Love, marriage, image salvage

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
November 22, 2010 /

Click here to view original /

If the soapie has taught us anything, it’s the redemptive power of a wedding. Nothing curtails a ratings slump quite like a dress, a cake and a suitably stirring love anthem.

Angry Anderson soundtracked Scott and Charlene’s nuptials, the fabulous Triffids did Madge and Harold’s, and in my own personal soap opera, an aunt and uncle were wedded to John Cougar Mellencamp’s ‘Hurts So Good’ in a spectacle that no amount of therapy can erase.

In soap operas – and, truth be told, on the branches of my very own family tree – marriages legitimise bastard children. For the moneyed, they unite fortunes, unite families, and in Australia laws draconically preventing them have sexed-up the Greens. For Britain’s Brad and Ange, a wedding will also rebrand a monarchy.

Diana’s death on its own was tragic, but it was something made so much worse by a re-jigged Elton John tune, a macabre department store shrine and reality TV stars permanently filling magazine voids. For the Royals, more tragic than speculation of their involvement in Di’s murder however, was the world’s waning interest in them.

And things have only gotten worse.

In a time of extraordinary economic hardship, the British public’s patience – and palate – for the pomp and pageantry of royalty has well and truly troughed. The Queen’s crying poor-mouth about electricity prices might have just been the nail in the coffin for that bloated, vaguely incestuous and frequently embarrassing anachronism.

Ah, but how rapidly the re-gifting of a ring can resurrect reputation.

Of the many erudite lessons reality TV has offered, perhaps the best is that not only can the dumbest, most inane halfwit bumpkin become an internationally revered celebrity, but most relevant to receding royal interest, we’ve learnt that the hue of one’s blood means very little today.

In a world worshipping celebrity over breeding, Will and Kate are the Royal family’s PR dream. Sure, if we focus long enough we’ll see tradition, wealth, politics and class bobbing about in the background, but we can choose not to squint too hard. After all, Who, People and Woman’s Day won’t be poking around back there.

The “Waity Katie” moniker bristled for me largely because Kate became defined exclusively as someone embarrassingly, demeaningly waiting for the phone to ring. More irritating however, was the fact that not only was she appearing to wait but so too was the public. As though a proposal would somehow legitimise the union.

When it comes to my own relationships, I can offer tales set in far-flung cities, stories of grand gestures and bitter betrayals, of exploitation, elation, elongated endings. And I can offer absolutely nothing by way of endurance. For Will and Kate however, endurance has been the name of the game.

I can’t speculate how much pre-marital nookie has transpired and I don’t know if Will’s ever done a late-night tampon run or if Katie’s taught him the rules about toilet seats and wet towels, but I’m thinking after a decade, things between them are pretty real. So why were we so preoccupied with the proposal?

The when, where, how speculation of the question popping undoubtedly made for good copy, but most interestingly, it served as testimony to how surreptitiously the PR machine has worked. Gently, so, so gently we’ve been drawn into a world of royalty lite, one marketed as less about the haughtiness and inaccessibility of yore and more so as a tabloid-ready story of a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

Without even realising it, we’ve become the audience of a reality spectacle. The waiting has primed us for re-acquaintance and re-acclimatisation with royalty. The slate has been scrubbed.

Endless cake chatter, dress drivel and guest list gumpf will gift months of good press to the Royals who haven’t managed to even buy it of late. And even when the honeymoon glow fades, the family is joyously left with two well-liked, seemingly well-known celebrities at their helm. Charlie’ll get to pick his heirloom tomatoes somewhere in the background, Camilla can keep her hair as “static-flying” and “hedgerow” as she likes: it’s now the Will and Kate show; complete with the female half occupying the ridiculously revered clothes horse role.

And just ask that relative of mine who, when facing family ex-communication, promptly conceived: children deliver even better press. My my the future looks rosy for the Royals!

I probably should end with a qualifier about it being so obvious that the couple love each other and that their marriage is, of course, just about the formalising of love and commitment and the legitimisation of all that is holy. Alas, if Britain’s gifted me anything it’s Morrissey. And I’ve listened to too way too much of him not to be jaded.

© Lauren Rosewarne