Royal wedding: Don't mock us because we're obsessed
If you saw the April 20 episode of "The Middle," you saw the show's frugal and sensible matriarch, played by Patricia Heaton, go bananas for the royal wedding. Never mind her normal money-saving schemes, which have disrupted several family situations. On the occasion of Kate Middleton marrying Prince William, she orders commemorative merch, stocks up on scones to eat during her middle-of-the-night viewing and buys a big flat-screen TV -- albeit with plans to return it the day after. When she gets pinkeye and can't actually watch the wedding ceremony, her family gathers around to give her a play-by-play. It's a sweet moment, but then again: They had no choice.
"The Middle" specializes in capturing the sensibilities of the average American, and with this episode they've never been more spot on. As the majority of British people either shrug off the wedding with disinterest or recoil in horror at the price tag attached to the one-day event, we have whipped ourselves into an excited frenzy.
There has been a rash of commentaries pointing to this dichotomy, including one by Simon Reynolds that raises an eyebrow at our fairy tale view of Britain and the pop culture that indulges the myth. The truth: They're not the perfect picture of refinement, but, as Newsweek points out, screaming mad over severe cuts to public services while the royals are overindulging. To add insult to injury, Friday has been declared a public holiday, which won't be good for the economy. And as an extra special stab, tax dollars are going toward some of the wedding preparations, including security. I guess that's where these commemorative barf bags come in.
Henry Chu gives more economic specifics, including:
"While the prime minister is right to call on people to have fun, could he not have asked the royal betrothed to pick a Saturday?" the Financial Times asked in an editorial this week, which bore the tagline: "Money can't buy you love, but love can put you in the red."
The cost of the wedding itself, to be borne by the royal family with a contribution from the Middletons, is a closely guarded secret. The royal household is said to want to avoid looking too extravagant during an economically delicate time, though it's a bit of a hard sell when the wedding plans call for young trees to be placed inside Westminster Abbey to create a garden-like ambience, at a reported price of more than $80,000.
And the queen's subjects aren't entirely off the hook. Some associated costs will be picked up by taxpayers, such as the massive security operation required for the event, which could cost as much as $33 million.
Aside from a fascination over the cultural reactions, I was neither here nor there about the actual wedding until Wednesday when I was searching our database for photos to run with our royal wedding content (see related links below). Suddenly, I caught myself lost in thought. Was Kate practicing her walk down the aisle? Was she crying at every love song? Was William exasperated by all the wedding preparations and counting down to when life would go back to his version of normal? And, how jealous Kate's sister must be, I thought. Oh, and look at this: Kate's dad doesn't wear a wedding ring either.
I was drinking the Kool-Aid, setting my DVR for Friday at 3 a.m. and paying close attention to Nigella Lawson's breakfast fit for a queen -- even though she admits she probably won't tune in to the big event. It had occurred to me, just as it had to the mom on "The Middle" that on Friday morning Kate Middleton will wake up a commoner and go to bed a princess. There's just something magical about that.
I don't think we should overlook the people of Britain who feel royally screwed; and if anything, all the wedding coverage has helped shed light on the very real issues afflicting the country. But I'm all for pressing pause for a couple of days and indulging in the fantasy of it all.
In the meantime, I'll take comfort in the fact that it's not just the silly Americans who are excited. So, too, is Tricia Easthope from Norfolk, Britain, who earlier this week set up a tent across from Westminster Abbey in order to ensure a good viewing spot for the royal wedding.
-- Alexandra Le Tellier
Photos, from top: Prince William and Catherine Middleton; camping royalist Tricia Easthope. Credits: Mario Testino / St. James' Palace; Associated Press