It should come as a surprise to nobody that Welsh crossover singer, Katherine Jenkins has finally parted company with her grasp on reality. After all, the warning signs from a career that has always had more than just a whiff of fantasy about it have been flashing a lurid red for some time. The schism is so dramatic that my long-awaited opportunity to use the phrase “jumped the shark” has at last presented itself (though not, obviously, in the Urban Dictionary definition of a decline in “something that was once great.”) For Jenkins has been pouring out her heart to the press this week about being bullied on Twitter by an “obsessed opera fan.”
She addresses the unidentified fan thus: “You’ve set up a false account in my name where you slate and destroy my character.”
An unnamed spokesman then jumps on board: “Bullying of any kind is unacceptable. Katherine loves Twitter. It’s a shame a minority use it to bully.”
The pity party concludes ominously with the threat that Jenkins is considering calling in the police. To do what, one wonders. Alleviate the grimness and drudgery of their daily work by giving them a good laugh? She might like to take a moment or two to reflect on the wisdom of this course of action given the constabulary’s aversion to having its time wasted, not to mention the potential for their deciding to open an investigation into her attempt to subvert democracy through the suppression of free speech. Because, the bullying and character assassination about which she has so self-servingly bared her soul to the media is nothing more than the continuation of a British tradition that has existed since the eighteenth century. Namely, the merciless lampooning of the absurdities of the rich and famous.
Over two hundred years ago, the political satirist, James Gillray was producing exquisitely drawn caricatures of the high and mighty, putting scurrilous words into their mouths, and their bodies into ludicrous, and sometimes obscene situations.
In recent years, publications such as Private Eye and cartoonists like Gerald Scarfe have perpetuated the practice. It is highly unlikely that Jenkins’ nemesis would make any claim for parity with the likes of Gillray and Scarfe, but what he/she was doing was to take a logical next step by replacing printed with social media as a vehicle for the activity. The bogus Twitter id was precisely that: an account that explicitly declared itself to be fake for the purpose of satirising its target. Twitter is awash with similar fake celebrity accounts. The actual content of the tweets, though often based on a nugget of truth, was so ridiculously over the top that the notion of anybody being fooled into believing them to be either accurate or from Jenkins herself is beyond belief. They were also frequently very funny. It is true that implying that she was leveraging the death of her father to further her career may have been uncomfortably near the knuckle for some, but it is information that the singer has herself put into the public domain on more than one occasion in order to build her back-story. As the saying goes: if you live by the sword …. Contacting the chat show, Something For The Weekend, during her appearance last Sunday, with a bogus question designed to catch her out is also pretty tame stuff (although how Jenkins could be sure that it was the same person is unclear.) Being asked “What is the difference between a mezzo-soprano and a bel canto?” is not going to have her anxiously looking over her shoulder as she slips the key into her front door at night, although many would have been unsurprised had the cameras caught her nervously googling the right answer on her phone. She got the answer wrong, by the way. It should have been: “Mezzo-soprano is something I purport to be (although you can probably tell from my plummy, manufactured tone that I’m actually a soprano with a short top) and bel-canto is something that I can’t do yet because opera singers aren’t ready for that sort of thing before the age of 40.”
The really interesting question that emerges from all of this is that of motivation. Why would anybody bother to expend time and energy. over an extended period, roasting Katherine Jenkins in this way? That’s a subject for another blog post; one that provides an objective, evidence-based analysis of why she has made herself a target for this sort of attention. If this one provokes anything more than a yawn of either interest or derision I’ll write it shortly.
The only reasonable conclusion to draw from this episode is this: Katherine Jenkins believes the normal rules of celebrity do not apply to her. Having done her deal with the devil, and acquired a degree of fame and wealth that has more to do with her appearance than her talent, she now seems to believe that she should be immune from the inevitable downside. She has been neither bullied nor stalked, but has most definitely been roundly parodied for a career built increasingly on a false premise, and for comments that have come from out of her own mouth. Compared with a great many celebrities she has, so far, been let off pretty lightly. The smart thing would have been for her either to have ignored the spoofing or to have openly laughed at it, in the knowledge that she, after all, is the one chuckling all the way to the bank. Instead, she has made herself look pathetic through her disingenuous whimpering about victimisation, and ridiculous with her threat of police action. By intimidating her satiriser into silence, Jenkins has herself become the bully. A victory of sorts, but a wholly pyrrhic one.