A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Unless you and your pals have just spent the last nine months contemplating the darkest rings of Uranus, you realize the world has a new celebrity, Prince George of Cambridge. At this writing, he’s still trending somewhere in the stratosphere of ’08 Obama numbers — literally billions of people have stopped whatever they were doing to take a look at the little guy. Rihanna and Chris Brown can only dream about this kind of coverage and even Kanye Kardashian’s Instagrams of Kim’s North West passage didn’t generate numbers like these. The babe who will be king will now remain in the media’s spotlight for the rest of his life, his destiny shaped by his grandmother, Princess Diana, arguably our planet’s first World Celebrity. I’m not going to go into the wherefores and the whys of Princess Di (I have a low threshold of death threats) except to say that the camera loved grandma so much that poor George doesn’t stand a chance. Good on ya kid, welcome to the fishbowl.
Even the most rabid royal haters have to admit that, in the Age of Entertainment, being born to the purple is not what it used to be. Back in the day, before Di was shy, royals commanded a little respect. In the 30s, for example, Edward VIII’s indiscretions with Wallis Simpson (which were considerable) were not public knowledge, or even a matter for media speculation, until Edward himself threw the monarchy under the bus for the woman he loved. Likewise, Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, was not above getting down and dirty with young men barely old enough to know better. These lapses in protocol were common knowledge on Fleet Street but never made it past the editor’s desk.
These days, however, it’s open season on anybody with even a drop of blue blood in their veins. The Slime from the Check-out Line magazines are oozing with salacious pics of any number of in-name-only aristocrats who are so far removed from the monarchy they need a GPS to find Buck House. Anyone any closer to the Crown Jewels gets the Full Monty media treatment, complete with round the clock telephoto lens. George’s uncle Harry, for example, has his own phalanx of 24/7 watchers whose only purpose on earth is to digitize the boy’s every move just in case he gets into the tequila again and goes commando. Honestly, if I were Prince Henry of Wales, I’d be suing Clark County, Nevada for false advertising. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” Don’t make me laugh!
There are those who would argue that being royal is a public job with plenty of perks so they need to suck it up. However, let me put that into perspective. Unlike Lindsay Lohan and the League of Extraordinary Bimbos, William, Kate, Harry and company do not actively seek the media’s attention, nor can they walk away from it. They are politically obligated to make themselves available. They cannot whore photo opportunities of their child to the highest bidder a la Brad and Angelina Jolie nor stand down and refuse to participate. George is going to be on the cover of People, like it or not, because he’s news, not because mom and dad need the publicity. William and Kate have already sucked it up by showing up, babe in arms, on the steps of the hospital. They’ve fulfilled their end of the bargain. The problem is the media, lawless barbarians that they are, will not adhere to theirs.
I’m not so naive as to think that this brand new Prince of Cambridge’s life will be his own. His obligations to the United Kingdom and the world began when he was born and they will be documented, with or without his permission. (BTW, would you put up with that?) However, it frightens me that our cultural cult of celebrity somehow equates baby George’s symbolic contribution to the continuity of our society with Miley Ray Cyrus’ new hair style. They’re different and they need to be treated differently. George Alexander Louis Windsor will be remembered by history, if, for no other reason than he exists whereas the former Hannah Montana won’t make it past Disney’s Hall of Fame.
Tuesday: The Real Purpose of the Monarchy