Razer: The Royal birth and serving up the lie of normal parenthood with a McFlurry spoon

Generally, I have no truck with passionate opposition to the British Monarchy. This is for two reasons: (1) I think all that anti-royal revolutionary effort would be better spent hanging the last capitalist with the guts of the last celebrity and (2) I love the Princess Royal and secretly believe that HRH Anne and I could one day become great pals.

So, critique of the media excesses performed around the recent imperial birth are made with political and personal reticence and these will not involve a call for a republic which would, let’s face it, offer no benefit to ordinary Australians save for a period of increased employment at the Mint.

To be very clear and in the very mild hope that those who race to the comments with a call for my torture by means of Malcolm Turnbull are still reading: yes, the BM is absurd. The most practical argument anyone can create to defend this funded obscenity is “it’s good for tourism” as though this portion of the British GDP would not survive the institution’s death. When tourists visit London, they head to the Tower of London more than any other monument and this is a clear indication that the world loves the thought of the pointless fuckers dying. Anyhow. Financial services keep the British economy strong enough to withstand all beheading and it is the globalised might of this vile industry that keeps Empire alive more than eight new pounds of royal flesh whose particular emergence, apparently, is seen by many idiots as a sign of progress.

Yes. Apparently young HRH Princess Charlotte of Cambridge is a win for gender equality. We know this because The Guardian tells us so. Male-preference primogeniture laws were changed in time for the birth and this means that Charlotte now moves ahead of Prince Harry in line to succession and need not kill any future younger brothers but just her older one if she fancies a spell on the throne. This “has to be good for the feminist cause” reports the Graun because of, um, reasons. Reasons which are not elaborated but, presumably, involve something about how every little girl can now dream of miming the worst traditions of super elite western imperialism just like little boys. God. It’s all just so fucking inspiring. I feel proud both as a woman and a feminist Guardian reader to think that one outlandishly privileged representative of my gender can wield fictitious power every half-century or so. This will Make a Difference.

As if this parliamentary decree did not sufficiently appease our western need for the performance of progress, the Cambridges themselves did. In a hyper-casualised echo of the last Royal birth, they have been busy looking unflustered and loving on the steps of an expensive hospital. No matter that the Princess employed a team of stylists to create a fresh look that no post-partum woman of my acquaintance could naturally exude, the western world’s media has been serving up the shitty lie of normal parenthood with a plastic McFlurry spoon.

How. How is it possible that we are doing this deluded dance again? When the other royal lump was removed just a few years ago, we all oohed at the “casual” and “unfussy” parenting techniques of the couple and frankly, once was more than enough. I recall that a clockwork chimp at the Herald Sun wrote an open letter in which Princess Catherine was thanked for the way she “proudly showed off” her body. A feat she managed, by-the-by, simply in appearing in a frock without an obvious girdle. Hardly “showing off” and hardly any more radical than the appearances by previous new royal mothers, none of whom have ever sought to mimic the impossible natal silhouettes of the current era’s celebrities. Even HRH Diana, the famous bulimic, got about in some turquoise candy store sack when she’d shoved out Charlotte’s father.

This is the thing, though. Since the time of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, the Royal Family has been pretending to be Just Like Us. A decent piece in The Conversation reminds us of what stupid journalists allow themselves to forget: this nonsense institution preserves its power by concealing it.

You don’t need to read Sun Tzu to understand that an appearance of weakness wins the war every time. You don’t even need to lift your indolent finger and search for previous images of the Royal Family to see that they’ve been at this We’re Just Like You game for much longer than a century. You actually just need to have taken a selfie to understand the nature of artifice.

So, Kate and Wills have an ordinary pram and a baby capsule of the sorts one might purchase at an online sale and engage in acts of “natural” affection with their children. This is hailed in putatively sensible newspapers as a “royal nursery revolution” and not, as it is, a simple extension of what the BM has been doing for decades to preserve itself.

These images of the Cambridges as loving, natural parents are just as staged as, and far less beautiful than, the royal portraits by Cecil Beaton. How anyone who lives in the era of the selfie can think these images are any more “real” than those flattering snaps we take and post of ourselves is quite beyond me. Many people grizzle, as they should, about the humble-brag imagery of Instagram and can see right through the filtered pictures of bliss-with-family-at-the-beach to their core of needy evil. That we largely consent to be moved by a Royal moment that logic tells us is even less candid and constructed than our own selfie-stick efforts is bizarre.

Not everyone is fooled, of course and not everyone is moved to tears of oestrogen for the picture of a sensitive Prince holding his toddler for the benefit of press in a posture that recalls a hundred ads for razors. Some of us know that William’s apparent reconstruction as a man is secondary to his function as a construction for mass and social media.

While it is entirely possible that these Royal strangers may be decent, sincere parents it is impossible that there is a moment of decent sincerity in their mass depiction. Branding takes labour and bullshit requires our complicity.

The sensitivity of celebrities, royal or otherwise, is always a lie. Even if it is authentic, it is necessarily as processed as a ham. No one in the current era just poses for or publishes a picture without hope to represent something other than themselves and that we, architects of our own bullshit, can believe the “raw” and “natural” emotion of the royals to be any less constructed than the tears-on-cue of lesser celebrities is evidence of our diminishing grip on the real.

This is not candour. This is not real. This is not a timely move to “modernise” an institution which relies on the maintenance of our pre-Enlightenment awe to sustain it. It’s another well-placed nail in the pretty casket of materiality.

40 responses to “Razer: The Royal birth and serving up the lie of normal parenthood with a McFlurry spoon

  1. “(2) I love the Princess Royal and secretly believe that HRH Anne and I could one day become great pals ” Yuk, yuk, yuk, how incredibly unctuous.

  2. The really sad thing is, I think they actually believe they are normal people with normal lives. If only there were some way to make them realize how totally bloody pointless they are!

    1. PANYTSONFIRE: I’d like to say you’ve made my day. But when I read the Daily Mail article I threw up. Nauseating tripe, isn’t it?

  3. Instead of writing puff pieces on Royalty, Helen, why not do something the Republican Movement has never managed to achieve, i.e. putting together an actual proposed Constitutional Amendment, then tackling the (perhaps even more challenging) problem of convincing Australian voters to support it?

    1. Instead of being a serial commenter on my posts you routinely fail to read, Norman, why not get out in the garden?

  4. Helen,

    The ridiculous thing is that this baby will always be more important than any Australian. Cure cancer, create peace in the Middle East, stop global warming. Anyone who does these or similar feats will still be inferior to her because she is ROYAL and we are common.

    During the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 the rulers of the three major countries involved were all insane. The kings of both Britain and Denmark and the Czar of Russia. But they all were ROYAL hence superior to all their millions of subjects.

    And here we are in 2015 where all you have to do to be fawned over, bowed and curtsied to and generally treated as extra special is to have the right (ROYAL) parentage.

    The Age of Entitlement lives on.

  5. Great article. Finally someone who peels the artifice off the young royals and presents it as it really is, cookie cutter stage managed and just a bite trite.
    The Duchess is nothing more and nothing less than a royal incubator just like to Di to produce an heir and a spare.
    There is nothing normal about this family and their attempts to normalise and act like a normal family. The word budget, I can’t afford my electricity bill or I need to buy this for kids so I won’t get my hair done will never pass their lips.

  6. I’d be much happier with Princess Anne as the next Queen. Her magnificent bouffant, “don’t give a damn” outfits and the subtle smell of hay about her is far more fun.
    These younger royals are, as you put it Helen, just media productions. I’d expect Princess Anne telling a media adviser with a suggestion to piss off.

  7. Tweet if the Week (by a young American called Logan Eastman).

    A princess was born. There was a horse race. And now a fight. This has been the most Edwardian day since Ferdinand was shot.

  8. I think people do actually see themselves when they see the royals – but themselves in a version which is idealised but plausible. Its a very beguiling confluence. You watch people watch royals and they do with joyous fascination. Their eyes follow them as if they were children watching santa claus for the first time. Royals are rich, polite, well dressed, and boring. A really large number of people see thier ideal life in that way. And they think thats a good thing. I think this fascination with yourself idealised goes further. You get to choose all kinds of things in the world today. It defines who you are and that creates anxiety. There is no right answer. Just the repercussions of choices. The Royal Family tis not so. It is not chosen. It is. Like your mother, you get one. Your mother is your existential projection into the universe. You get no other. The royals are your political projection. That woman with the handbag and the vaguely bored, vague confused expression is your queen. For a lot of people the royals are an affirmation of life beyond choice or its wild cousin, imagination. The reflection of that belief is a still point beyond the plastic nature of modern life. I know a lot people who like that. For them the Royals are a mystic ecstasy.

  9. correction to post above –
    I won’t go too far in defending the BM, however I have to say that of all the so-called manufactured personalities we “get to know” via media and social media, I think they would be two of the most pleasant in person. William and Kate come across as self-deprecating and as down-to-earth as you could conceivably expect, qualities much more likeable the qualities we all observe in the “new money” social media commentariat this days, of which being a try-hard and mimicking Clive James are the most tedious.

    They were born into an imperfect society the same way the rest of us were. They, like most of the rest of us, seem to be doing a reasonable job of being decent people in the circumstances they find themselves. Despite the privilege they were born into (not forgetting the tragic circumstances in which Will lost his mother), this young couple and their family don’t deserve the disdain and negativity dished out to them. Lay off.

    1. As mentioned. It’s entirely possible that they are decent and sincere. And at no point is their character questioned. I didn’t, for example, call them poor mimics of Clive James, Princess Diana’s media adviser until he begged her not to do the BBC interview in which she, a master manipulator of image, made herself appear an innocent sullied instead of the power hungry “Princess of Hearts ” she was.
      The point is not them but how their privilege is sustained by the “lay off” crypto royalisn you just betrayed.
      I will continue to write about ideology and its media representations. Which Clive, who is a favourite stylist but not a favourite thinker, never did.

        1. Blaming an author for your lack of interest in reading comprehension is like blaming hot chips for your failure to eat a balanced diet.
          Please. Read before commenting or bugger off.

  10. I won’t defend the BM, however I have to say that of all the so-called manufactured personalities we “get to know” via media and social media, I think they would be two of the most pleasant in person. William and Kate come across as self-deprecating and as down-to-earth as you could conceivably respect, qualities much more like the qualities we all observe in the “new money” social media commentariat this days, of which being a try-hard and mimicking Clive James are the most tedious.

    They were born into an imperfect society the same way the rest of us were. They, like most of the rest of us, seem to be doing a reasonable job of being decent people in the circumstances they find themselves. Despite the privilege they were born into (not forgetting the tragic circumstances in which Will lost his mother), this young couple and their family don’t deserve the disdain and negativity dished out to them. Lay off.

  11. “…will not involve a call for a republic which would, let’s face it, offer no benefit to ordinary Australians save for a period of increased employment at the Mint.”

    Yep. More pointless symbolism.

    But by George (and/or Charlotte) do you get some funny looks from your fellow lefties if you air that view in public.

    Never been threatened with a sharp Turnbulling, though, fortunately.

    1. Hit em with the reminder that increased independence from Britain has resulted in decreased autonomy for Aboriginal Australians. Which is not at all to suggest that invasion was a great idea. But it is to say that what we evolved over the twentieth century was worse.
      “Lefties” hardly deserve the designation, these days. They care not for the redistribution of wealth but take a trickle down cultural approach. It’s all “let’s have some people and gestures to inspire us” and few labour laws etc.
      I don’t give a shit if we appoint aroyal lavatory as our supreme leader. As long as things are more just.

  12. Between the Royal bullshit and the “Big Fight” this weekend, I have had to have a break from Facebook for I shall surely want to stab myself in the eyes with a fork if I read about either of them ever again.

    Why can’t we just chuck a couple of Royal kids in a playpen and have baby cage fights? Now that would be fun.

  13. Helen,
    Princess Charlotte was always going to be ahead of Prince Harry in the succession, even under the old order. Children of older siblings always rank before younger siblings and their children. For the same reason this is why Princess’ Beatrice and Eugenie are ahead of Edward.

    The only person Charlotte is ahead of, and will remain ahead of under the new rules of absolute primogeniture is an as yet unborn brother.

    Seriously, if you are going to diss a system (and this one is highly deserving of a good dissing) at least get the basic facts right, otherwise you look silly.

    1. I was unaware that this was the method of ascension preceding the changes to law and was a little confused by the fact that the children of the Princess Royal, who was born before Edward, remain lower in the list. And, I must confess, I was misled by the article in the Guardian to which I referred. I ought to have known better or at least known enough to know that I did not know better and checked. However, as the silliness of the institution for its sexism wasn’t my focus here but was the silliness of those who think that ridding the institution of sexism and other antiques would do anything meaningful to change it, the argument remains unaffected despite this error which I thank you again for pointing out.

  14. Wonderful Helen ! Every column you write completely nails it . Sometimes I think you must actually be a zen master or a Tibetan nun and live on top of a mountain meditating , such is the wisdom and razor (pardon the pun !) sharp intellect you impart . I work dam hard to stay sane in the morass of chaos that is the world and your column assures me that others are also sane. Can you just take over News Corp and sort this dam world out please . Crown will be provided .

  15. I take issue with your earlier statement: “a republic which would, let’s face it, offer no benefit to ordinary Australians”. Given the narcissistic born-to-rule nature of our current PM and his immediate predecessor, Australia has built for itself a completely unstable constitutional system whereby the PM can sack the Governor General, and the Governor General can sack the PM, and this depends on who gets a letter (email? Tweet?) off to whichever one of Charlotte’s family is occupying the throne. This precarious situation, I maintain, is not good for the country.
    The media supported soap of the the Royal Family as the “just like us only better”, Kardashians with manners as it were, which the rest of your article examines, lends support to the idea of “our betters” and acts as a useful distraction and cover for the 1% to continue to pillage the economy for their own benefit. The Monarchy is definitely part of the problem.

    1. We largely agree. But for me, this obvious constitutional glitch notwithstanding, there will always be ways that power conceals itself, sometimes without volition, and that the most obviously corrupt and hopeless forms of concealment are kind of good to have around.
      If we think of the powerful ideology of “you can make it only if you try” and how that works so well to warm the 1% (I’m SURE it’s less than 1% by now!) then it’s kind of good for mine to keep more obvious exploiters around. This is why I don’t go ranting on about how the church is evil, despite being an atheist. And, frankly, I think Francis is in a position now to meaningfully question inequality now precisely because the old economic power of the church is as nothing compared to the hard business of finance. I tend to think that the more absurdity we can see the better and this is why I delight every time Abbott does something old school like say “I believe all women should be issued an ironing board at birth” or give old Phil a Knighthood. GOOD. Show us the power.
      The other thing I’d say is that arrangements between Aboriginal Australians and the colonisers were actually better before Federation so I have no interest in a republic or whatever system we may choose unless the first item on the agenda is “pay the rent”. The various public discussions on the republic had little or nothing to say about the actual custodians of Australia and that this could be something regarded as marginal in any serious consideration of change is abhorrent to me.

      1. Helen,I do like your common sense (which is not common enough!) but since the Royals profess “we love Australia”not just our mining dividends,a name with Aborigine content could have been added into the latest childs name ….perhaps Bindi? after all there is a horse trainer name of Bindi Cheers, then there,s Bindi from Australia Zoo,,is it too late to ad this extra name ?

      2. My comment is on your statement ‘that the arrangements between Aboriginal Australians and the colonisers were actually better before Federation. Yes for 50 years or so beforehand they could vote if they could register. I don’t think so they were better off. By Federation the Aboriginal people had suffered the early waves of devastation and removal from land, were mainly in missions or reserves, physically depleted and disempowered, stymied and robbed by Immigrants and their Governments. The Colonialists sat as we all sit on ill gotten gains, and I agree it is time to “pay the rent”.
        Our political representatives need to have classes on Australian History. Obviously our Prime Minister’s comments show a gross lack of historical knowledge of Australia..

  16. I profess to be mesmerised by the walking around, apparently without discomfort, in a yellow and white frock so soon after birth. In the interests of discretion, I won’t share with you the details but suffice it to say standing vertical after giving birth can give rise to Somewhat Unpleasant Consequences: consequences inconsistent with the notion of wearing a white frock. In public. For that reason, if no other, she has my firm admiration.

    1. We can only be certain that the Royal Warrant Holders for absorbent postpartum materials are the very best.

  17. Helen for Queen!

    Srsly tho, good article. I have given up hoping that this circus will go away any time soon.

    What would torture by Malcom look like though?

    1. Torture by Turnbull would amount to being anywhere near his physical presence. If he comes too close the beams of his tinted moisturiser may cause harm.

  18. The “Royals”,are a great front for the “British Bankers Club & Financiers” instead of borrowing from “petro dollar countries” at much better interest rate (like Gough tried to do),we keep going back to these high interest charging dudes,FOREVER! They have no other public face,like who do you think Mr Abbott visits every year? Remember when Julia offered him a trip to visit our troops serving overseas? Mr Abbott said NO NO NO I,m going to London that week! Are you still wondering just who it was he would visit? No one ever said “Who are these faceless people you would visit instead of our troops Tony? Could have been an eye-opener that,but the Labor party pollies NEVER ASK HIM! WHY??

    1. Why? Because we live under the rule of a benevolent bi-partisan dictatorship. Labour. Liberal. One and the same. The illusion of a democracy. Queen rules.

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