Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Princesses: A Cure for What Ails You

As the Fourth of July approaches, I have to wonder, especially in light of recent events, whether Americans made the right decision. To revolt.

I get that the colonists were keen on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Equality and justice and all that jazz. But perhaps we were a bit hasty in overthrowing the English king.

Because no king means no princesses.

Princesses are having a bit of a moment. Last weekend, in case you hadn't heard, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden married her prince--actually, her personal trainer. I gorged on the coverage like it was triple-layer chocolate cake. I pored over photos of the glittering gowns and bejeweled guests--Bulgaria has a king and queen, who knew? Lapped up fun facts about Victoria's Cameo Tiara (apparently a gift from Napoleon to Josephine). Obsessed over YouTube footage of the couple's first waltz and the groom's toast to his new wife, never mind that most of it was in Swedish. And I wasn't the only one. The Internet was buzzing with well wishers from around the globe. If you're looking to bring about world peace, there's nothing quite like a royal wedding to get us to all join hands and hum the Pachelbel Canon. Because even after Charles and Diana smashed the myth to smithereens, we still want to believe in fairytales.

And now comes word that Prince Albert of Monaco is engaged. This tiny principality, which, without its royals would be about as exciting as Andorra, will have its first Crown Princess, a former Olympic swimmer, since Princess Grace died in 1982. Can we handle another spectacle? Bring. It. On.

Royal weddings take the excitement of Christmas and multiply it by a gold-plated horse drawn carriage. There's nothing in the States that remotely compares--that's sort of the point of our country--and I for one miss the pomp and circumstance. Sure, we have our inaugurations, but those mostly feature old men in grey suits making speeches. Yawn. I want to see palaces and footmen and, did I mention, the Cameo Tiara.

Clearly plenty of my compatriots do as well, admittedly most of them of the female persuasion, otherwise how to explain the popularity of the Oscars or the Kardashians? What is "The Bachelor" but a modern re-telling of Cinderella, arguably the most famous princess of them all. In the absence of a titled aristocracy and their attendant glamour, Americans created Hollywood and a class of professional celebrities to fill the void, though they don't quite muster up, now do they. Where's the mystique? Where's the elegance? Even if you could picture Julia Roberts in a crown and a 20-foot train, would you wake up at 4 a.m. to watch her marry her cameraman? It's just not the same.

Celebrities are a dime a dozen--quick, tell me the difference between Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba. Enough said. While admittedly standards for royals have slipped in recent years, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway married not just a commoner, but a single mother (she definitely had some 'splaining to do), they remain, in their rarity, a breed apart.

Like a white tiger, there's something magical about royalty in general and princesses in particular. They're pretty and sparkly and not quite real--a pure escapist dream. Note, little girls don't play "queen." That's stodgy and boring and too much like a job. Listen to Paris Hilton talk about how hard she works to promote her "brand" and that's all you need to hear to know she's not a princess. Princesses sprinkle fairy dust, they don't attend networking events.

The other day, I spent the afternoon with a two-year-old, dressed in her Cinderella costume. She took my hand and walked me to her bedroom, where she showed off her princess dolls, along with Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse. Princesses, to her, are every bit as fictional as a Disney character (heck, some of them
are Disney characters). And perhaps, after all, that's their enduring appeal, to this writer at least: they're a bit of childhood fantasy come to life.

You can aspire to fame and fortune, but the mere fact that these goals are attainable--we have Lady Gaga and Bill Gates as proof--causes them to lose their luster. What's more, trying and failing to achieve that status--notoriety or unheard of riches or even a modicum of material success--is the reason entire categories of pharmaceutical drugs exist. That's what I appreciate about royalty: you can't possibly aspire to it, so just sit back and enjoy it like a summer popcorn movie. Instead of popping a pill to relieve the stress of modern American adulthood, doesn't having a princess to gawk at sound like a far better antidote?

Can't we have our Constitution and our princess too?


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