From the tragedy in Arizona, to the uprisings in Egypt and Libya, 2011 has already produced some of the most important news stories of our lifetime. But based on quantity of media coverage, one news story reigns supreme over all others: the English royal wedding. Unlike the previously mentioned stories, which enjoyed periods of wall-to-wall coverage before eventually being relegated to passing references and brief updates, the upcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton has consistently dominated magazine covers, web headlines and TV news segments since the two publicly announced their engagement in November. There have been nonstop stories about when they met, how they met, their number of breakups and make-ups, what she wears, when she wears it and most of all, round-the-clock speculation about who and what she will wear on her wedding day. (Click here to see a list of some of history's most fashion-forward princesses.)
There seems to be only one question that hasn't been asked about the royal wedding: Who actually cares?
According to a recent poll, not nearly as many people as the media seems to think. When asked to describe their feelings about the royal wedding in a Vanity Fair and 60 Minutes poll, 65 percent of those surveyed described themselves as "Not interested." You might assume that interest level might be a little higher among young women, those likely to still be dreaming of their own prince and royal wedding someday. Well you'd be wrong. A whopping 75 percent of those under the age of 30 described themselves as "not interested."
So what gives? Why are so many of my fellow countrymen and women joining me on the royal wedding grinch list this year? Allow me to posit a few theories:
7) More options = less interest.
In 1981 750 million people worldwide tuned in to watch Prince William's mother and father wed.
In 1981 there were also far fewer media options and distractions than we enjoy today. Without hundreds of cable channels to surf and no high-speed internet for all of us to enjoy, it's likely that instead of watching a Law & Order rerun or Mad Men on DVD I might have actually gotten sucked into some of the wedding coverage myself or even tuned in on the big day, but not going to happen in 2011. (I have my fingers crossed for a Golden Girls marathon that day.)
6) The decline of marriage means the decline of interest in any fairytale wedding that's not your own.
It's official. Marriage rates are at an all-time low, not only here in the U.S., but in the homeland of the prince and soon-to-be princess. The reasons are in part generational. Living together has lost much of the stigma it held in previous eras. But economics plays a role too. The recession and generations of young people saddled with student-loan debt makes getting married a challenge, and a fairytale wedding beyond the reach of all but a privileged few. There's a reason that wedding shows like Bridezillas find an audience. Watching someone wig out while planning their tacky wedding might be mildly entertaining if you can't afford your own, but watching someone plan a real-life fairytale wedding when you can't? A bit cringe-inducing and painful. 5) The Kardashians, Snookie, and every other reality star you hope your daughter doesn't grow up to be.
In an age in which the likes of the Kardashians and the cast of Jersey Shore became famous millionaires for sex tapes and reality show brawling, why on Earth would any young woman, or man, aspire to a position in which they would be expected to keep their nose (and other pertinent parts) clean to achieve power? Being a prince or princess, and the restrictions that come with the titles, are unlikely to have the type of appeal they once had, to a generation looking for a less confining path to power, fame and fortune.
4) Oprah, Arianna and Angelina.
Thanks in part to Walt Disney and his stable of princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Tiana), becoming a princess used to be the fantasy that every little girl aspired to. But in an age in which women like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actress Angelina Jolie and media moguls Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington have more worldwide influence and wealth than your average princess, being a princess doesn't seem like much to aspire to. And while stepping off of the career track to focus on raising your children may be admirable, stepping off (or rather never stepping on in the first place) to focus on dressing up and standing by a man full time is just embarrassing, especially in 2011.
3) Princess Diana and fun-loving Fergie.
According to all of the Disney tales, princesses are supposed to live happily ever after, but the ones who starred in the real-life dramas we all watched growing up rarely seemed happy. If anything Diana, Princess of Wales, and Sarah, the Duchess of York, seemed weighed down by their titles, and the pressures that came with them. Not only did they never seem to find their "happily ever after," but one wonders if they were ever able to find any happiness in being a princess at all.
2) 21st-century Americans just don't care about royalty the way we used to.
When the most high-profile American to carry a European aristocratic title is a cast member of a show called Real Housewives of New York, I think we can all agree that royalty and titled nobility simply no longer carry the cache and social esteem they may once have with the American public.
1) Michelle Obama.
When you see the kind of constant criticism that First Lady Michelle Obama endures every day on everything from her wardrobe to her thoughts on breastfeeding, it makes it hard to imagine what it would be like to endure that kind of criticism and pressure for a lifetime. Like her predecessors, Barbara and Laura Bush among them, at least Michelle Obama will one day be able to speak her mind (and wear what she wants to) when she and her family depart the White House (which Karl Rove seems to think will be around 2016). But as we saw with Princess Diana the pressures of being a princess never end, even if your marriage to Prince not-so-charming, eventually does.
(And for the record, yes I do see the irony in me, a member of the media, covering a topic that I am chastising members of the media, for covering ad nauseam. Rest assured that this was the first time, and will be the last, that I type the words "royal wedding." That being said, I wish the happy couple all the best.) This piece originally appeared on TheLoop21.com, for which Goff is a contributing editor.