Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Royal unwelcome.

Oedipus cursing his son, Polynices, by Henry Fuseli (National Gallery of Art)


     Families can be hard on newcomers. And the media is often unkind.
     The British royal family brings an extra deep, particularly cold bath of frosty scorn and rejection. And the British media is a free-fire zone of compressed hysteria and anything-goes malice.
     Is any of this news? A mystery? I didn't watch Oprah Winfrey's interview Sunday night with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle because, well, who cares? I mean, I know people care, deeply, desperately, pantingly. I guess what I mean is, "I don't care." They got married spectacularly, not even three years ago. I didn't watch that either. He seems a fine young man, who took pains to put himself in harm's way during his military service. She, a dynamic, talented woman—a fellow Northwestern alum, hail to purple, hail to white. Good luck on your life's journey.
     The wheels of bliss came off quickly—turns out the Brits are racists, my God who could have imagined? The not-so-happy couple soon had buyer's remorse and, in the classic lovestruck royal move since 1936, abdicated and lit out for the territories. What could even a master locksmith like Oprah possibly pry out of them?
     Then social media started swooning, rhapsodizing the program, how this was a death blow to the monarchy, and isn't Oprah a master of the form, as if getting these folks to open up had been a challenge. While the newly cast American couple ascends even further into the firmament. What could the interview be? We came upon it, sniffing around Netflix Monday for something to watch. 
     "Let's join the zeitgeist!" I said, genuinely curious as to what fascinating tidbits would be shared.
     The institution of the monarchy are closet bigots who didn't accept Meghan because she's a person of color. Terrible, yes. But isn't that pretty much every family everywhere? And isn't the royal family just about where prejudice and imperialism come from? The motherlode of haughtiness and privilege? I'm not excusing them, but it can't exactly be a surprise. Meghan Markle started out explaining how she didn't do her due diligence and make any effort to find out what being a royal is like, which seems rather passive, if not lame; I mean, I wouldn't stay in a bed-and-breakfast for the weekend without reading the reviews. An overall strange selective passivity infused the whole thing—they took her car keys and passport and so she couldn't check herself into a hospital. But they could move to Canada.  
     The central theme was security—which is fitting for our age. The palace not protecting the baby, who I'd think pretty much goes where they go—though given their duties, and if the "The Crown" is any guide, maybe not. But they do live in a $15 million house. Pay for a few beefy ex-marines with earpieces and call it a day. Puff away the warm Santa Barbara mists, and you've got a pair of upper class young rich folks complaining about being denied their full measure of privilege. 
     I don't want to belabor the point. My wife is downstairs, watching the end of the show; I bailed out to write. And I'm not defending the monarchy—a miserable, sniveling, lot of self-absorbed prats with spit running through their veins if ever there were. Though it does keep Great Britain from being merely another once-mighty failed state that dropped out of the European Union because its people were terrified of a Turk moving in down the street. And griping about it on television seems perhaps the most royal thing the couple could do. I mean, if you're free, be free, and go about your business.
     And our watching it—well, that's just the old peasant adoration of kings in a new box. Living in a sour age where negativity is the coin of all realms, we can't just pant after the details of what the duchess had for lunch and what kind of roses are in the garden and just what the Queen keeps in her purse, the way they did in 1910. So we spray a mist of general disapproval on the institution, like film-makers fogging a nighttime street, pull the morsels out of the mouths of supposed victims, the spokespeople of our age, then soak it all up in unblinking fascination. That's nothing new either.

16 comments:

  1. Coming to the United States to get away from racism?!

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  2. This is he first time I intentionally read anything about these two, with the exception of headlines. Well worth the read.

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  3. I guess I am in the tiny minority that feels badly for them. Nobody wants to be regarded as less than zero in their own family, no matter how privileged they are.

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  4. So a biracial, divorced, American actress marries into the royal family. She never had a snowball's chance in hell of being accepted by anybody--not the family, not the British tabloids, and not even by the British people, who are even more racist than we are.

    Watch the 2018 wedding again. It's obvious the couple was doomed from Day One. Elizabeth and Philip were NOT happy, and you could see the displeasure etched onto their ancient faces.The Queen might have been thinking back to when she was ten years old--which was when her uncle, Edward, had to give up the throne in 1936 to marry the woman he loved, mainly because she was--GASP!--twice-divorced.

    And now, eight decades later, as Queen Elizabeth, she was witnessing her grandson's marriage to a biracial American divorcee. And probably thinking "What has the world come to? A [d-word] (or whatever word upper-class Brits use) in the family. My God. What skin tone will the next generation have?"

    Neither the parents nor the grandparents were pleased. The royals are racists and elitist snobs. The ultimate white supremacists. The British Empire abused and enslaved millions of people of color for centuries, all over the planet. And Prince Harry's father was never thrilled by his son's choice. At almost a hundred, and in his final days, Charles has supposedly stopped taking his son's phone calls.

    Looks as though the Royals are a lot like people like you and me...they sound as messed-up in the cabeza as any nutty family down the street. As Tolstoy said, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. And this family is under a powerful microscope as well, perhaps like no other family on the planet.

    What does all this hoo-ha mean, anyway? To me, it means there's finally a light at the end of the tunnel, and maybe it's not a train. The light must be the end of the Plague at last, because gossip and tabloid titillation and Real Life soap operas are roaring back...just as big as ever...in the post-Trump era.

    Oprah is back, too. I've never had any use for Oprah.
    But I will keep my snarks about her to myself.

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    1. Charles is 72 you are thinking of Harry's grandfather Phillip

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    2. That should have read: "Prince Harry's father was never thrilled by his son's choice. Charles has supposedly stopped taking his son's phone calls." My mistake. And yes, it's Harry's grandfather, Philip, who will soon be a hundred, if he makes it to June 10.

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  5. Good commentary. And the picture of Oedipus cursing Polynices was a nice touch. For the few readers unfamiliar with the tale, Polynices and his brother vied for the kingship of Thebes after their daddy Oedipus had to leave town because he did in one parent and married the other. In the end they ended up killing each other.

    Having lived there for a few years and with family connections, I doubt the Brits are more racist than us. And historically much less so -- they abolished chattel slavery some forty years before America got around to it. Also, I'm inclined to have some sympathy for the Royals going up against the mighty Oprah. In trying to defend themselves they will be damned if they do and damned if they don't.

    Tom

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    1. I don't think the British abolishing slavery 40 years before us says anything except they didn't have the big plantations we did. They also kept their foot on the neck of India until 1947. I've seen it argued that, if you consider the empire, that Churchill was worse than Hitler, but gets better press, because he won.

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    2. I should have been more precise. The Slave Trade Act of 1807 did not end slavery as such, which persisted for some years in British owned plantations in the Caribbean, but it prohibited the maritime transport of slaves to the New World. And the Royal Navy, which then ruled the seas, enforced it. The reasons supporting abolition were largely humanitarian, not economic, as the slave trade was an immensely profitable enterprise.

      Tom

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    3. I haven't read enough about Churchill. My brother has read about him. Not the best guy in the world But you have to give him some credit for what he did during the war. At least until we got involved. And you can't put India on him alone.

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    4. "For the few readers unfamiliar with the tale"

      Ah, Tom, that's swell. I always like to enjoy the reference to the post featured in whatever photo or artwork Neil chooses to accompany it, but try as I might, I'm just not up to the task when it comes to stuff like today's painting. I waded through my share of Greek mythology back in the day, but my retention of it is right up there with my recollection of differential equations, alas. I could be wrong, but I doubt that I'm among a few. Anyway, thanks for that very brief explanation.

      As for a grudge match to decide which society is more racist between the British and Americans, that seems to me like trying to decide whether Philip or Charles is the nicer guy. ; )

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  6. Seems like it's about time for "cancel culture" to take a meat ax to "hail to purple, hail to white" isn't it? ; )

    "she didn't do her due diligence and make any effort to find out what being a royal is like, which seems rather passive, if not lame" If not hard to believe.

    Though that's an uninformed opinion on my part, since unlike our host, reading a couple articles from the BBC more than covered this topic for me. I'm surprised I even did that, but it certainly seems to have captivated the nation.

    Then there's a different Megyn, that'd be Kelly, formerly of Fox News, very briefly of NBC. She jumped at the opportunity to nitpick, white-splain and cluelessly question Oprah's interviewing ability, while calling out Markle for not being self-aware. Ha-ha, you couldn't make that last part up. Something about pots and kettles, I believe.

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  7. I wondered how an American woman would/could adjust to the societal norms of the royals: how you dress, what you do everyday, how you always must behave. It's interesting she apparently never pondered what her life as a royal would be. I guess it never occurred to her how a biracial woman would be treated by a bunch of white, rich people with a collective stick up their royal asses.

    As an aside, I'm fascinated about our (is it only Americans?) interest in people we don't know: Real Housewives of everywhere, those New Jersey idiots, Cressly (who the hell is he and why does he have a TV show?), Big Brother, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, and on and on. Never got that.

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  8. If not for the framing of 'Royal' it's just another self-centered couple complaining about their in-laws...

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