Friday, April 29, 2011

In Defense of Hating the Royal Wedding

Aside from the loop of Kate and William's vows playing on NPR this morning, I've been able to avoid most of the coverage of the royal wedding, and besides a few pithy grumblings from friends, I've also escaped the backlash. The response to the backlash, however, has been harder to avoid. The consensus isn't so much that I should care about the royal wedding as it is that I'm a jerk for finding it annoying.

Dave Weigel writes, "[V]eneration or celebrity-worship of some monarch who has no power over you seems mostly harmless."

It may be true that the wedding itself is just harmless pageantry, but as one friend aptly put it, "Both stories that dominated the news this week accept as entirely logical that power and title should depend on circumstances of your birth." Of course, the popular commentators have hardly ignored the British class system during the run-up to the nuptials. In fact, they've created a strong counter-narrative, claiming that Kate and William are ushering in a new era of "classless monarchy." As though there were such a thing. As though the phrase weren't so clearly an oxymoron.

The feminist critique of those decrying the wedding is harsher. Writes Amanda Hess:

The truth is that the royal wedding is this year's Superbowl of girl culture, the media has bended over backwards to cover the highly feminine event, and that tends to inspire a gut negative reaction in people. Why? Because feminine silliness is degraded in our culture, while masculine silliness is vaulted.

I can't say there's nothing to this. Regardless of my preference for the Superbowl, the beer, bacon, and body paint that accompany football games are certainly no less silly than cucumber sandwiches and funny hats. And yet, I think this is cheap shot. After all, the Superbowl says nothing about the system of class in this country or any other. The whole point of sports is arbitrary competition. The outcome of a game has no bearing on any contemporary cultural issue.

On the other hand, I did go see the last Roman Polanski movie, despite fully believing him to be a rapist who should be jailed. So is celebrating the royal wedding a tacit endorsement of classism? Perhaps not. But the subtext is worth bearing in mind.