I can still remember back in 1981, setting my alarm clock to get up early and watch the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. It was the event that catapulted all things Royal into the celebrity stratosphere, with non-stop coverage of every last detail. Key moments such as Diana’s endearing flub of Charles’ name during their vows and, of course, the kiss on the balcony, were replayed over and over on every channel.
We all know that the fairytale ended badly for Diana, and yet billions of people still tuned in for the Royal Wedding 2.0 with Prince William and Kate Middleton yesterday. There wasn’t nearly the same build-up and excitement this time around, but the media coverage on the day of the wedding was, as expected, widespread and intense.
Almost thirty years older now and a bit more jaded than my 14-year-old self, I didn’t go out of my way to watch the festivities this time. I did turn on the TV at some point yesterday morning, in time to see the newly-married couple leaving the church together. As they rode off in the carriage towards Buckingham Palace, a beaming Kate turned to William and said simply, “I’m so happy.”
At which point, I smiled, shut the TV, and went about my day, saying a silent prayer for them both that their happiness endures. Although I didn’t find myself caught up in the hoopla this time, I certainly didn’t begrudge others who took enjoyment from watching the pomp and circumstance and taking part in the day vicariously through the media coverage.
To be sure, there were other important newsworthy events happening at the same time, but one thing I’ve learned about tragedy and bad news: they’ve got a lot more staying power than euphoria and good news. The devastation caused by tornadoes in the Southern U.S., the rioting in Syria, the dire economic situation across the globe…the wedding is over now, and all of these things are still with us waiting to be dealt with. Is it really so awful a transgression for the media to temporarily pull back from the horrors of hard news to bring us a bit of fluff and silliness from across the pond? I don’t think so.
Of course, not everyone agreed, and I did witness some backlash from those who felt the media was shirking its responsibility by covering such lightweight fare. What I find disconcerting is the lengths to which some folks went to rail against the Royal Wedding. I had one friend who was so desperate to vent his anger over the media coverage, he created an entire page on a social networking site to express just how much he didn’t care about the whole thing, complete with uploaded photos and videos and all sorts of angry comments. All day long.
It seems to me that those who truly don’t care to hear about frivolous events like the Royal Wedding would be better served ignoring them completely. Creating a page to promote your feelings about an event you feel is being promoted too much…how does that make sense?
When I called him on it, he concluded that I did not have a proper appreciation for satire. Not true. I appreciate good satire, not bitter rantings that accomplish nothing other than spreading negativity. This type of reverse schadenfreude–reaping misery from other people’s happiness–seems every bit as pointless to me as waking up at 4am to don a fancy hat and watch a couple you’ve never met (and probably never will) get married thousands of miles away. But at least the latter activity isn’t aimed at making anyone else feel bad about the choices they make. Is it really so difficult to live and let live, even just for a day?
If you think there are other, more important things worth discussing–then do it. If you’re upset about the civil unrest in the Middle East, or those who have lost their homes due to natural disasters, then use your energy to do what you can to help. Spread the word about relief efforts, tell your friends how they can send aid where it is needed, visit online news sites that are covering these truly important events so that they will register the page hits on those stories you think they ought to be covering, thereby encouraging them to do even more of it.
We are each entitled to our own opinions, and entitled to express those opinions how we see fit. I just think that if you have a point you want to make, then finding a positive, productive way to do it makes a heck of a lot more sense.
And to the new Duke & Duchess of Cambridge: Congratulations. I did not buy you a present, did not watch you exchange your vows, and did not make a champagne toast to your future. But I wish you well all the same.