The official photo of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
In all likelihood, I’ll be up early Friday, watching the royal wedding from my East Coast US residence with my daughter. That’s largely because my daughter’s manners, after 30 weeks of residence in my uterus, are still somewhat unpolished. So she hasn’t been born yet, and the odds are that she’ll have kicked me awake well in time for the sounding of the bells at Westminster Abbey. In the event that I had an already-born daughter, however, I’d strongly prefer that she sleep in this Friday morning.
Is it really so important to get our bleary-eyed little American girls out of bed to show them that princesses are “real” and that “fairy tales can come true”? Not only would I say “no,” but I’ll go even further and say that it’s actually kind of creepy. Disney’s Princess industry is a golem of a marketing tool, aptly skewered by Peggy Orenstein‘s Cinderella Ate My Daughter, as well as others. Yes, girls can be heroines too. Hooray. But Mulan – kick-butt Chinese warrior – is surely preferable to Cinderella – the girl who can’t find her way out of her own problems without a fairy-godmother bestowed dress, pair of shoes, and prince. It’s important to note that Kate Middleton, whom I’m sure is a perfectly nice person, is going to have the world’s attention on Friday not because she’s cured cancer, but rather, because she’s done the best job of “marrying up” of anyone on the entire planet. And I’m sure she’ll look stunningly beautiful doing it.
So when you wake your daughter up early to watch the wedding, you’ve got to ask yourself: what are you celebrating, and what are you teaching your daughter to celebrate? Because it seems an awful lot like you are celebrating social stratification, and endorsing the belief that marriage is a best-bet ticket into a better life. As someone whose first marriage ticket was for a flight of fancy that was rerouted into tremendous turbulence, I’d have to say no to espousing that particular belief. No offense to Prince William, or my new husband, for that matter, but there is no Prince Charming. There’s no one guy who is going to be the magic bullet of your life, righting all wrongs and making everything beautiful and perfect and okay. And nurturing that fantasy is a one-way ticket to heartbreak and perpetual feelings of inadequacy. That’s not what I would want for my daughter.
The irony of celebrating a royal marriage as the height of fulfilled bliss is especially sharp in light of this particular young prince’s mother, Princess Diana, whose thousand magazine covers paved the way to her early death in a Paris underground tunnel in 1997. She died due to a car collision with fervent paparazzi in pursuit of her – paparazzi made fervent due to our collective, overly-prurient interest. The lesson is almost too pointed to bear. Surely Friday will carry with it ample fawning reference to the beautiful dead princess, neglecting to mention that, at the end of the day, it was us who killed her.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m going to watch the royal wedding. I’m going to watch it because I do things I shouldn’t do all the time, like skipping out on going to the gym and eating too much ice cream instead. Yes, these things reap tremendous cognitive dissonance. But while I’m making snarky comments, I’m also going to take the time to think about why I’m watching and why we care so much, when we probably, if rationality were to come to the table, shouldn’t. So until your little princess can understand what irony means, I’d suggest that she take the morning off.