PinkNews.co.uk’s Ben Leung asks if the X-Factor stars will be sporting AIDS ribbons next week

First of all, let me get this out of the way – I don’t like The X Factor, and I never will.

It’s not that I don’t like its format – quite the contrary, in fact, as I happen to think the ITV talent contest, like its predecessors, Pop Idol and Popstars, works superbly well. And obviously, attracting nine million viewers every week can’t be wrong.

Personally, however, the negatives far outweigh the good points: I don’t like the presenter – never have – nor do I like its spin-off shows in ITV2 which seem to be broadcast on a loop 24/7.

I also loathe the judges, particularly their contrived ‘arguments’ which would inevitably wind up in the tabloids’ front pages, thanks in no part to the show’s publicists. I am quite fed up with their antics of chucking water at one another or demanding higher salaries, all of which have made the entire show a false spectacle.

Furthermore, by comparing their acts as ‘the next Mariah Carey’ or ‘the most talented songwriter since John Lennon’ have only put me off the show further.

I’ll admit that I only ever saw the first two episodes of the first series, and have caught the show intermittently since. I am thus basing the above arguments solely from what I read in the press or on the internet – which is very difficult to avoid whichever way you look.

However, all that paled in comparison to what I saw last Saturday, which surely pushed the artificiality and falseness of the show through the stratosphere.

In short, never before have I seen so many red ribbons on parade in one evening. Now, I have no objection to people wearing AIDS ribbons – far from it. What I am dismayed about is to see people wearing it for show at strategic times, and no more.

Cast your mind back a couple of years, when the Lance Armstrong ‘Livestrong’ wristbands were all the rage. That spawned a whole host of other wristbands – from bullying to anti-racism – which not only diluted their individual meanings, but ultimately became a victim of modern-day fashion.

The same has happened with the ribbons down the years. Its similar array of colours have made the scene very crowded and confusing. A yellow ribbon, for example, could represent anything from American troops to the SNP in Scotland, or even saving the beautiful Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia.

The red ribbon, by contrast, has retained its iconic status, and its message is no less important than when it first appeared in 1991. Basically, if you wear one, most people would know what the message is.

The three X Factor judges – Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne – are well-known for supporting AIDS-related charities, and only last week, all three appeared with Elton John at a function raising awareness of the disease.

This therefore begs the question – why did they only wear the ribbon on the show at the weekend of World AIDS Day, and not any other times even though they have shown in the past that they are passionate about the cause?

More to the point, why did everyone else – the main presenter, the spin-off presenter, the contestants – wear the ribbon, considering they never wore one the week before, and are unlikely to do so this weekend?

The AIDS ribbon is not a poppy, and could – or should, if one feels necessary – be worn all year round. Plenty of people wear other ribbons or wristbands all year round – Sinn Fein, breast cancer – because they wish to show unwavering solidarity with their chosen cause.

Therefore, whoever made the executive decision to order the entire cast of The X Factor to wear these ribbons have further exposed the fraudulent nature of the programme. Make no mistake about it, all those contestants were made to wear it.

Everyone except Barry Manilow, that is. I’m not suggesting that the show’s guest of honour doesn’t care about World AIDS Day – I wouldn’t know either way – but whoever ordered the parade for the red ribbon either forgot to tell Mr Manilow, or didn’t have the balls to order him to wear one.

Of course, you could argue that any platform to raise awareness to a wider audience can only help with the cause. However, with no explanations for the ribbon, but a mere show for one night can’t achieve any more than what’s already been done.

With the epidemic showing no signs of slowing down in Western Europe – particularly through unprotected heterosexual intercourse – popular shows like The X Factor could do an awful lot by spreading the message through weekly exposure to its crucial 16-35 age group audience.

It is a sad fact then the producers of The X Factor have fallen for the in-with-the-moment syndrome.

AIDS though, is something which should be relevant every day of the year, and not just during the weekend of December 1st.