Our Royal Obsession

Before there was Prince William and Kate Middleton, Americans didn’t really glance over at Britain’s royal family. However, when Princess Diana was killed in that car accident, America suddenly became a country in visible mourning. But after our almost justified grief concluded, only the occasional picture of Prince William and “that girl,”or Prince Harry floated around.

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Then Prince William became engaged to Kate Middleton.Then we found out that he used his mother’s ring. Then they announced that they were pregnant. This sparked our interest in their well-written Lifetime movie, if such a thing exists.  When they got married the entire world was watching as she beautifully walked down the same aisle where Princess Diana once stood. They said their “I dos” with the whole world watching (including me, beginning at 4 am on a school day).

But why this obsession? We’re Americans. We really don’t care about the British in any other regard than that they are another country. We don’t wake up thinking, “Wow, if only I were British,” (Okay, some of you might). But now why do we find Kate Middleton worthy of our front-page headlines?

Maybe it is because of the stigma behind it. Royalty has always meant class – a higher class at that. We grew up seeing Disney Princesses in the movies, in Disney land, etc. We got the chance to dress up as them for Halloween and pretend that we are worthy enough of having their title. When we reached school age, we found that these people are real and are called “Princesses” and “Princes” (minus all of the corruption and beheadings). This is when we started obsessing.

In addition, that textbook-like development of a Prince sweeping a Princess of her feet is still in the back of our minds. It might not be as straightforward in real life, but we see it in television, movies, books, etc. There’s an element of romance behind the Royals. After watching Pretty Woman, who didn’t want a Richard Gere to climb up shitty apartment stairs and whisk you away to a better life? Now, Kate Middleton is nowhere near on the same career level as Vivian Ward, but a lot of people identify with Vivian’s underlying emotion.  Much like Vivian, Kate Middleton was just a middle-class girl before she married the prince. Her parents met while working for an airline, and she grew up with her sister and brother like a normal person. This commoner got a Cinderella story as she married the prince, allowing everyone around the world to think that it might still be possible for them.Now, sure, it’s not important. We can walk around saying that we don’t care for the fake people that are on coins and dinner plates around the world. We’re in a modern culture where the rich are frowned upon. But that stigma of the Disney princess becoming one woman’s reality is still fascinating.

However, after growing up and realizing that we’re not royal and we’re part of the American working class, we should give up on that dream, right? Probably. Maybe. We live in a culture where images are everything. Magazines, television, advertisements, cars, notebooks, buses – everything you can imagine – have an image attached to it. So when we think of the ideal image of a Princess, we’re going to think of Cinderella, Belle, Aurora and the gang. We’re going to see the slim, narrow waist, long hair, and a thick, full ball gown as they do what Princesses do. When Kate Middleton met Prince William, they were in college. Kate had a normal weight and looked like she belonged in college. But then they graduated, and they got married a few years after. She developed a very skinny waist and walked around in elegant clothing, sparking fashion trends around the world. Even now, when she is a few months pregnant, she looks better than us. Her clothing is designed to make her appear slimmer even while several months pregnant. Her appearance looks like those Princesses we grew up with, blurring the lines between the movies and reality. Now, is Kate simply dressing for the media or the princess story? Or is she just trying to become healthier? Either way, by matching our storybook ideal image, she’s encouraging everyone to talk about her, think about her, and want to be her.

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While you sit here thinking about how you could be obsessed with these figureheads, let’s first say that they didn’t make it easy to not think about them. Prince William and Kate Middleton almost made it their mission to appear everywhere. They have charity events together, Prince William gave Kate his mother’s ring, (which sparked attention), and they constantly visit other countries.  And once their popularity was at a peak, they made sure to bring it up one step more by coming to America, the home of the paparazzi and media frenzy. Those media outlets released tons of interviews saying how wonderful they were. If our tabloids said it, then it must be true.

Now, even though they might be in the public eye, sometimes things go too far. I know actors and actresses have signed on for this when they were introduced to the Hollywood culture, but do the Royals also have the same fate? It’s no wonder that William says he is being extremely cautious with his family in the media’s eye. His late mother succumbed to their obsessive ways. And now with his own child on the way, it might only intensify. It is one thing to take a picture of someone walking down the street, but it goes to a higher, more disturbing level when these people are sneaking into trees and bushes on private resorts in order to ambush the royals.

Royals are fascinating. It’s why we have plays, movies, television series, and more, all dedicated to them. Where would we be without them? People have needed rulers for centuries and still do today. And those rulers have provided their subjects and avid fans with constant gossip-worthy news. What could be more entertaining than a naked Prince? What about a pregnant Princess? How could she be pregnant – princesses don’t have sex. But Kate Middleton does.  The elements of the natural world are colliding with our fantasies. That’s what fuels our obsession with the common, everyday Royals.

Photography credited to Beacon Radio and tsaiproject via Creative Commons licensing. 

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