This Friday, millions of Americans will get up at the crack of dawn to watch Prince William marry Kate Middleton. England is celebrating the Royal Wedding with a national holiday. News outlets from nearly every country on earth will be broadcasting live from Westminster Abbey. Every detail of the wedding, from Kate’s dress (she allegedly has three) to the cake (it’s a fruitcake — but not the gross kind) has been covered in exhaustive detail. The average American probably knows more about Kate and William’s relationship than what the United States congress is voting on this week.
The U.S. fought the revolutionary war to avoid being ruled by the British Monarchy. The royals no longer have any real political power. The tragic life and death of Lady Diana put an end to the myth that princesses live happily ever after. The royal family is an anachronism, a monument to a class system that hurt the majority of British citizens. They have unimaginable wealth that they have done nothing to earn, yet they do not seem to have nearly as much fun as the Hiltons or the Kardashians.
Watch Kate’s Preparations:
The question then is, why do we care so much? Why do the royals matter in 2011, particularly in America? Why are so many of us going to get up at 5 a.m. to watch the damn wedding?
In part it’s because Americans, especially American girls and women, have been raised in a princess culture. For decades, Disney movies, television series and merchandise have cultivated the idea that there is nothing better than being a princess. Even the hip, hilarious “Tangled” ended with Rapunzel ditching her long blonde hair, but embracing her life as the kingdom’s princess. Little girls wear t-shirts proclaiming themselves princesses. Plenty of grown women buy Disney’s official “princess” wedding gowns and even get married at one of the Disney parks. Kate Middleton has actually lived a fairytale — minus the evil stepmother and magic spells. She is a commoner who, thanks to her beauty and her strong personality, captured the heart of a prince. She’s a Cinderella who always could afford her own ball gown.
Will & Kate As Kids:
The purely ornamental function of the royals add to their appeal in the U.S.. Whether you admire the president and his family is almost entirely dependent on your personal political beliefs. The royals are apolitical. All they stand for is wealth, elegance and class. Everyone can dream of being born into, or marrying into, a world of great privilege and few responsibilities. There is nothing polarizing about them. William and Kate are an upscale version of the young couples on reality series like “The Hills” or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” who always have the money for designer clothes and rarely seem to work.
When Diana married Charles, she was moving into a gilded cage. Their marriage was a business arrangement. She was a virgin from an aristocratic family who would fulfill the obligations of being the future queen of England. The silver lining of the end of Charles and Diana’s marriage, and the resulting scandals, was that the royal family modernized. William and Harry have been allowed to enjoy a more normal life. William and Kate lived together, socialized in public, and had a normal relationship. He just happened to be the future king of England. They have the best of both worlds: freedom and privilege. They are both larger than life aspirational figures and the cool couple you met at a party last week.
Will & Kate’s Romance:
The wedding itself appeals to our obsession with weddings. We watch reality shows like “Say Yes to the Dress,” that celebrate wedding planning. “The Bachelor” franchise has shown women fighting each other for the love of an alleged dream man for nearly a decade. The ultimate prize: an engagement ring and, in theory, an actual marriage. William has been portrayed as the ultimate bachelor since adolescence. He seems to have his mother’s looks and charm and his father’s intellect. Kate is the woman who hooked him, beating out, we presume, legions of other women who tried to catch his eye. She is the ultimate winner.
When William and Kate marry, it will be both the dream celebrity wedding that viewers actually get to watch live and a real life fairytale. It’s a chance to right the wrongs that Diana experienced. This time, we all fervently hope, there really will be a happily ever after.