At any number of critical moments, we realise that we are no longer young. That life's fashions and fads have left us behind, marooned in a kind of cultural inconsequence. We are no longer mainstream hipsters (if we ever were) but incrementally irrelevant.
I always think that first age shock comes when you no longer find popular music to your taste. At around 30, you've found the music and the artists that you like, and you become progressively resistant of anything new. This explains the endless nostalgia tours of artists from the 1970s, 1980s and now 1990s. Fleetwood Mac may be huge this coming summer: but the principal audience will be fifty-plus.
Similarly we regard Lady Gaga as more gaga than lady and as talentless as tacky could ever get. That she draws so many fervent admirers as a feral Madonna, simply mystifies. Clothes and shoes, hair product and sporting attractions also demonstrate which decade, which culture, which class we have taken refuge within. Once there, we tend not to budge. We embrace new technology with suspicion rather than excitement. Themed retirement villages will be our next step.
So it is that I don't get reality TV. It is a complete cultural wasteland to me and is the principal reason that my TV viewing habits rarely stray from the early evening news and Sky.
Every free channel seem beset by inconsequential people doing inconsequential things in the most inconsequential way. It's not so much trivia as daily detritus made drearier. And there are even reality TV families like the Kardashians, who have surrendered all their privacy because they want to be collectively famous but lack any talent whatsoever. Except maybe old fashioned hucksterism. With them as the must-have product.
Now I could carry on with my grumpy old man ruminations, except I have been shamed this week by my own reality TV habit. The media stalking of the royal baby has drawn a mass audience that the Kardashians would kill for. Probably, literally.
In fact, one of the icons of us aged, the royal family, are now so painfully postmodern and hip that all the new style icons bow down at their presence. Still. Even the most querulous and rebellious of celebrities seems to calm in their presence.
Because the royal family are the ultimate reality family. They exist solely to entertain us. They were, and are, the first celebrities, with every personal event of any importance automatically shared with an audience of billions. Every tragedy, personal failing and undiplomatic aside is also ours to devour.
There can be no question the royal family were in serious trouble around the time that Princess Diana died. The Queen was perceived as hard, Prince Charles as an out of touch philanderer, and the institution as an expensive irrelevance. Republicanism surged as a consequence.
Contrast with today. The Commonwealth has fallen over itself to genuflect to George, whose parents are the ultimate in cool, and the Queen is now seen as the most enduring reference point of not one, but three generations. It is a remarkable transformation.
But it's not the royal family who have changed. It's just that the ever-changing wave of fashion and culture has caught up with them. They are cool again because we have changed.
Being fickle, we will change again. Or, at least, our kids, grandkids and their kids will change. One day the royals will fall out of public favour again.
George may grow up in privilege but his life is already ordained. When you think about it, that's one hell of a burden. And our insatiable gawping is hardly going to help.
But welcome, little man. Welcome to your own Truman Show. We will be watching.
- © Fairfax NZ News