Diana, Princess of Wales was one of the most photographed woman in the world, if not the most photographed woman in the world. I think Diana did a lot of good for the royal family…and some bad things too. I am not here to rehash any of those old arguments of if she was good or not for the Royal Family. The thirst for anything about Diana was part of the continual growth of an American culture that has become more obsessed with fame and celebrities over the last 20 years. With 24 hour news channels and half hour magazine shows like TMZ, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Addition and Access Hollywood the need for celebrity associated gossip and information is at an all time high.
Personally, I dislike how royalty has become nothing more than fodder for these gossip shows and magazines. It cheapens the concept of monarchy. While these people are in the public eye and do have a sense of “celebrity” or fame surrounding them, they are not in the same category as the celebrities who are famous for being a musician, actor, TV personality or other methods of fame. People can become famous or infamous for a verity of reasons, from being the first person to walk on the moon or a pilot that successfully navigates a plane crash where everyone survives. It seems like there is not much of a difference in the mind of media consumers between a celebrity or a public figure. Sadly, they are not treated differently in the media either.
I wonder if this has always been the case? I am sure through history royal personages were well known. Has the press always treated them the way they are treated today? I do not think so. In the past, earlier in the 20th century, the press was more respectful of the Royal Family. Also, the world was “bigger” in the past in that news was not the instant entity that it is now. When a news story breaks it is available, for the most part, anywhere there is freedom of the press. For example, in the mid 1930s, when the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, was courting Mrs. Wallis Simpson the American press did have stories about the relationship but the British press, who evidently did know about the relationship, were able to keep the story out of the news for a period of time.
It does raise the question how much does the public have a right to know about the royal family? I think of this years problems for King Juan Carlos of Spain. He came under criticism for his elephant hunting trip in Botswana. Given Spain’s hard economic climate where unemployment at 23% taking vacation that cost $57,850 in American dollars this was rightly reported and understandable why the Spanish people should be upset. The fact that the king was with his mistress, was that something right to report? Maybe in a day an age where politicians and public servants such as the king of Spain need to be above reproach things like this do need to be made public. I think the days of a king or a prince having a mistress on the side and keeping that hush hush is over.
So, in the days of 24/7 media and since royals are now treated as any other celebrity there are both positive and negative repercussions for this situation. I do not like the fact that they are treated as any old celebrity, yet at the same time it can keep them cognizant that as public servants they do need the consent of the public and therefore need to carry themselves with dignity even if the press does not treat them with the dignity that comes with the office.