The passing of time changes a few things. Whereas once we had the tasteful, sensitive and appropriate
BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP to describe boxer Frank Bruno's battle with being bipolar, now we've moved on, and people with mental health issues are no longer BONKERS but ZANY:
on today's front page of the same newspaper. (Shirlena's already been described as bonkers and nutty, though, so I guess 'zany' was the only place to go.)
Now, I don't know what the full story is - hey, maybe it's a truly sensitive look at a person with mental health issues and a touching exploration of why on earth someone might be considering hiding that; who knows. As is increasingly going to be the case, as the Sun disappears behind its paywall, I'm not able to access the story that relates to the front page just now. I will update later when I've got a better picture of what they're actually saying.
*update* The story is up now and isn't quite the tremendously sensitive handling you may have been hoping for:
Last night she was facing the axe from the series after a Sun investigation revealed she had been diagnosed with serious mental issues - but had not informed show bosses.
Psychiatrists have declared she has a series of problems which may affect her ability to care for Mariah. And experts fear she may worsen if propelled to fame by The X Factor.
So the best thing to do, then, with a mother in a situation like that, is put her on the front page of a national newspaper. If she's propelled to fame it might make her worse - so let's avoid making her famous by splashing her picture, her name and the name of her kid right over the front page. See...? It all makes sense.
But - and here's where things get pretty sinister - this is either the Sun speaking to someone with knowledge of the contestant's medical history (which would of course be entirely unethical and would land them in hot water) or someone who just thinks they know what's going on. It's either unethical, or it's just a guess.
A medical source said: "Shirlena is as fragile as Susan Boyle was - but the difference is that Susan didn't have a child to worry about.
"We believe this woman is not a suitable candidate for a reality show that can cause immense stress and instant fame.
"Hopefully the makers will agree that the best thing for Shirlena and her child is to gently drop them from filming and let us help her be the best mother she can."
The source added: "Sadly Shirlena is not in the best of health. She has been described by expert professionals as a 'ticking timebomb'.
Well, how do we know? Does this person know the contestant, have they assessed the contestant, or are they just an armchair expert deciding that she is manifesting mental health problems through her behaviour? What kind of 'source' are they - one we should believe or not? We don't know because their identity is hidden - either to protect them or to create an impression that they know more than they actually do.
But surely if you really had genuine concerns about this contestant, and you thought that fame could make their situation worse, and you knew the background, you would quietly approach the programme-makers and get them to drop that person at the next stage with a minimum of fuss - as often happens in elimination shows - to avoid the publicity you fear could harm them and their child. You wouldn't decide to go through the Sun first, would you?
And if the Sun really did care about this woman's wellbeing, maybe this sort of comment wouldn't get waved through:
However, over the past few days the X Factor publicity machine has been grinding away with the same old ruthless efficiency - and Shirlena has been part of that, given that her performance was one of those apparently autotuned. I don't have a problem with that, by the way - it's a television programme, heavily edited and with some sections quite obviously set up for the maximum dramatic impact, if not completely staged; the judges have, let's face it, all had a bit of work done (which is fine); the audition contestants are divided between those who are quite good at singing, and those who are so dreadfully bad (and either know it, and are playing along, or who are deluded and think they're great); and the dead dads and trampled kittens get wheeled out to create the same old sob stories. All of that is perfectly OK, and it's how television goes about its business; I don't think it breaks anyone's heart to think that Simon Cowell's superslick production is not quite the gritty realism they were expecting - not really.
But there's always been a bit of an element about the X Factor of the freak show. Look at these deluded morons! They think they're great singers, but they're rubbish! Let's all point and laugh at Saturday teatime with the whole family! Look at them, with their stupid dreams about being celebrities, even though they're fat and poor and wear unfashionable clothes and can't hold a tune in a bucket, yet have been allowed through six auditions and stuck in front of the cameras! Isn't it hilarious?
The irony comes if someone is indeed going to be booted out for being genuinely mentally ill, and quite understandably has decided to hide this fact from 11 million viewers; whereas you get the sense that some wannabes are perfectly happy to ape a truly deluded individual in order to get a few seconds on telly. If a contestant has got mental health issues and hidden them, so what? A lot of us do, and a lot of us are more than happy to hide it from work colleagues and friends alike. That's how these things are, really. We don't have to decide whether to share them with the nation, and for that, we're pretty lucky.
But then again, you wonder if this isn't some other cogs in the big Cowell machine going around; is this a bit of spin to deflect attention from the accusations of fakery, to try and engender sympathy for one of the contestants who was accused of having their performance polished in post production? There's no way of knowing. All I would say that is if someone is grappling or dealing with mental health stuff, it may not be helpful for them to do so in front of the entire nation - unless they're more than happy to do so and it's entirely with their consent. As one 'zany' person to another, there are far more important things than being on telly.