Friday, May 6, 2011

THE ROYAL WATCH: The (Media) Honeymoon is Over

That was fast. It took barely a week for the royal newlywed formerly known as Kate Middleton to go from princess bride gliding down the aisle at Westminster to posh housewife perusing the pizzas in the frozen food aisle in her local supermarket.

The front pages of the British tabloids published on Friday morning boasted several pictures of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, navigating a shopping cart in Anglesey, North Wales where she and Prince William live with snickering headlines ("Kate's back up the aisle" snarked The Daily Mail). In skinny jeans paired with ballet flats and ruffled wrap over her white t-shirt, her enormous 12-carat sapphire engagemment ring was the only totem of her newly 'royal' life in evidence. Unless, of course, you count the five royal protection officers that accompanied her on her errands. (She did drive herself to the market in her Audi A3)

I, for one (make that two if you count Queen Elizabeth, I'm betting) am not amused.

Let me explain: Last week when I speculated as to why the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have reignited royal watchers' fascination with the British royals I made the case that the newlyweds embody a sense of tradition and tastefulness sadly lacking in the celebrity stratosphere. And, let's face it, the over the top fairy tale element of seeing a "commoner" marry into royalty and imagine all that comes with it has made Catherine a pretty compelling figure.

Having said that, I do not want to see her picture in the pages of Us Weekly splashed across the 'Stars Just Like Us!' feature. For me, and I suspect for millions of others like me, the reason I am interested in Catherine is because her life is nothing like mine. She is not just 'like us' and not amount of photos of her hauling grocery bags into the back seat of her car is going to prove otherwise.

Celebrity journalism (and I use that term loosely) is completely schizophrenic these days. The same outlets that breathlessly anointed Catherine as a modern day Cinderella last Friday are the same ones that are now lying in wait for that photo of the duchess looking bedraggled taking out the trash. They are also trying to drum up whatever traction they can from the non-story that Catherine's sister Pippa was photographed 'dancing in her underwear' with a similarly clad fellow once upon a time. Nice try but a) the picture was taken in 2008 and b) she's wearing more than Kim Kardashian does every time she hits the red carpet in the photo in what looks to be a bra top and skirt. Have we grown so cynical in the media that we can't possibly believe that people want to focus on the positive about a person for more than five minutes? In order to feel good about our own lives do we really have to tear down the very same people who we looked up to five minutes before?

I am so sick of the trashiness, banality and negativity that fuels the celebrity media complex. I am equally tired of non-stories that consist of a large photo and three sentences that basically recount where a 'star' has been and what she wore end with the question: "Hot or not?" Just because the Internet exists in a limitless space doesn't mean we have to fill it with absolute nonsense every minute of every day in order to keep the masses entertained.

I do not begrudge Catherine and William their attempt at living "a normal life" -- whatever that means if you are the future king and queen of England. I think it's kind of charming that they decided against having servants. Mark my words, that will change the minute their first child is born. At least they are doing it out of London where the press, who gave William a pass for some many years, are revved up to cover every detail of the couple's daily life. It's curious to see that for everything that William saw transpire in his mother's life as she, too, attempted to live a "normal existence" --especially after her divorce from Prince Charles -- that he would opt go this route. Surely, when the couple is expecting the frenzy surrounding the 'royal bump watch' will keep Catherine largely away from such everyday venues as the local market or shopping on London's high street for fear that the paparazzi will be in overdrive. If William and Catherine are thinking that by being (somewhat) accessible they are de-clawing the beast, they are very,very wrong.

Last Friday, Catherine proved herself to be capable of acting more royal than a lot of the royals themselves. She was flawless not only in her appearance but in her demeanor which was equal parts dignity and delight. Her family, having endured endless sniping in the press about being strivers and nouveau riche, "didn't put a foot wrong" -- as the Brits like to say.

But how will they hold up under the 24/7 microscope they are now living under? The pressure must be enormous. For Catherine, who has been schooled by the royal handlers and William himself about just how difficult life can be, there will be a learning curve that is sure to have some bumps along the way. As much as we think she is up to the job, the realization that your every move is now being documented and instantaneously broadcast around the world must be quite stunning.

So, while the couple have yet to go on their honeymoon, it's clear the one they had with the press is now over in record time. And that's too bad for them -- and for us.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're being just a tad cynical and a little melodramatic. They do say Americans have short attention spans and you most certainly do.

May 6, 2011 at 7:30 PM  

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