Thoroughly enjoyed seeing Strictly Come Dancing through to the end this year (despite the inordinate amount of filler required to pad out the final to well over two hours – how many times does anyone need to see that montage of the finalists’ previous dances and rehearsal-room tears?). It was only when they introduced last year’s winner, Mark Ramprakash, who I have confirmed is a cricketer, that I realised I must not have watched it last year. This will be because I was doing my radio show on a Saturday, I expect. I definitely watched bits, if not all of the first three series, because I remember Natasha Kaplinsky and Claire Sweeney and the elegant Zoe Ball and Julian Clary being voted back in despite his lack of ballroom dancing ability, proving that the public vote with their hearts, not their heads.
This last aspect – the “human factor”” – is, one assumes, why the men always do so well (I think it was an all-male final last year): the granny vote! Well, this year’s winner, Alesha Dixon, formerly of Mis-Teeq, was a deserving one. She was easily the best dancer of the run, and – so I learned over the weekend – not professionally trained, which I had assumed, her being a pop singer and all. Good on her. Matt Di Angelo should have been disqualified for looking like a scruffy bastard with that facial hair anyway.
The reason I mention the show, which I like for reasons unprofound, is that the final reached new levels of vacuity. Every contestant or friend/relative of contestant interviewed used the phrase “journey” to describe what had been some ballroom dance training. I’ve noticed this a lot in 2007. One can no longer have an experience; one must go on a “journey”. Thus, Alesha Dixon did not perform an increasing number of different dances on telly over 12 weeks; she went on an incredible “journey.” Equally, Matt Di Angelo, formely of EastEnders (although I’ve no idea who he played), did not perform an increasing number of different dances on telly over 12 weeks, only to be beaten on the night, he went on an amazing “journey”. (Presumably, his “journey” wasn’t as good as Alesha’s, since it ended in defeat on national television, but it was a “journey” nonetheless – a bit like going on holiday, which is also a “journey” and finding out your hotel doesn’t look like it did on the website.)
I think we can guess where this new obsession with “journeys” come from. The United States of America, perhaps? The world of therapy, perhaps? (I have absolutely nothing against therapy, by the way, and am in fact fascinated by human psychology, but when phrases like “journey” and “closure” seep into everyday language, I fear for the future efficacy of therapy itself. You’re going to get patients turning up and talking about their “journey” as if they know what they’re talking about.) It’s been weird since the death of Princess Diana and the first flush of success in the country of Jerry Springer, to see a nation mutate from monosyllabic emotionally constipated introverts to one of externalising, emotionally incontinent extroverts, where a problem aired is a problem halved, and if a confession of infidelity or sexual malpractice isn’t made on television, it hasn’t been made at all. Who knew we British would get so good at talking about how we feel? In many ways, this is healthy. But we are in danger of going too far, and bestowing unimportant, mundane, easily-explained experiences with psychological and emotional significance that they don’t merit.
Not everything we do is a “journey”. I’ve just wrapped some Christmas presents. It wasn’t a “journey”. It was a task. I went to Waitrose yesterday: now that was a journey. But not a “journey”. The year is coming to a close. It’s been an experience with ups and downs in it, a few changes, a few new things, a few old things – but it’s not necessary to analyse it as a whole and discover what kind of “journey” it’s been.
Well, I’m glad I got that off my chest. I needed closure on it.