Magazine article The Spectator

Murder of Everywoman

Magazine article The Spectator

Murder of Everywoman

Article excerpt

Often the letters pages of the Times, the Daily Telegraph and, we hope, this publication are where the awkward and ignored questions are asked. One correspondent in Wednesday's Times bravely suggested that the coverage of the murder of the television presenter, Miss Jill Dando, was out of proportion to her significance.

That was courageous, since most of the nation does not seem to agree and would probably find the proposition offensive. The BBC released figures for Monday's Six O'Clock News which revealed that 11 million people had tuned in to watch news of her murder. The usual figure is a modest six or seven million. Condolence calls flooded into the BBC switchboard in London, at their height at the rate of two every second.

Weight of numbers does not confer rightness on this public concern. But certainly those shrivel-hearted cynics, who whisper to each other that the extent of the coverage lies with the media's natural and self-- important urge to hyperventilate over the loss of one of their own, must be wrong.

Those not accustomed to the flavours of popular culture will ask why Miss Dando struck such a chord with so many people. Naturally, some have drawn parallels with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. There are a number of similarities between the two women. But Diana, as wife of the heir to the throne, was an exceptional woman. Miss Dando's popularity was due to the reverse - she was unexceptional. The term most often used to describe her was `the girl-next-- door', a connotation of her ordinariness, though an ordinariness refracted through the lens of television.

But this Everywoman quality makes her important. Miss Dando seemed to represent the new British character the type of person whom most Britons would like to be. Here one treads lightly, for it would be indecorous to flesh out the skeleton of an argument using the life of one person. None the less, the qualities that she vividly displayed on television, and which made her so attractive, were those of an easy warmth and natural friendliness. Her personability certainly obscured any rough edges, if she had any. And, of course, she exuded classlessness. In cultural terms she was a perfect complement to Mr Blair.

It would seem perverse to object to this type that, for the time being, the nation seems to aspire to and admire. The sulphurous Thomas Carlyle, if he were alive today, would deprecate the pleasantness and easiness of this character. His heroes - men of strong belief and strange passions -- would not pass muster as acceptable human beings today. …

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