Craig JacksonProfessor Craig Jackson, head of psychology at Birmingham City University, comments on the challenges facing the contestants as they are thrown back into the real world and offers advice for a ‘healthy’ life post-X-Factor:

“As the latest series of X-Factor shuffles off the screens and onto the charts with the predictable Christmas releases, viewers and fans should perhaps spare a thought or two for what the contestants, who have entertained them solidly for the last few months, could be now about to go through. Despite the high-profile spats, battles, spurious incapacity benefit claims and fall-outs, what now awaits many of the contestants (collectively referred to as the “Losers” or “Runners up”) is a period of quiet and uncertainty – something drastically at odds with their last few months of high-profile living and TV appearances.

“The Christmas period usually enables many reality TV show contestants to secure some “work” – opening shops or switching on Christmas lights in their respective home towns, but the real test for many of them is the wait to see if they can get picked up by the public or agents, and secure their main goal – fame.

“This of course, will not happen for the majority of them, and despite the occasional cameo on TV shows while they still possess some X-Factor novelty value, the slide back to obscurity and the place they came from will no doubt be psychologically challenging and difficult for many. After the high pressure environment they have been placed in for the last few months, experts would argue that a period of quiet reflection and “decompression” would be what is required – and the obscurity that awaits them could actually be quite therapeutic and beneficial.

“However, obscurity is clearly not what they desire, and as their notoriety, or at least their potential-to-be-famous decreases with every day that X-Factor becomes a memory behind them, that obscurity will be their biggest fear. So much silence and “normality” after what has been a hectic period can clearly damage many – and some contestants will no doubt resort to more and more ridiculous “stunts” and personal back-story selling in order to stay “visible” – but this in itself is a hollow attempt that will ultimately result in sadness and a sense of failure – despite hanging onto the fame-dream for as long as they could, the inevitable will hit them – and hit them hard too.

“Of course, if X-Factor were a psychological experiment performed in a laboratory or a university, instead of in a TV studio, all the contestants would receive routine de-briefing, assistance to re-adjust to normal life, and be offered post-event counselling should they want it. That clearly does not seem to happen with X-Factor and it would represent an ethical shortfall on behalf of the producers if they were to set these fame-hungry desperados loose into the abyss or the offices of unscrupulous agents who may no doubt attempt to capitalize on their fame-hungry new clients.

 

“Now would be an ideal time for people like Wagner and his cohort to do new things to help cope with the gap in their lives – take up a new hobby, develop a fitness plan, start seeing a psychotherapist, or even try to sit down and reassess their lives – to ask themselves if fame would really have made them happier. Ultimately, how they are currently treated by the friends and family they knew before their short-lived TV fame will be a big factor in determining how well they cope or not.”

 

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Craig Jackson

Craig Jackson

Head of Psychology Division at Birmingham City University