In the wake of the Olympics and the Paralympics, it was inevitable the news agencies would be looking for items to easily fill the gaping chasm in their columns and programming. It would have been all too easy to have returned to the previous staple of war, global economic meltdown and devious political manoeuvring exposed, but to have pursued that direction would have called a rapid halt to the jubilant mood that still hangs in the air as Olympic fervour dissipates.
Boom! Kate Middleton – or Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge as she’s formally known – with her jugs out! Of course, no British publication would run the pap snaps, and in many ways, that only added to the essential cocktail of ingredients that rendered this the perfect story for the time. The British public love a good scandal and an excuse to puff up with righteous indignation (as evidenced by the Daily Mail reading masses) and have a thing about topless birds, especially celebrities (as the Sun ‘reading’ masses prove) and as the popularity of publications like Heat etc., show, celebrity gossip is what everyone who doesn’t want to deal with the horrors of everyday existence wants.
As this non-story and the frothing furore and debate surrounding it unfolds, I’m reminded – as I often am, in truth – of J G Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition. In particular, the geometry of the media landscape Ballard portrays so vividly, marked out by enormous blow-ups of disembodied parts of celebrities’ anatomies. I’m also reminded of the titles in the appendix sections, ‘Mae West’s Reduction Mammoplasty’ and ‘Princess Margaret’s Face Lift.’ The vapid culture built around a prurient obsession with celebrity Ballard depicted may have been the emerging landscape of the time it was written, but it’s unquestionably more relevant now, in an era when fervent adulation of Pippa Middleton’s posterior has filtered through into even the broadsheet press. And so it comes as no surprise that there’s a veritable media spasm over Kate Middleton’s breasts.
Because I’ve already written extensively on media overload on countless occasions already, and no doubt will again in the future, there seems little point in doing so again here. Similarly, the ethical questions concerning privacy and the press that are proving to be the central focus of this so-called ‘scandal’ have received so much attention, there’s absolutely no point in rehashing it, and even if I felt able to bring something new to the table, it would be lost in the endless currents of hot air already circulating. If I’m going to expend energy pissing in the wind, it’s going to be on a subject I at least feel truly passionate about.
The real question, as I see it, isn’t about whether or not a royal should be able to sunbathe topless without being snapped, but what’s the fuss about? Just as the nation went nuts when Prince William began courting ‘Kate’, as much because she was a ‘commoner’ as anything, so it seems that the idea of ‘young people’ in the monarchy seems to have changed the tide of opinion and enabled the monarchy to shed its stuffy imperialist image, and the only real explanation for this is because people are stupid and gullible – and of course, celebrity fixated.
But celebrity is always about mystique, and all the more so when the celebrity in question is largely inaccessible. The intrigue of what’s under her (high street fashion / designer) clothes therefore becomes heightened proportionally against the likelihood of ever finding out.
In Kate, they were always looking for a new Diana, and in this episode, they’ve got it, and a whole lot more. Woman of the people, hounded by the press… check. But in Kate we have a rather different scenario based on paradox: Kate Middleton is a celebrity, and one who is less accessible than most because she’s royalty. At the same time, because Kate’s a ‘commoner’, she’s more accessible, which gives people a (false) sense of hope. If she gets ousted by her future monarch husband after siring the next generation, then perhaps someone of her own class might be in with a shout… of course it’s all an illusion, the ‘commoner’ image simply a tag that’s been fostered to broaden her appeal. Anyone who thinks they’re going to stumble into Kate Middleton (even if she does eventually find herself out of monarchical favour and free to date dynastic billionaire film producers) in their local Asda is clearly deluded.
But here’s the clincher paradox: Kate Middleton may be the ‘princess of the people’ and more accessible than any of her predecessors, while also being royalty and a celebrity on an almost untouchable level, but the bottom line is that she’s really pretty average. By which I mean that if she wasn’t royalty and a celebrity on an almost untouchable level, she might still be a rich girl, but no-one would pay her any attention whatsoever. What is there that truly distinguishes her from the crowd? She doesn’t even appear to be ageing especially well, with her features often appearing drawn and haggard beyond her 30 years in photographs on-line and in the press. The cult of Kate is purely a reaction to her social status and celebrity. Consequently the intrigue of what’s under her (high street fashion / designer) clothes becomes heightened proportionally against the likelihood of ever finding out. But, against the odds, we now know. The pictures are blurry, the quality disappointing, and the same is true of Kate’s boobs, which are average and unremarkable in every way.
And there you have it. You’ve seen the goods, they’re not much to write home about, and besides, you haven’t got a hope. Now please, move on, get a life and find something / someone else to wank over.
Kate Middleton: Ordinary?
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