Unrelenting press bombardment, strict behavioural codes, dull social engagements - is this really a fairytale?
18 Mayo 2018 14:17
OPINION// We should not gush over Meghan Markle’s ‘fairytale’ wedding to a British prince tomorrow - we should pity her.
Being royal sounds like a living hell. Forget the country estates, jewels, expensive cars and high status and what have you got? An endlessly dull life full of restrictive behavioural codes, mind-numbingly tedious social engagements, and unrelenting scrutiny by a tabloid press that will cash in on every skeleton you have in the closet. Why anyone would give up a life and career in Los Angeles to move to Britain and relinquish so much of their personal freedom is bewildering to me. For Love? Sure. But how much is one person willing to give up for the person they marry? For Markle, a lot.
The engagement of Prince Harry to Hollywood actress Markle - ‘biracial, divorced, Catholic’, as the media seems hellbent on pointing out - inspired a wave of frenzied excitement worldwide that is wholly disproportionate to its cultural pertinency. It was celebrity culture gone nuclear. Every media outlet in the UK and America hailed in a new era of the British monarchy. The Washington Post’s front page read: ‘American says yes to Harry, and to a new world.’
Entering this new world of British high society came with a high price tag. Even though Markle is already famous and is used to a certain level of notoriety - she was until recently a central character on the show Suits - surely nothing could have prepared her for the bombardment of media attention that ensued after the couple announced their engagement. British tabloids went after Markle’s family and clawed into her past with abnormal cruelty.
Criticism from her estranged sister was slapped across publications like the Daily Mail and The Sun. Paparazzi camped outside Markle’s Toronto address while she was filming Suits. Celebrity reporters harassed her. Speculation about whether her father would walk her down the aisle amid controversy over photoshopped photographs sold to magazines has been relentless (he won't even be attending, Markle confirmed). Such vilifying scrutiny allegedly caused him to have a heart attack and emergency surgery last week.
Much right-wing newspaper coverage has had a racially-motivated subtext - or has been just plain racist. The typically blue-blooded, excessively white makeup of the British royals being infiltrated by a ‘foreigner’. The Daily Mail ran an article entitled, ‘Harry's girl is (almost) straight outta Compton: Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed’, where it invoked an array of extremely racist stereotypes. The royal tabloid ecosystem was so poisonous that Kensington Palace took the unprecedented step of releasing a statement lambasting the British press for ‘crossing a line’.
‘Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment,’ it read, ‘The smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments… her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door... the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life.’
Is this the fairytale ending? I hardly think so. As liberal media hailed a new ‘woke’ era for the Royals following the statement, there was still no escaping the fact that joining the privileged, pompous British monarchy is not too dissimilar to being handed a life sentence in prison, with a trial by media. An enduring fascination with British royalty feeds the celebrity cycle with ubiquity and venom that is usually reserved for the likes of the Kardashians - who actually welcome near-constant press attention, unlike Markle and her family.
'The monarchy is modernising', according to popular narrative; a gross over-calculation of how seminal a moment this actually is. And it begs the question: should we usher in a ‘new’ era of monarchy when its very existence is a huge elephant in the room for many British people? Or is just an outright disgrace to some. A Hollywood starlet will sit at the throne of one of the world’s most archaic, unfit for 21st Century living, institutions that curtails the liberty of those in its inner circle, and is a potential economic drain to the people outside it. Yet, the unwavering commitment to documenting every moment of the Royal wedding suggests the monarchy's future is safeguarded.
For consumers of the celebrity cycle who just love a happy ending, Markle straddling the sidelines of the British throne with a dewy-eyed prince is a contemporary fantasy. Constance Grady wrote for Vox: ‘I am so excited about the prospect of a biracial American princess. (Okay, fine, duchess.) She’s so smart and ambitious! They’re so in love! It’s like a fairy tale!’ It is like a fairytale: a woman gains enormous social standing by marrying a man, the wedding is the crux of the story, and we don’t know what happens next.
But, call me crazy, for me, this is less of a fairytale and more like an inescapable hellscape of burning fire. Sure, there is massive privilege and limitless stockpiles of cash, but aside from anything else it all just seems so frightfully boring. Good luck to the happy couple, and to Markle in particular - you're going to need it.