“You’re from England, aren’t you?” asked the lady behind the supermarket checkout. “Will you be watching the Royal Wedding?”
I shrugged. “Probably not.”
“Well,” she said, “I will.”
Royal Wedding fever on this side of the pond has reached bemusing levels of hysteria. The happy couple’s faces smile from magazines at every checkout, and news channels fill their airtime with Royal Wedding stories. BBC America is running a program called “Royally Mad,” in which five Americans, chosen by the BBC for their worrying obsession with the Windsor family, are whisked to London for a few days of royal sycophancy and accumulation of Will-and-Kate souvenir teaspoons. In the interests of research for this post, I watched the first episode and, try as I might, couldn’t understand what made otherwise sane people turn on the waterworks at the sight of a ho-hum frock once worn by Princess Diana. Growing up in England, I was used to hearing the BBC speak of the Royals with hushed deference. This tearful swooning over recent Royal memorabilia was more suited for a US network channel documentary about a pilgrimage to Graceland.
In a very unscientific survey, I asked some of my English friends if they were looking forward to the wedding. The answers varied from a resounding “No!” to “Looking forward to the street party” to “I love a good wedding.” (So do I — when I personally know the parties involved.) Interestingly, the most enthusiastic responses came from expat friends in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. None, however, displayed the starstruck adulation of the Royal Family that I see in America.
So why the American fixation with English Royalty? Americans had their most significant war while ridding themselves of the people whose descendants they now idolize. Legend has it they weren’t ready to give up the idea of a monarchy even then: a group of people wanted to crown George Washington as the first King of America, but he refused. Had his ego been bigger, Americans would now have their own King Paul.
But Washington’s decision prevailed, so another idol had to be found. The Kennedy dynasty is sometimes referred to as America’s Royalty, as are the President and First Lady. Presidents, though, must be elected — even when they are part of a political dynasty. True idols must have a birthright, be it a 1,000-year genealogy, a trust fund from the Hilton empire, or innate acting ability (especially when coupled with a last name of Redgrave, Barrymore, etc.) In terms of public fawning and adoration, I feel it’s fair to compare English Royalty with Hollywood stars.
As I watch the hoopla surrounding this wedding, however, it seems the distinction between Beverly Hills and Buckingham Palace has blurred. Disney princesses are being confused with the real deal. A few days ago on a BBC blog, an American commenter noted that she liked the way the Royal Family did their weddings openly. Hollywood stars, she said, held their weddings in secret now, and that was no fun.
Perhaps the Windsors could learn something from Hollywood.
One of the attractions of the Royal Family used to be its mystique. Unfortunately, with the modern, out-of-control paparazzi and a gossip-hungry public denied the insight into Hollywood weddings, mystique is a thing of the past, and its disappearance was greatly aided by Prince Charles and Princess Diana separately airing their dirty laundry on TV in the mid-1990s. It might be prudent for Royals either to stay out of the limelight or behave with a little decorum and sensitivity, as the Royal Matriarch has always done. Because when newspapers run stories about Prince Andrew spending taxpayers’ money on numerous helicopter rides to play golf, or Prince Harry turning up to fancy dress parties in Nazi uniforms, it’s hard for English Joe Public to go along with the notion that these people are privileged by divine right any more than Paris Hilton is.
I honestly am not being mean-spirited — I genuinely wish Prince William and Kate Middleton all the best for their life together, just as I would wish it for any couple about to get married. She seems a nice enough girl, and he understands the definition of ‘Love,’ unlike his father. But the whole thing has been blown out of proportion, as Jerry Seinfeld controversially – or refreshingly, depending on your viewpoint – pointed out on Friday, when on a British TV show he called the wedding “a circus.” “These are not special people,” he said.
The reaction from the show’s hosts (“How dare he!”) was not unlike that of the Washington Post in response to Ricky Gervais’s comments at this year’s Golden Globes.
“Are we at war with England? If not, then why have we been subjected to two years of Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globe Awards?”
And yet despite the furor, Gervais is rumored to be returning to host the awards for a third time, proving that he did provide the shot of popularity that the Globes needed.
Windsors and BBC take note. Judging by the number of positive comments from the British public about Jerry’s outburst, I am not the only Brit to feel nonplussed about the Wedding Of The Century.
For Harry’s wedding, book Jerry Seinfeld to do the commentary.
Adrian Chiles, host of the British TV show that featured Jerry Seinfeld, suggested that Seinfeld could end up doing his stand-up show on June 3 from the Tower of London. Do you agree? If not, whom would you rather see in the Tower?
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