Thursday, April 7, 2011

Will and Kate Plus ?

According to British media sources, the estimated television audience for the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton will be more than double the combined audiences of the Super Bowl and the World Cup finals.

Just in case you wanted to know what really matters in life.

Some people are far too sophisticated to care about archaic ceremonies like weddings, but most of the planet is still clinging to the universal human institution of marriage.

Clearly, this is not just any marriage. At a time when Anglo-American culture dominates the world-- for how much longer, we don’t know-- the British monarchy provides many people with role models.

We are all inclined, by nature, to emulate our betters. You could mount a very good argument against the notion that the British royals are our betters, their example seems preferable to some of the celebrity alternatives.

If you don’t like Prince William and Miss Kate, would you prefer Lady Gaga and Charlie Sheen? And, if Will and Kate save us from Jon and Kate, perhaps there is something to be said for monarchy.

By now the British monarchy has been denuded of even the semblance of real power. As head of the British state the monarch has two functions: to symbolize in her person the unity of the nation and the Commonwealth, and to set an example of decorous behavior.

As everyone should know, you cannot legislate decorous behavior; you cannot force people to behave well. It is always better to set a good example and to trust in others to follow it.

If any institution on earth qualifies, the British monarchy stands as an example of traditional values. Perhaps these values have been “more honoured in the breach then in the observance,” but still, the Queen has made every effort to exemplify them.

No one would have been more horrified by the appallingly bad behavior of the late, lamented Princess of Wales, than the Queen.

Not so much because she, or anyone else, should sit in judgment of the unfortunate “people’s princess,” but because when someone with authority and influence behaves badly, it spawns imitators.

It’s not so much that anyone cared what Diana Spencer did with her free time or how she conducted her life, but a world full of imitation Princess Dianas cannot possibly be a happy place.

If you ask yourself why so many people feel the need to give full expression to their most embarrassing emotions and why so many seem compelled to live their lives in front of cameras and why so many people continue to idolize celebrities, perhaps one of the reasons is Princess Diana.

I have little doubt that the media’s saturation coverage of the royal wedding will reek of references to the departed Princess. Her spirit will be seen hovering over the festivities like a guardian angel; we well be regaled with millions of pictures of her engagement ring, worn by Miss Middleton. The international media will make the event into a tribute to Diana‘s greatness as a mother and a princess.

The media knows where the money is, and few celebrities made it more money than Princess Di.

In all of it there will be an inescapable irony. As it happened,  Kate Middleton was chosen to be the future Queen of England, because she is anything but Diana.

By all accounts-- that means, Tina Brown-- Miss Middleton was chosen for her good character. According to Brown, Kate Middleton demonstrated discretion, patience, perseverance, and resilience. Link here.

Everyone knows that Kate Middleton was seriously and severely vetted for her new role. And that she was extensively tutored in the rigors of her new life.

To some this might seem like exactly the opposite of romance, but in fact it shows a very clear recognition, on a grand scale, that transforming romance into marriage is a daunting task.

After the debacle of Diana, the British monarchy seems to have discovered that blue blood does not ensure good character and that good character trumps pedigree.

It feels like a momentous discovery, though one is left wondering what took them so long.

Given the backdrop provided by Diana, the story of Will and Kate is not being presented as a fairy tale love story.

And a good thing that. Great love stories tend to be mismatches. Nearly all of them have ended badly.

Whether or not we owe it to some very savvy publicists, the story of Will and Kate does not read like a mad passion. It seems, from the few versions I have seen, like a sane and sensible romance between two young people of exemplary character.

More of such relationships will surely be a good thing for the world.

The world media will be falling over itself comparing Kate to Diana, even to the point of asserting, as Tina Brown put it, that he was “determined to bring his mother back,“ but the truth is: he is marrying Kate Middleton because she is nothing at all like his mother. So much for the Oedipus complex!

Considering that his choice had to be approved by his grandmother, the chances are very, very good that the Queen was able to assure herself that Kate Middleton was nothing like the unfortunate Diana.

As it happened, and with the notable exception of the British Royal Family, Diana seduced the world. Back in the halcyon days when Diana ruled the tabloids, everyone felt called upon to take her side in the ugly separation and divorce that she had with the Prince of Wales.

Even though all marriage counselors know that it is a very bad idea for divorced parents to force their children to take sides, Diana did exactly that, did it in public, by exposing  far more of her dirty linen than anyone really wanted to see.

In so doing, she made herself beloved, and became a major moral calamity.

Much about Diana evoked sympathy. She was so clearly miscast that it was painful to watch her floundering in a role for which she was both unsuited and unprepared.

A gawky and gangly teenager of limited intelligence, she was cast to the wolves with insufficient preparation and little or no support.

For her it was a fairy tale; she was marrying prince charming; they would live happily ever after. She would quickly discover that life is not at all the same thing as narrative fiction and that happy endings are not always what they seem.

Diana was the daughter of an Earl. She had been brought up in near-regal splendor on one of England’s most palatial estates. For all of it, she had no idea of what was required of the Princess of Wales. She might as well have been brought up in a barn.

The best she could do was to consider herself a celebrity, a fashion plate, someone who could hobnob with other celebrities and be written up in the tabloid press.

She reveled in her celebrity; she loved being loved by the crowds, even the mobs; she played the media with a skill that few others have ever demonstrated. When she died the ululations of the mourners were heard around the world.

Tragically, as she might have seen it, the one person whose love she craved, her husband, was indifferent to her charms.

She did not understand it, and considered herself the victim of an extreme injustice. If everyone but him loved her, that could only mean that the man she had married was emotionally retarded, incapable of expressing feelings, the victim of a bad childhood and a heartless mother.

You might imagine that the indictment did not go down very well in Buckingham Palace.

On he other side, if one were feeling a bit less charitable, one would note that Prince Charles knew her very well, from daily contact, and not just from photo ops and press accounts.

Everyone felt Diana’s pain. There was plenty of it to go around.

After all, she was the very model of a beautiful, voluptuous, nubile young virgin. How could she ever understand, as she discovered on her honeymoon, that her husband was still carrying a torch for Camilla Parker-Bowles.

You do not have to be a woman to see the indignity of it all.

Diana felt that her womanhood and her femininity were being denied in the most cruel way possible. So, she decided to take vengeance on her husband, to reveal him to the world for the kind of heartless cad he really was. To chronicle it all, she enlisted an army of tabloid reporters and paparazzi.

So deep was her rage that she willingly sacrificed her own dignity to cast opprobrium on her husband and his family.

It all reached a crescendo in the days before her death when Diana ran off to indulge a very public love affair with Dodi el-Fayad on a yacht in the Mediterranean.

By prancing around in their swimsuits on the yacht, in full view of the paparazzi, Diana whipped the tabloids into a frenzy. Openly and defiantly she proclaimed to the world that she was sexually desirable.

Within days the same group of itinerant photogs, a group that she had enriched beyond their dreams, was speeding after her on the streets of Paris. As her driver tried to elude them, he lost control of their car and the people’s princess was martyred for love under the Pont d’Alma.

Throughout her campaign against the Royal Family Diana seemed oblivious to the effect that it would have on her adoring children.

One can barely imagine the anguish that seized a teenaged William when he saw his mother go on national television to denounce his father as an adulterer.

In all fairness, Prince Charles did not exactly cover himself in regal glory. When asked why he was not more amorous with his wife, he is said to have replied that it is very difficult making love to a woman whose breath always smells of vomit.

The Princess, as everyone knows, suffered bouts of bulimia.

And then, in what was probably an ultimate degradation, an intimate conversation between Charles and Camilla made its way into the tabloids. In it the future King of England confessed that his fondest desire was to be metamorphosed into Camilla’s tampon.

In another arena, that would be called an unforced error.

People sympathized with Diana because she was in so much pain, because she seemed to be so needy, and because she was, to phrase it elegantly, a case. By all accounts, she was suffering from severe emotional distress. Psychiatrists seem to have agreed that she had a borderline personality disorder, a condition that is bad news, indeed. I have no reason to disagree with the diagnosis.

People who suffer from borderline personality disorder possess a smorgasbord of psychiatric symptoms, all organized around an irrational fear of abandonment.

In Diana’s case, this manifested itself in hysterical tirades against her husband when he dared to step out on his own.  Some reports say that one day during her first pregnancy she was so upset at the thought that he was going to go out hunting, or something, that she threw herself down a flight of stairs in a mock-suicide attempt. Apparently, the fact that she was not really trying to kill herself is supposed to make us more sympathetic with a horrendously irresponsible action.

It does make sense that Diana would have felt terrified of being abandoned. When she was a child, she and brother were abandoned by their mother as the latter went off to find true love, extramaritally.

When Diana’s mother sued to regain custody of her children, her own mother testified in favor of her son-in-law, and the court ruled against her.

Given Diana’s special sensitivity to the threat of abandonment, and given her adolescent feelings that her fairy tale husband was a Prince Charming, she was clearly unequipped to deal with Prince Charles’ attachment for Camilla Parker-Bowles, or with the daunting demands of being the Princess of Wales.

Or, I should say, she had no real support, no good counsel, no serious confidants. She seems to have been left to her own devices, and she ended up dealing with her anguish by acting it out on the world stage.

And, of course, she sought help in therapy. In the end Diana became the world’s leading consumer of therapy.

When I say that she had no guidance or support or counsel to help her to conduct her new life, I do not mean to say that her therapists did not try to help. It may well have been the case that Diana was suffering from so much mental anguish that she could not accept any guidance or advice. Or it may have been that she, as many other sterling individuals, are so confident in their own judgment that they refuse all advice.

One does wonder, however, how much her coterie of New Age therapists would have been willing to offer any guidance.

As I recall, Diana’s first therapist was a Jungian. From there she did consult a psychiatrist who prescribed medication, an aromatherapist, a top-flight astrologer, and a feminist therapist. And don’t forget the massages and the colonic irrigation sessions.

None of it seems to have helped her very much, but, managed to make it respectable to indulge in every kind of New Age nostrum. She should have been living in Hollywood.

As it seems now, Kate Middleton will one day become the Queen of England. She seems to be perfectly apt to assume the title. We all wish her and her future husband the best.

Diana, however, found her destiny in replacing Woody Allen as the world's leading consumer of psychotherapy. As such, she became the Queen of the therapy culture.


Patrick said...

A very insightful post which reminds me of the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film Rebecca.

Will and Kate's marriage does seem to have the Gothic elements of a haunting from past events. They seem to be a charming couple and I hope they are able to restore dignity to the English Monarchy.

Atlanta Roofing said...

As the excitement around this event builds there appear to be signs that William & Kate are not Traditionalist. Their day will be one that Fairytales are made of, yet it seems this couple will not likely allow the pressures of History or Monarchy define who they are or how they plan to style their future.

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It can't actually work, I believe so.