Wednesday, 17 November 2010

DING DONG! THE BELLS ARE GOING TO CHIME...



Unless the last 24 hours have been your annual cave retreat, you just can't have failed to have heard or seen the announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton's engagement after 8 years together. The media has seized this rare piece of good news and have rolled with it to the point where everyone has had to talk about it and express some kind of opinion.


Let me say upfront that I am perfectly happy that William and Kate are deciding to tie the knot. They've been together a long time out of choice and seem to be a strong partnership who are very happy together and who have really thought about the responsibilities of marriage. But before you think I've turned into a crazed monarchist with a rom-com attitude, let me highlight why the Royal Wedding™ is chapping my ass...


Firstly, did we really need every single facet of the media to be taken over by Royal Wedding fever for an entire 24 hours? The BBC had a helicopter over Buckingham Palace for chrissakes and an ever changing roster of correspondents standing on the traffic roundabout outside getting ever more hysterically excited about the impending nuptials that I feared someone might just break down sobbing when it all got too much for them.

And just to make this media onslaught more annoying, even well balanced and usually reputable journalists started squeeing and squealing over the forthcoming frock and commemorative china like twelve year old girls with a scented glitter pen. With this level of immaturity coming out, it wasn't a surprise when the discourse turned to cliche quite quickly.

Without actually addressing Kate by the rather snide tabloid title of 'Waity Katie', the tone insinuated that Kate Middleton had finally bagged her man by a combination of cajoling, waiting and sacrificing all autonomy in her life and that this level of manipulation is perfectly reasonable, perfectly common and wouldn't all women do it for in order to bag a real life prince? There was absolutely no mention I could hear about this engagement being the culmination of a relationship of two people who despite their different backgrounds, regarded themselves as equals who want to proclaim their love publicly. Despite being so excited by a wedding, the press couldn't help but make marriage sound like something the man is nagged and bullied into by a wannabe Bridezilla of a woman who like all women just wants to be a princess more than anything else, rather something rather delightful that a couple chooses to do together.

And not content with making Kate sound like a conniving witch out to ensnare a prince by any means possible, we also had to listen to people exclaiming that it was just as well she was bagging a decent husband because as a middle class girl, what else could she do? Setting aside the fact that Kate Middleton is only considered middle class by the press, with her private education from Marlbororough and multi-millionaire parents, it is 2010. Is it so difficult to believe a whole decade into the 21st Century that women, middle class or no, can do more than just get married (and be quizzed on the day of their engagement announcement as to how many children they want)?

Women are supposed to have options these days. They have the opportunity for education, self improvement and financial and physical independence. They can run businesses, be CEOs, housewives, part time workers, full time campaigners and have aspirations, no matter how wacky. They no longer have to go from their father's house to their husband's house and do what they are told, but an alien beaming down to Earth yesterday would have been forgiven for not realising that. The whole tone in the press seemed to be how lucky it was that she was marrying well and what a relief it would be to her parents, as if their privately educated daughter with a 2:1 from a good university had no other life options but get married or remain a spinster.

I'm not going to dwell on the fact that William apparently asked Kate's dad permission to marry her since that's simply the spin the press is putting on it. For all we know since Kate and her dad seem close, this was more a chat to assure him that despite coming from a family with a bad track record on marriage and fidelity, he would be doing his best to treat Kate with the respect and love she deserves. We just don't know and considering the unrivaled levels of press scrutiny this couple are likely to face, it would be nice for them to have some private moments.

Although the small 'r' republican in me does chomp at the bit slightly at the fact that these private moments are going to be paid for by the public, especially at a time when the public are facing unprecedented cuts to welfare and public services. Both William and Kate come from wealthy families who could well afford to pay for at least some of the wedding costs and it seems unfair that despite this, they will getting it all comped by the British public.

Despite the boost the economy the wedding will likely create (if the Americans on Jezebel are anything to go by, the USA at least will be falling over itself to buy commemorative tat and queue for a good spot on the Mall), I'm concerned as to how much things like policing will cost. Can the Met afford to police this massive event and still provide frontline services to the rest of London at a time when their budget has already been cut? Especially when they are already having to plan for the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics a year later? I'll be interested to see if the government makes up the shortfall or whether there will be a sneaky rise to council tax next April.

It's going to need to be a damned nice frock and a decent party, preferably accompanied by a Bank Holiday to take the sting out that for Londoners in particular, but instead we'll probably just get around 9 months of breathless ecstasy about venues, carriages and the best way to fold a linen napkin, all trotted out when there's some more bad news to hide like the sweeping cuts to legal aid were yesterday.

I'd consider going abroad, but they seem more taken with the Disney-fication of it all then we Brits do, so maybe I'll just plan a nice trip away that weekend to somewhere less monarchy mad. I hear the Falls Road is just lovely that time of year...

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