American tabloid

00:30, Jul 26 2013

Viewed through the prism of American life, in a country where an actual war was fought to get the royal family off the back of the money for good, it is easier to view the royal baby for what it really is... just another tabloid story.

I'm not disinterested in this new prince. I'm not interested in him, either. It's kind of a product of our time that to not be for something we have to be inherently against it.

I see that a child has been born to two public figures that happen to be married and whose face is familiar to me. Taken in a culture devoid of the pomp of the royal family, where I see Abraham Lincoln's face on my cash money, not the Queen and I'm well out of the reach of a 21-gun salute, Kate and William's George Alexander Louis, is about as compelling to me as Kim and Kanye's North.

It was a funny realisation to me that the Royal Family's function in American life, divorced from even the ghost of a practical purpose that they still have in New Zealand, is to serve as an aristocratic version of the Kardashians. The Queen and kin don't have a reality show, but it'd get eaten up here. Downton Abbey meets The Real World.

The Royal Family only make the news in America when Harry gets nude in Las Vegas, Will and Kate throw a lavish wedding, or when there's a cute newborn to offer up to the gods of Anderson Cooper and People Magazine.

There's little in style that separates the coverage of North West and George Alexander Louis Windsor. Each child elicited a fair amount of speculation ahead of their birth, from mainstream and tabloid sources. Each birth lit up social media, prompting amateur comedians and irate contrarians to let fly in equal amount. Both made more headlines than is probably reasonable. Both were named within the providence of the circles they were born into, North West for her inevitable position as a bound-to-be slightly aggravating socialite and George Alexander Louis Windsor for his coming life of stuffy privilege, duty and tradition.


Sure, one was much more amplified than the other and CNN could thus justify with giving it many more minutes higher up in the news hour. But in tone, delivery and with none of the trappings of practicality the Queen has as (figure) head-of-state, the two stories are the same.

The disturbing thing to me is how much this story fit in alongside the general tenor of mainstream American news. Now it seems, everything is a tabloid.

On Tuesday, breaking attention away from the royal tyke (because only one tabloid story can be in vogue at any time), was breaking news that Anthony Weiner, shamed congressman turned New York mayoral candidate, had been caught again texting tawdry photos to a woman under the online handle "Carlos Danger".  The story was broken in part by a gossip website called The Dirty (with a charming section titled 'Would You?' where girls can send their photos in) and Buzzfeed, a site most known for publishing funny slideshows.

The story was covered hysterically, like a swarm of media bees to a spilt puddle of honey. Every detail was broken down for its lurid truths. Weiner's wife was put under the microscope for standing by and supporting him. The whole Carlos Danger thing, deservedly so because it is hilarious, lit up social media, once again prompting amateur comedians and irate contrarians to let fly in equal amount. This didn't feel at its gut like a political story, but more Britney Spears getting out of the car without underwear on or the Paris Hilton sex tape, 2.0.

Weiner is (was?) a talented politician who was caught engaging in a sexual activity with someone that wasn't his wife. He's doubly stupid, because he uses electronic mediums to do so, which leaves a trail. He said this behaviour was well behind him and it turns out that it wasn't.

The story isn't being played for its true relevance. People are shocked, so they want him to resign, on a similar gut level to the way everyone was shocked when Kim Kardashian filed for divorce in 72 days. This story is important, but not for the (consenting) woman involved or the lurid photos of Weiner's penis easily located online or the speculations behind his marital dynamic.  

To me at least, it's not about whether someone who has done this deserves to be mayor or not (voters can very efficiently decide that) but whether this behaviour would affect his ability to serve as mayor.

The story is being played at an emotional, not practical level, with Weiner in the fishbowl and the world judging him. Why are people still so stunned at powerful men doing messed up things to gratify their ego? The Clinton entanglements are still fairly recent, right?

Tabloid news formats are pure theatre (often times the story itself is completely fictional). But too often now news itself is played for theatre, not information.

Maybe when Washington DC is heading toward the mother of all implosions, again, it is just easier this way? 

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