Monday, May 02, 2011

Hoopla over a dress and a wedding

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

Okay, you can call me a jaded and cynical wart, a party-pooper with questionable fashion sense. You can even refer to me as a person with a gnarled heart who cannot identify romance even if it wore wings, diapers, and start shooting arrows into people.

I still didn’t get what the whole hoopla was all about.

I couldn’t get a handle of why the world seemed to have stood still last Friday as billions of people from all over the world sat transfixed in front of their television sets waiting for that supposed magical moment when Catherine Middleton would step out of a carriage to meet her groom at the altar. I couldn’t empathize with people who wept when the vision in white glided over to the aisle of Westminster Abbey except for those who were weeping out of envy that they would never, could never have as their husband His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, Baron Carrickfergus, Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

Sure, William Arthur Philip Louis is an heir – the second in succession - to the British crown although it must be stressed that he probably will not be wearing that crown until all the hair in his head is gone. His grandmother the Queen is obviously hale and hearty even at 85 and his own father seemed to have inherited those longevity genes (even the Queen Mother still looks like she will live for decades). But my goodness, didn’t countries wage revolutions precisely to revolt against monarchies, the English monarchy in particular? And in what particular way was the royal wedding relevant to the rest of the world, especially the Philippines?

Media certainly went crazy over the royal wedding. I nearly fell off my seat when I noted that CNN fielded Piers Morgan and Anderson Cooper to London to anotate the event and I heard the network sent 50 staffers from the United States to supplement the 75 staff that already made up its London bureau - that’s at least 127 people covering the event for just one network! Did they send even half of that number to cover more earthshaking events? The entire TODAY team of NBC was also flown to London to cover the event. I understand that even our local media scrambled all over themselves to provide better coverage of the wedding. I heard ABS-CBN’s Korina Sanchez was in London, although she was presumably on her way to Italy for the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

I didn’t get to watch any of the coverage of the William-Kate nuptials except during the newscasts although it was very difficult not to have caught snippets of it from various media. The Internet was certainly buzzing with it.

If the whole attention to the wedding was baffling, the inordinate preoccupation with her dress was even more so. At a certain point, it seemed to me as if the dress was the whole point of the wedding rather than the ceremony itself.

Again, I am not passing myself off as an expert in fashion but I also didn’t get what the hoopla was about over a white dress that seemed like a copy of what Lea Salonga wore to her own date at the altar. People talked about how the dress was strikingly similar to what Grace Kelly wore when she became Princess of Monaco. There was that whole juicy sidebar about the business implications of the choice of designer (Sarah Burton of the House of McQueen) and the curious circumstances around the death of its founder Alexander McQueen but in the end, I just got lost on the tons of verbiage lavished on that dress.

People lumped together words like magical, tradition, fashion-forward, political statement and many more. Someone said that the dress was a manifestation of the current state of the British economy. Another wrote a long, flowing essay on the romance and symbolism of the cut, the choice of flowers used for the lace, and the feel and relevance of the overall look. I couldn’t believe the level of importance people associated with a single dress as if the resolution of the problems in the Middle East was dependent on its design.

As far as I am concerned, all brides look the same on their wedding day – all swaddled in yards and yards of unnecessary white cloth. Even if she wore a sack, she probably would have looked just as regal, people would still have sung paeans to it, and the fashion police would still have tried to attach all kinds of symbolism on it. In short, it wasn’t really the dress folks, it was the fact that she was wearing it.

The whole fixation over the wedding dress validated for me the level of importance the fashion industry has achieved in the world today. It seems we’ve all been held captive to the trends and dictates of the industry. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing except that it is prone to excesses, but that really is another column.

All these bring us back to the important question: What was it about this particular royal wedding that fixated billions of people all over the world?

There’s a part of me that believes a whole lot of it is pure unadulterated fixation with celebrity. Given the decline of the political relevance of monarchs today, most of them have been relegated to the status of celebrities. In this context, the circus-like appearance of the whole thing seemed logical.

One other possible explanation is that many people could have seen William and Kate’s wedding as an important episode, perhaps one providing a critical step towards a possible closure, to the long drawn-out Shakespearean tale of royal tragedy and romance. I guess there is reason to believe that people of a certain age still carry in their hearts a deep sense of longing for a happy ending for Princess Diana. She didn’t get it, but at least her son, the one that looks the most like her, would hopefully get his.

This fairy-tale ending stuff is something that we have all been conditioned to aspire for, thanks to the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and of course Walt Disney. Unfortunately, it seems many people are unable to grow out of their kindergarten phase. Many continue to be suckers for fairy-tale romances and try to see one whenever they can. William and Kate’s story is far from being a fairy-tale romance. This wasn’t something from The Prince and Me, she was sometimes referred to as a commoner and people conveniently ignored the fact that she is an heiress to a fortune.

An interesting trivia that served as a good footnote to the whole spectacle was that a girl named Kate Middleton, who is a real person living in the United States, had her Facebook account erroneously deleted by the Web site because she was thought to be someone impersonating the royal bride. So there you have it, the fates of two Kates, one lavished with extra attention while the other victimized because of the association.

What the royal wedding has been was simply a great diversion, a spectacular distraction from our mundane lives. But the world is not going to be a better place tomorrow just because two rich people got married. So let us get on with our lives.

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