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Helen of Troy assesses Cheryl Cole, another mythical beauty

The Why Factor

When I saw Cheryl on the front cover of Vogue, I knew my randy father had been at it again.

You can't look that beautiful without a splash of divinity in your lineage. It's a long way from Mount Olympus to Newcastle but not if you're Zeus and can transform into a bird.

I don't know which goddess my father was chasing this time but if she tried to hide in the fog of the Tyne she must have been desperate to get away from him. It was probably her decision to hatch Cheryl in the Walker council estate because I doubt if it was my dad's. Neither would he have given her to Joan Callaghan and Gary Tweedy to bring up. Though I never met him, I'm certain Zeus had a lot more style than that. He would usually find some gullible king or prince to foster his latest offspring, like my supposed father, Tyndareus. Perhaps Zeus wasn't told about Cheryl. Perhaps the goddess he seduced wanted her shame hidden forever.

Let's face it, if you want to ensure that your daughter doesn't fulfil her destiny of being acknowledged as the most beautiful person on the planet, bringing her up in Newcastle is a good option.

Modern ego:

Cheryl Cole

Prima ego:

Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy by Sands Cheryl Cole Helen pursued by Theseus, Louvre Cheryl Cole at Fox

Me, pursued by Theseus before the Trojan War began

Cheryl, captured by Fox during the X-Factor War

Cheryl Cole on cover of Vogue

Cheryl on cover of Vogue

Simple. Without her, the X-Factor War, the war to end all intelligent programming on world television, could not have started.

I don't want to push the parallels too far but it helps me see how the abduction myth is playing out slightly differently this time.

On the face of it, the English were the Spartans in the X-Factor War, led by King Cowell as a latter-day Agamemnon. The Americans, with pint-sized Fox’s President of Alternative Entertainment, Mike Darnell, as an unlikely Paris, were the Trojans. They abducted Cheryl. However, instead of keeping her for ten years, they gave her back after a few weeks. Darnell discovered that her Geordie accent, over colourful outfits and reluctance to cosy up to resident princess, Paula Abdul, shattered her 'iconic' appeal.

Strangely, the English, or Cowell at least, appeared reluctant to take her back. Stranger still, Cheryl was replaced in Darnell's affection by the girlfriend of British motor racing icon, Lewis Hamilton. Was Lewis a kind of Odysseus playing go-between?

Made any connections?

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Image attribution

Photo:  Cheryl Cole, handbag.com

Photo: Helen by Sands, Wikipedia Commons

Photo: Greek vase in Louvre, Wikipedia Commons

Photo: Cheryl at Fox, bruce-juice.com

Photo: Vogue Front cover, Vogue

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Good option, but not good enough. It seems you can't keep a great myth down.

Certainly not the Proto-Indo-European abduction myth, of which both Cheryl and I are examples. That's the one where the ravishing beauty beloved of an entire nation is kidnapped by a powerful enemy for the purposes of ravishment and hellish retribution is unleashed.

Not that Cheryl will realise that she's part of a myth. You don't tend to when you're right in the middle of it. When I had that fling with Paris, I honestly had no idea that we were kicking off the Trojan War.

I feel the need to tell Cheryl what's really going on because I have a kind of sisterly affection for her - an affection I never felt for my other sis, that murderous bitch, Clytemnestra.

First of all, I think she should accept that it's not talent and personality that has got her where she is today. Undeniably, her face would have launched as many ships as mine if ship building hadn't become a folk memory on the Tyne. But, because she has goddess-like looks, what has happened to her is pre-ordained. The world needs Cheryls and Helens as part of the psychic soup that sustains it. Understanding that is the only way to make sense of her life. The question she begs is not 'What is Cheryl Cole?'  - that's easy: the gaudy wrapping around a box with nothing in it. No, it's 'Why is Cheryl Cole?'.

More plausibly this was not a real war, it was another example of Simon Cowell tweaking the psychic underbelly of Anglo-US culture to make himself indescribably rich.

The only alternative possibility is that Cowell is my father, Zeus, in his latest earthly disguise. That he planned the X-Factor War by spiriting her away from that much misunderstood husband of hers, Ashley. That he is, in fact, the Z-Factor, manipulating the entire world through television.

Helen’s opinion was interpreted by Will Coe, June 2011

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