My Daughter Grew Another Head and Other True Life Stories
Initially, this Channel 4 documentary is harder hitting than the Beeb’s offering as it has different shots of ‘real life people’ telling their life story in one sentence. These tend to involve health defects, sex or general impalement from a broomstick. Y’know, your run of the mill stories that can easily be found by listening in to your neighbours conversations. Oh wait, that’s a lie. The journalists have to do quite a bit of research to track down these interesting individuals who will eventually end up as laughing stock two page features in a magazine. To show the kind of reactions people have to these stories the documentary makers opted to film a few, how do I word this, ‘members of the target audience’ of these magazines as they read through the stories in utter disbelief and despair. For me, it was all a bit to hyperbolic and I was unsure of how ‘real life’ these shots were.
As opposed to being filmed at one magazine as Secrets For Sale was, this programme focuses more on the middle men. A company called Famous Features will help you find the best sum for your gem of a story. Of course, this comes at a price as they’ll then take a large percentage of the sum as their agent fees. For example, a story that was sold around the magazines for £2500 only resulted in the guy involved in the story (a man whose claim to fame is that he was the first Brit to have a bum transplant – yes, ANYTHING is now newsworthy if it’s the ‘first’ or has any superlative before it) only got £1000. That’s a tidy amount being kept by the middle man. In fact, it’s almost sounding appealing to me. Almost. And considering this Essex lad spent £7000 on the implants in the first place, I’m not hugely concerned about the amount that he gets compensated for looking like a bit of an idiot.
Once again, I’m left questioning the morals of some of the journos. The ‘Secret Sex Change’ story left a transgender person in tears once they read their own article. At Real People they read the stories back to the contributors before submitting them, with only the overly-exaggerated titles left to the editor’s discretion. Yet here the contributor genuinely didn’t seem to know how their story was going to be portrayed. This is not journalism to me. This is manipulation of a story to sell copies. This is deceit.
Yes, there are some awful people in it solely for the money. But others genuinely want their story to be told, not sold. I know they must practically sign away their lives to the magazines to do what they want with them, but surely the contributors should get the final say on what can be said in a “true” life article? Apparently not.
“It sounds horrible to say, but those are the best sort of stories”. These are the words spoken about a couple whose two children were killed in a car crash by a footballer a few years ago. How on earth a journo can use a positive superlative in that context worries me. Surely there must be a point when your conscience kicks in and the profits overlooked?
At the end of the programme the class issue is brought up. One of the writers talks of how it’s not really a middle class thing to do. I’m glad I’m not the only one to have formed a heavily generalised and non-PC view of the target audience.
If I can just compare this programme with Secrets For Sale, I’d like to point out that the BBC put more effort into providing detail about the stories. For me, this Cutting Edge programme came across as trying to put across too much without providing the necessary information. Which I suppose could be deemed fitting for an industry which revolves around omitting the boring information in place of creatively constructed content.
As for the programme’s title? Well there certainly was not a second head on the girl. She’d had an implant in her head to help skin grow over to stop baldness. Another exaggerated title which is quite apt for the exaggerated world of ‘True Life’ magazines.