On July 22, 2013 a baby named Prince George of Cambridge was
born and became probably the youngest person ever to have his own
Wikipedia page. It was kind of a weird name for a baby - he neither
was born in Cambridge nor lives there today - but a lot of people
were excited about his arrival because his parents, Kate Middleton
and William (surname unknown), are such important people, insofar
as people can be "important" without having ever done anything of
note or contributed anything valuable or even said anything
interesting in their lives.
Our first glimpses of George revealed a stoic, world-weary
little man, whose transparent gauze of hair remarkably resembled
his father's. Amid the widespread media coverage of the birth, the
best headline I came across, a day or two after the boy left the
hospital, was "What's next for the royal baby?" I didn't click the
link, but I can only imagine that the answer must be: mostly bodily
functions for a while.
And then, in all likelihood, mostly bodily functions thereafter,
along with some ribbon-cutting, epaulette-wearing, and waving at
crowds. And that's probably about it, right?
The real question is: why do Americans care about the Royal
Baby? The British public, I assume, is understandably stuck in some
extended state of Stockholm syndrome, doomed forever to love its
oppressors, but what reason do Americans have for whipping
themselves up into a frenzy over little George?
Let us leave cynicism aside and admit that perhaps babies, in
general, like puppies or kittens, are inherently great - reminding
us, as they do, of the "miracle" of life, or of innocence, or
whatever. I imagine that most people, when they think of Prince
George, are thinking of a smallish fellow in an oversized crown and
footie pajamas, prancing around a castle and singing "I Just Can't
Wait to Be King" in a British accent. Which I suppose would be
adorable. (Third in line for the throne, the boy has to wait for
Elizabeth, Charles, and William all to die, so: forever. Sorry,
George's parents probably aren't "bad people." The kings and
queens and princes and princesses of today function not as
autocratic rulers, of course, but merely as beloved symbols of
historical tyranny and arbitrary privilege. The millions of
taxpayer pounds that fund Liz's collection of funny hats are
recouped tenfold in royalty-inspired tourism. It's all good.
Still, one can't help but feel that this fawning over a British
prince is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned for us: every
time you tweet about Kate and Will, the ghost of Ben Franklin
probably sheds a tear. The celebration of George's birth is a
celebration of inequality - the only way in which this baby is
different from any other baby is that his prosperity is assured,
while everyone else's prospects are dimmer. The Royal Family just
spent $1.5 million to decorate the child's nursery; meanwhile
countless mothers in the same country are wondering how they're
going to afford to feed their children.
From one perspective, George is sort of the least interesting
boy who was born on July 22, 2013. Every child's future is up in
the air, unpredictable: you don't know who or what a kid will
become, and the possibilities are limitless - except in the case of
Prince George. His destiny is already written: endless photographs,
polo matches, some fancy school, a fake career in the military, and
a marriage to a privileged white British lady. We, the public,
could randomly choose any other infant to obsess over, and that
baby, over the course his or her lifetime, would inevitably yield
better storylines than Prince George will.
The reason we care about him nevertheless is that he represents
a fantasy life for all of us who are doomed to be "interesting"
rather than secure. We all would like to wealthy, glamorous, and
celebrated without having to do anything to earn our celebrity.
We'd all like to be loved instantly, great automatically.
That this purely lucky state of entitlement can provoke, in some
cases, envious hatred and, in other cases, overwhelming adoration
is, I think, mostly just a matter of the tastefulness with which
it's handled: that our equally useless Kardashians - these tacky,
openly materialistic, attention-hungry Los Angeles suburbanites -
are despised by many of the same people who worship Britain's
royals (who have learned to pretend to have real jobs and to
pretend to support liberal causes, and do not release sex tapes)
marks not a moral distinction but evidence of the same vestigial
classism that allows these crowned people to continue to exist. We
really believe that some people are superior to others by the
ornamentation of their birthright.
Yeah, I know that all the people who declare loudly and proudly
that they don't care about the Royal Family are just as tiresome as
all the people who gush over them. I'm not Johnny Rotten; nobody
cares. But I do hope that this column I've just written about
Prince George is the last one I'll read for a while.