The royal body in the public eye

Even royals are subjected to body talk.

As an Australian with an Irish husband, living in the U.S., and with friends all over the world, I was exposed to many various opinions about the recent royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Some of these opinions were quite emotional, drawn from the political history of the United Kingdom, some were just those who were interested “for the spectacle”, and some were completely uninterested.

As for me, I sit somewhere between the last two. Largely uninterested in the royal wedding, but still a little intrigued to see what everyone wore. I satisfied my curiosity a few hours after the wedding with some quick Google searches, and went about my day.

Now that the dust has settled on the feverishness of the day, I’ve been reflecting on the media coverage of the event, and in particular, the commentary around bodies.

In the lead-up to the wedding, there were many articles in the mainstream media about the wedding. These ranged from speculating about the wedding dress designer, to the menu at the reception, to the politics of taxpayer money and tourism.

After the wedding, the media was buzzing with photos of outfits and hats, commentary on the proceedings and anticipations of the newlyweds’ future.

But, throughout all of this, there was the ever-present thread of body talk.

From the wedding lead-up, when Kate’s prenuptial weight loss was scrutinised, to the post-wedding enthusiasm when body size and shape was dissected along with fashion, there was no shortage of “health professionals” and “wedding experts” (who had never even been in the same room as Kate) speaking their concerns for her diet.

These articles are unfailingly couched in language of “concern” around her weight, with the “experts” worrying about what she is or isn’t eating, how stressed she is, and her general psychological state. The body size rumor mill even stretched to talking about her fingers, which apparently shrunk so much that her engagement ring needed resizing!

More recently, as Jezebel reports, Grazia Magazine took some liberties with the image of Kate on their cover, Photoshopping her husband out of the image, and – whoops! – half her waist as well. As if it wasn’t bad enough that her royal body is critiqued within an inch of its life, the tabloid retouchers are slimming it down into something completely unrealistic.

The spirit of these celebrity fluff pieces is nothing new, and I can appreciate that there’s a voyeuristic pleasure in the spectacle of a royal wedding. However, aside from all the fashion hoo-ha and who wore what fascinator and color, there’s a sinister undercurrent to all the “harmless” gossip.

I’m troubled by the idea that once you’re in the public eye, your body is fair game. And that if you “choose” this life, you somehow bring the attention on yourself. Kate Middleton is a beautiful woman and will undoubtedly become a role model for many others.

But what message is the media circus around her body giving to the people who look up to her?

The public scrutiny of Kate’s body won’t end now. Oh no, there’s a lifetime of holiday bikini snaps, baby bumps and other paparazzi fodder to keep the gossip-mongers happy.

Just remember – it can’t keep going if we don’t buy into it.


4 thoughts on “The royal body in the public eye

  1. My favorite point that you make is about how troubling is that people in the public eye become fair game. Because as fun as it might be to scrutinize all the gossip mag bikini shots and bump shots (and you’re right… there will be many!), I believe that the more we do that, the harder it is to not turn the same critical lens on ourselves.

    I mean, how can we analyze every bulge or mishap of another person without wondering if we’ve got the same “problems” going on.

    We can’t, I say. We just can’t.

  2. Hey Tess.
    I like your lucid writing style. Articulate and informed. I feel quite strongly about the Royals and other facets of Imperialist power. Their “Royal Wedding” is nothing more than a sham to appease and regale the drones and minnions, while further enforcing the idea that they are a prominent and thus necessary part of our world. It is the veritable cinderalla story, with middle class Kate mixing it with the Elite.
    In terms of the overall idea of the blog I find it a little askew for one main reason. The main tagline of the website is “Don’t fall for the media circus”. Surely writing about people writing about the minutuae of Kates shape etc is indeed adhering to the natural form of one enthralled in said circus, even in the guise of a dissenting voice. It is very difficult to extricate oneself from the idea of “not buying into it” if one is considering the merits of the price of various little pieces of the entourage.
    In saying that..you have given me food for thought and I really enjoyed the read.

  3. Audrey – thanks for your comment! It is a constant struggle, but one that I believe we can make easier for ourselves through awareness.

    Sober Paddy – thanks also for your thoughts. Upon re-reading my article I realised that my first few paragraphs could probably have been edited out, as its probably irrelevant how people feel about the politics of the Royal Family in the context of the way bodies are portrayed in the media. Also I never quite came back to that thought.

    However, you make an interesting point about the general nature of criticism of and contribution to the media circus. I feel that there are many paradoxes like this when dealing with self image in general, and I try to address these in my articles by admitting that I, too, am to some degree caught up in the machine as well. But what’s the alternative? I’d rather be a dissenting voice and admit my contradictions, than to ignore it and hope it goes away.

  4. I really like the way you have written this article. It shows respect for the people involved while at the same time highlighting the state of society as it exists today. The part about the ‘voyeuristic pleasure’ in such events..i loved the way you end the article..’it can’t just keep going if we don’t buy it’. Simply put but right on target.
    Great read!

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