Sure, you probably don’t need my help, but here’s why I’m boycotting the royal wedding — well, at least after I get through this opportunistic blog post.
Now’s not the time to celebrate a monarchy. To cover this day-long farce, many news organizations will divert their attention and resources away from reporting the world’s real news: that is, the struggle against entrenched authoritarian regimes (including a handful of real monarchies) in the Arab world where virtually every Friday has seen a “Day of Rage” and civilian casualties. Yet the networks in the West that have championed — even, at times, with a degree of condescension — those youth fighting for democracy in the Middle East, will now turn and fawn over a barnacled, anachronistic institution that for centuries professed it had a God-given right to rule over its subjects. Worse, the British royals extended much coveted invitations to a number of controversial potentates and fellow monarchs, including the Crown Prince of Bahrain, whose government has brutally cracked down on protests calling for political reform in the past two months. The Crown Prince declined the invitation, much to everyone’s relief, but don’t hold your breath waiting for an Arab democracy activist to be given his spot.
And when is it ever the time to celebrate monarchs, anyway? Human civilization has advanced fitfully over the centuries, through revolutions on the streets and in the mind, to move beyond a world of nations whose sovereignty actually depends on a real sovereign. The majority of people on this planet will get to vote, and those who don’t all probably want to. Sure, the British monarchy is a neutered, ceremonial, constitutional thing, but it’s still wrapped up in legacies of imperial arrogance and rigid social hierarchy (even as it sponges off ordinary British taxpayers to get by). Monarchies are things you—hello, Americans— tend to overthrow, not venerate. Where real monarchies with real political power still do exist — say, in Morocco, or Thailand, or Tonga, or Swaziland — we tend to cast a jaundiced eye. And what’s so special about the House of Windsor anyway? From mad King George III to the stout, unsmiling Victoria to our present purse-clutching Queen, these descendants of an itinerant German line seem singularly memorable for their lack of cheer. That, and their history of suspected Nazi sympathizing.
The royal couple is a royal bore. But that’s not the point, you cry: the royal wedding is all about romance and fairy tale make-believe and the thrill of seeing a real princess walk the aisle to her prince charming. Wrong. Despite the desperate attempts of hordes of media to dredge out of the mire some interesting tidbits about William and Kate, it’s impossible to escape the fact that this is perhaps the most anodyne, tedious relationship out there of all the anodyne, tedious relationships we’re forced to care about. Apparently, the vogue thing now is to emphasize how “normal” the two are with their college degrees and year spent studying abroad and penchant to pick up groceries at a supermarket. But, to be frank, what is the point of a “normal” royal couple? If we don’t get jousts, dragon-slaying and the machinations of an evil wizard, this fairy-tale romance could at least generate characters more appealing than a boring prince with a receding hairline and storylines more beguiling than our speculations over Kate Middleton’s inevitable royal family-induced eating disorder. And the “ordinary commoner” narrative really has to stop. Getting plucked out of upper-middle class suburban obscurity does not make you Cinderella.
There’s no longer an excuse for this sort of Anglophilia. As my colleague Eben Harrell alludes to in a terrific piece on how many in the U.K. don’t care about the wedding, the event is likely generating more hysteria outside old Blighty than within. But, at this point, we should know better. Of course, with their comedians and their globally-adored soccer league and cheddar, the Brits have plenty of great cultural exports. But the fascination with the royal family stems from an earlier, fanciful idea of precious, “twee” England — what Joe Queenan writing in our latest issue calls “a demented form of cultural fetishism.” It’s particularly demented now in an era of British austerity, when the country’s inequities and plans for spending cuts have prompted months of demonstrations and protests. Yet here we are, indulging in this ludicrous spectacle of unearned prestige and privilege, one that’s insensible to the realm where most people live, make sacrifices and work hard. Yes, class and social status are distinctly British concerns, but so is merit and there won’t be very much of that on display in Westminster Abbey.
There’ll be no way to escape it. Really, there isn’t. We in the media are of course to blame. The intensity of global coverage of the wedding may even crash the whole Internet, which, while hilarious, will only prolong the torture of having to put up with this.
But before the Internet dies, watch this scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail — it’s all you need to know about the British monarchy, really.
But if you want to ignore my outrage and see more about the wedding, here are some great photo galleries put together by my colleagues. Even I clicked on them.