, a great many people, people rarely portrayed in the media as anything more than scum, genuinely identified with her and that is more of an indictment of our society than of Jade Goody.
In writing Jade Goody off as a poor role model, Michael Parkinson has taken what appears to be an easy option; bury Jade and her like, lock up their husbands and forget about them. He fails to recognise that Jade was not as stupid as she seemed. She was capable of learning, changing and having aspirations for her children. And those are qualities to admire and reasons to hope.