Apparently we are living in a “second golden age of television.” It’s true that there is a great deal of choice these days – pay TV, Apple TV, numerous streaming services – and the choices available make the poll tax levied to fund the BBC even more anachronistic than it was when I was a child. It’s also true that there are a lot of great television shows; I’ve always loved The Simpsons and Game of Thrones is excellent – the sixth and seventh series (when did television series become “seasons”?) have been of a particularly high standard. But, let’s face it, most television channels are filled with absolute dross and reality TV seems to be taking over. Baking a cake on the telly, watching people doing DIY, putting a bunch of narcissists on an island and hoping they have sex – this is not my idea of entertainment. Reality TV has spawned whole legions of people who are simply famous for being famous. When scrolling through a news website the other day I saw an advertisement for the new series of Celebrity Big Brother – I recognised one of the contestants because he used to have a minor role in EastEnders. Apparently, it is enough to appear on one reality TV show to qualify as a “celebrity” for another show. This is a longwinded introduction to my real topic – the refusal of some elements of the UK media to allow the proto-Kardashian, the original talentless celebrity, famous for wearing clothes, to fade into well-deserved obscurity. I refer of course to Diana Spencer, erstwhile Princess of Wales.
I am not a fan of the British Establishment. I find their arrogance, their born-to-rule attitude, their disdain for ordinary working people hard to stomach. Above all, I find the incompetence of the Establishment and their delusion that the institutions they love are world class – the BBC, the NHS and the EU spring to mind. The only thing to match the incompetence of the Establishment is their colossal self-regard and vast dollops of self-delusion that they are not utterly hopeless and parasitic. And the Monarchy is the absolute epitome and pinnacle of the Establishment – talentless, merit-free individuals living in obscene luxury at the expense of the taxpayer. Diana Spencer, despite the hagiography that tries to keep her saintly image alive, was one of the very worst of the Royals but also the prototype of the reality TV celebrity whose only claim to fame is fame itself.
Fame used to be a byproduct of actually achieving something. Sportspeople, artists or actors became famous because they were good at what they did. In other words, achievement came first and fame came second. Today it appears that fame is an end in itself and anyone can because famous in spite of (or even because of) a complete lack of any discernible talent. The multi-talentless Kim Kardashian has acquired a fortune in excess of $40million for posting pictures of her backside online. The model Cara Delevingne can somehow get a Hollywood career despite an acting style so wooden that it makes the oaken Ben Affleck look like Lawrence Olivier. Diana Spencer would fit in well with these 21st century simpletons; she was a person who was photographed and talked about for nearly two decades despite her only notable ‘achievement’ in life being to marry into the dysfunctional Windsor clan. Spencer was a person so lacking in self-awareness and humility that at times she made the bizarre Charles Windsor – he of plant-talking fame – look vaguely human.
Two of the more repugnant British newspapers, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail, seem unable to leave Spencer’s memory alone and have used the impending 20th anniversary of her death to spew out yet more “exclusives” about this vacuous woman. All I can say is that had Spencer been born on a council estate in Glasgow rather than as the daughter of an earl, these newspapers would be writing very different stories about her arrogance, her stupidity and her promiscuity.
Some readers may consider this a mean-spirited attack on someone who cannot defend herself. It probably is. But it is more an attack on a vapid media that prizes fame above everything else and a culture that extols people who get photographed wearing as little as possible and that denigrates anyone who tries to live an inner-directed life outside the demands of “celebrity” obsessed reality TV.