Orbital Matters

Saturn Smith
Editor’s Pick
APRIL 28, 2011 2:52PM

In Defense of Wanting to Watch the Royal Wedding

Rate: 19 Flag

There's a handy GOOD flow-chart making the rounds of the Twitterverse at the moment, the lesson of which is that only a nihilist would care about the Royal Wedding. This is because, I gather, it is impossible to care about one's family, one's national politics, and one's suffering world while simultaneously having a bit of interest in the revival of the wedding hat.

Yet my entire adult life would disprove this. I read voraciously about climate change and budget deficits each day; I also make time to talk to my family. And often, in between these pursuits, I click over to see what the craziest HuffPo-approved rumor of the day is about Kate Middleton's wedding gown (she designed it herself! It's made from calves' livers! She'll wear Bjork's swan dress!).

Here's why: There is a limit to the suffering I can take in during one day. This is the same reason that even the stolid old BBC has time to report on what's happening in football every single day; it's the reason that NPR devotes time to stories about Bullwinkle and The Fleet Foxes in between reports on the budget "crisis." There is a simple, human limit to the amount of disaster and suffering one can take before it blends together. And when tragedy after tragedy blends together, it's easy to care about nothing.

I know this condition well. Many of my friends, colleagues, and favorite online writers are professional unhappys. Their main forms of conversation involve a constant stream of rage, upset, disappointment, and disgruntlement. Every new tragedy is expected; every new scandal is only a reminder of the last; every new massacre was predictable, preventable, and utterly unsurprising. They care about everything with such equal vehemence that it's almost as though they care about nothing. The impression, at least, is the same: a stream of awful that ends up making the issuing of a signing statement by President Obama an "atrocity" akin to the civil war in Darfur.

kate middleton prince william photoFlickr: JeanM1 | CC License

For those of us who prefer to have a range of emotional responses, sometimes even within the same day, a celebration like the Royal Wedding shouldn't be ignored. It provides a perfect pendulum swing away from all that is terrible and frightening in the news. In so doing, it allows us not only to take a glimpse at a More Perfect Life -- a life of fairy-tale ideas, of high pageantry and low-end gossip -- but also to realize that, perhaps, a world that can still manage to care about such trivial things as who a prince might marry isn't, perhaps, so hopelessly cynical that we're beyond reason.

I'll go one better than that, though, and say this: I don't even believe the Royal Wedding should be scaled back to match the times. I don't think Prince William and Kate Middleton should be getting married quietly in store-bought clothes with a box cake. To say that they should is also to say that Kenneth Brannagh should back off of making fabulous Marvel movies because that money could be better spent elsewhere; networks should show nothing but news, all the time, because dramatic and comedic television takes away from time that could be used to explain and cover major national events; books, in fact, should be only non-fiction, and only on topics of seriousness, and the editors of GOOD magazine should be allowed to decide what is serious enough to be covered.

In short, to think of the Royal Wedding as anything other than an entertaining spectacle is to think of it incorrectly. It's not a matter of national interest except that nearly half of a rather powerful nation is interested, keenly, in seeing how it goes. It's a cheering charm in the middle of a thunderstorm. It's the season finale of "LOST" for those of us who wonder about the mystery of the wedding hat. I'm tired of being told I'm unserious for sometimes liking -- sometimes needing to like -- unserious things.

So haters, let it be. Let me watch in peace. If you have to sort through a few royal headlines to make it to the sad news for a day or two, well, life's tough all over.

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hear, hear. great piece, SS.
Nicely said, Saturn.
oh, but its not an unserious thing..it is a serious item of bread and circuses, the latest update of the whole cinderella fantasy, which is/was about as misogynistic a fable as corporate america ever spun to subjugate women and maintain order while they pick the pockets of the vanishing middle class.
I'll be up at 3am watching it. heheh
Yes! Thank you Saturn for such a well worded post and you express my sentiments exactly. I am looking forward to it. My former and I were in London when Prince Charles and Lady Di were engaged. We had the fun fortune of being there for the Queen's birthday, "The Trooping of the Colors". Charles and Diana rode right past us and it was thrilling. I'm old enough and wise enough to not believe in fairy tales or "happily ever after's" (although I think it's quite possible) and yes, one could focus on the money being spent, etc. etc. blah blah blah. I will be watching because I'm a romantic at heart, I like certain traditions and because Love (and I believe there is Love) is happy and positive, I'm a sucker for it. R
"Ceery charm in the middle of a thunderstorm"--I like that, a lot. I confess I was one of the cynical ones--sooner argue that crab grass makes good garden ground cover than watch a royal wedding. But, darn it all, you make a compelling argument: watching as a kind of mental hygiene, a cortisol reducer in a stressful world. Fine writing here, really fine. You conduct an argument well, indeed.
Why can't we just enjoy someone else's joy, their ability to have a great event? We can. The nay sayers can go throw peanuts at each other in a pub, or the peanut gallery....
Well said Saturn. If not the Royal Wedding, we all need a break from bad news in SOME form. We need comedy to balance all the tragedy. I know I'd be mentally and emotionally exhausted without a joyous dive into the trivial, or take a moment to play a word game, read my horroscope or the comics page.

Protest ugly things like unemployment, wars, pollution and arms races. Let people have a little joy, and let the rest of us enjoy it if only vicariously.
Cheers to the happy couple! Well said, Saturn! xox
I just hope its the last Royal Wedding Britain will ever see
Good piece, but I disagree. As the Koch Bros and Ruppert Murdoch and Governor Walker try to act like the NEW AMERICAN NOBILITY, why should we glorify European Nobility?

In my mind, all Nobility is bad. I don't like it at all and I wont legitimize them by celebrating their rituals.
I agree! I get so frustrated by people who don't believe that you can watch the royal wedding, like pink and be a serious person. (I loved princesses as a child AND ended up becoming a scientist. And many of my female co-workers can say the same thing.)
Well said! I especially appreciate this thought:

"Their main forms of conversation involve a constant stream of rage, upset, disappointment, and disgruntlement. .......They care about everything with such equal vehemence that it's almost as though they care about nothing."

The fact that I no longer rage doen't mean I don't care, but life is too short to deny myself guilt-free fun like the occassion of this royal wedding
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I have nothing against the royal wedding, but why can't these two people from very rich families pay for their own damn wedding? Blowing more than $20 million on it at a time when the UK is in a major recession and slashing everything to the bone -- including education and social services -- is the real crime here. And I got up at 3 in the morning to watch the wedding of Charles and Diana, another colossal waste of taxpayers' money.
No need for apologies Saturn, though explanations like yours are sometimes useful reminders. None of us are saints and we all have our inconsequential pleasures. I don't quite understand the royal wedding attraction but many here didn't understand my fascination with last year's World Cup. And it lasted a month! So no stones coming at you from this quarter.
The Romans offered better spectacles: Lions eating Christians. I say, if you want spectacle, let's throw some right wing Christians to the lions. Man, we could have a whole new line of paintings, saints and of course martyrs.

Imagine, finally, the Xristianists will be happy. Then we can throw some of the other fundies of the world. Yes, a world wide reality spectacle, which true believer dies best? Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jewess or Buddhists? That will be much better than a degenerate royal family wedding.

So, now, poor Kate, her role is to produce an heir for the degenerate English Royal Family. Royal families were the first format of reality television. "King Henry's eight wives". The prequel to Real Housewives.
What a relief. Thank you. And as for the "limit to suffering" the term I think describes that condition best is "narcotizing dysfunction." Too much sadness over circumstances over which we have no control.
Sic Semper Tyranus. Death to kings and tyrants.
I loved this and like you for writing this :) rated with hugs. Am so glad this made the EP and Cover.
Excellent points. Maybe I'll watch it afterall.
You convinced me to brave the ire of my English husband and watch the videos. I loved Kate's dress, veil, and hair. It is the first wedding I have attended in 9 years where the bride did not wear a strapless gown.
Fabulous piece! For those of us still in the Commonwealth, it is of serious import. Kate will be our next queen since Camilla will not be allowed to have that title, and we should take an interest. God save the Queen, and all the princes and princesses with her.
These two are sweethearts I'll be watching for many years to come. All their dreams came true today. How romantic is that? :)
Royal Wedding

I hate to be a grumpy gus about the royal wedding, but honestly I could care less. Monarchy is a thing of the past. It's about time people get over it. How much are the Brits paying for that antiquated apparatus anyway?

Spain and Britain ought to do away with the monarchy. The monarchs are figure heads and the people wind up paying for what in the end is glorified welfare. Think about it. What do the royals do? The real person in charge is the prime minister.

America fought a revolution against tyranny and monarchy, so I don't understand why Americans get so excited about it. To justify their curiosity, people say, "Well, we don't have anything like that here." Precisely! The royals satisfy Americans' obsession with celebrity, and the royals are celebrity to the highest extreme.

Seeing a picture of all those union jacks as an expression of patriotism lining the streets reminds me of what Britain's own native son Sam Johnson said about patriotism: "Patriotism is the refuge of scoundrels!"
it is a mega event ...

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