FAIRY TALES HAVE set us up for a fall: books that chronicle the heroic efforts of some handsome prince saving the beautiful damsel in distress from a life of misery – is it any wonder that so many Irish, granted mostly women, have an obsession with royal life?
There should be a disclaimer on the inside cover giving readers a heads-up that the chances of this actually happening in reality are slim to none.
But then again, albeit slightly predictable and unoriginal in their plotlines, the authors of fairy tales at least had the foresight to wrap the end up with “happily ever after”, thus allowing the reader’s imagination to conjure up the wonderful life Prince Charming and his Princess had in a faraway land. No daily update on what the princess was wearing, where they went on their holidays, or what their extended family were doing.
Once upon a time…
Unfortunately, there is no such luck in the real world, where we have our very own “once upon a time” playing out across the pond in the form of William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, two peas in a royal pod.
While the vast majority of us may not care less about the royals, it’s fair to say there is no escaping them, whether we like it or not.
In truth, how many of us live vicariously through some celebrity or other, whether loved or loathed? Sports player, actor, musician, model or maybe politician? We single out one and proceed to skulk around in the background, trawling through websites, commenting in forums, leafing through magazines and newspapers, always judging, always watching. Pure and utter voyeurism, a trait we Irish are stellar at.
But why are we obsessed with the royals and, in particular, Will and Kate? Just what is it about the blue-blooded couple that has the everyday person scrambling for more and more information?
The wedding of the century
In 2011, there was the wedding of the century when Will made Kate an honest woman. A bit presumptuous maybe, considering this century is still in its infancy, but anyway. One in three Irish people watched the Royal Wedding, a statistic that accurately reflects the national fascination with the bride and groom. But then again, this isn’t a new phenomenon. In 1981, roughly 750 million people worldwide tuned in to see Charles and Diana wed, setting the precedent for future royal couplings. The only difference with Will and Kate was that the viewership grew to approximately two billion.
Hand-in-hand with the extraordinary surge in public adoration for Will and Kate is the argument that it could be linked to the tragedy that befell William as a young boy, and the strong streak of Irish ‘Mammyism’ engrained in our DNA. The late Lady Diana was loved by all, her beauty and strength enhanced, not diminished when she left Charles. Rather than be shunned, she and her two sons William and Harry were embraced into the bosom of the nation.
A side-effect of this Irish Mammy Syndrome is that we have an innate mothering quality, wanting to make sure that the boys, who suffered such public heartbreak and loss, turn out okay. Will, with those big doe-eyes, and the unfortunate acquisition of his father’s hairline was always the pet.
Enter Kate Middleton, with her perfectly mute image, who would become the face of the modern royal family. While not particularly interesting on paper, in the media Kate was portrayed to the public as the ordinary girl-next-door who had been lucky enough to find a real prince. Her very own fairytale come true, except our Kate doesn’t exactly fit the criteria for damsel in distress.
The banality of ordinary life for the everyday person is something Kate Middleton would never have come close to ever experiencing, given her prestigious background. In fact what our boy Will did was save her from her comfortable, rich, sophisticated, privately-educated lifestyle. Fair play, Wills.
With Will and Kate’s pairing, we find ourselves caught in a royal chokehold, where we can’t get away from the fierce media coverage that the couple attract. Contemporary celebrity culture dictates what we hear, read, and see every day in the media, which means if you read headlines, you’re pretty much doomed to know about them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t care. Newsworthy news is a rare gem these days. Deal with it.
The obsession with the royal couple
Pinned as the perfect couple, is it that the media has manipulated the image of the royal couple so that we try to identify with them and ultimately strive to be like them? Are we to feel bad because we’re not more like them?
With Kate, the obsession is more real. Fashion, weight, pregnancy, it seems Kate is a model example on all counts; therefore celebrity culture infers that women need to be like her. When she wears a particular Topshop dress, it immediately sells out, because Topshop dresses are something us ordinary folk can afford. Wasn’t that nice of Kate to buy something on the high street?
Popular culture of previous generations saw artists of influence championing and shaping the culture of the day, acting as catalysts for change in society. Nowadays, we have scripted reality and paparazzi. Privacy is priceless. No more topless sunbathing for the Duchess.
Perhaps what is most confusing about this whole obsession is the fact that it goes against what we Irish love – a bit of misery, especially when it comes to those of higher society. So why is it that we seemingly can’t get enough of the fairytale across the Irish Sea? Really, there is nothing special about Will and Kate, an average-looking man and wife you could say. Dated, broke up, got back together, got engaged, got married and now there’s a baby on the way. Hold on, maybe that’s just it. Will and Kate are just your average couple. They just happen to be royalty.