Monday, September 03, 2007

by Arthur King

What’s the difference between Diana Spencer and a field full of landmines?

Nothing: they’re both incredibly easy to lay, but terribly expensive to get rid of.

---August 30, 1997

So many Diana jokes were going the rounds back in 1997 that I only bothered to note that one in my journals. It was all rather boring: you’d run into an acquaintance and they’d rattle off a stream of Diana jokes over drinks.

They all followed much the same formula: she was the town bike, she was bulimic, she was a gold-digger from the Eurotrash jetset. Since I didn’t care much about what was going on in England – which is why I was living in Asia – and had never been a fan of hereditary monarchy, many of the jokes went over my head, and I often had to ask for explanations.

Twenty-four hours after I recorded that joke, Diana was dead.

I’m glad I recorded it, because it provides the perfect contrast to the hysterical outpouring of saccharine sentiment that greeted her death.

When I say saccharine, I mean the likes of the 20-year-old English male accountant who stood outside the gates of Buckingham Palace and told the world, via the BBC, that he “identified with her.” Identified with her? With what? With her wealth, power, and influence? Her Versace frocks? Her life of luxury lived off the public purse?

For American saccharine, look no further than John Travolta: he offered to get on the first available plane and go over to help the poor little kids. Now John had famously danced with Diana at some celebrity bash or another, so presumably that gave him some sort of rights. Still, how the arrival of a Scientologist from Hollywood would help two princes whose mother had just died in a drunken car crash in Paris eludes me to this day.

But Travolta and England’s accountant spoke on behalf of an enormous number of people who had bought into the fairy tale myth of Diana Spencer.

The Myth of The People’s Princess

What people “identified with” was not Diana Spencer, but the Disneyfication of Diana, a carefully woven myth which ironically was begun by the Windsors, but elaborated by Diana’s PR people after her divorce. It runs like this.

Act One:
Honest ordinary working girl, charmed by (slightly toad-like) prince, who marries her extravagantly, giving the nation’s poor a lift during a time of extreme unemployment, poverty and social unrest.
Act Two:
Complication: wide-eyed innocent hard-working commoner girl with fawn-like limbs has married Brute Beast – People’s Princess is trapped in dungeon-like marriage by evil clan of ogres.
Act Three:
Innocent doe-eyed fawn-limbed ordinary working girl escapes marriage to Brute Beast and rebuilds sex life, only to die tragically young (but still beautiful), murdered in the back of a car in the arms of her true (Muslim) love. In Paris.
Iconic pop star sings at her funeral. A nation weeps. On television. End.

The truth about “The People’s Princess”

Let’s get clear on a couple of things. I did not “identify with” Diana. Sure, she was raising some profile for the serious issue of landmines, but hers was charity designed to raise her own profile, which is no charity at all. She did not die on her hands and knees sweeping mines from a swathe of Vietnamese rainforest; she did one photoshoot, in Angola.

She was not a “people’s princess.” She grew up in a mansion and her playmates were royalty. She had one ‘O’ level, despite an expensive education: she was a member of a social set whose women prided themselves on marrying well rather than achieving an education. Her family was well-placed socially, and she was more than willing to marry the prince of the realm and ultimately become queen, the matriarch of a family whose wealth is founded on colonial thuggery. In fact, for her social set, no honour could be higher than association by marriage with the ultimate in vicious luxury. She was an anachronism, and a shockingly bad example to set to young women. If I had a daughter, I would tell her not to imitate Diana Spencer under any circumstances: if my son brings home a woman like Diana Spencer, I can only warn him of the misery that surely lies ahead.

Any honest analysis of Diana Spencer finds her as she truly was. She was not naïve, nor was she a victim. To say that she was a victim is to trust entirely to the fairy tale of the innocent, doe-eyed, fawn-limbed, working-girl-turned-princess. That fairy tale is the product of a very effective PR campaign: Diana came from privilege, and had some good advisers in her own camp, which is how she came to be immortalised as the victim. In reality she was born into wealth, married into title, divorced to gain quite a few million pounds, a substantial annual income, access to a couple of castles, and to spend her life developing a celebrity profile with her trademark charity. She was not a victim.

Viewed in a clear light, her death reveals everything you need to know. She died in the back of a speeding car in the company of a member of the al Fayed family, a family whose members had freely admitted to buying the favour of British parliamentarians, in the same Paris Ritz where she dined the night she died.

She was not murdered because she was going to marry a Muslim. For one thing, there is no evidence to suggest that Dodi was more than a fling, but more importantly, if the royal family was going to murder someone don’t you think they’d be a little more efficient? Historically, haven’t royals led the field in the efficient use of violence? I mean, what is the likelihood that you will actually cause someone to crash by taking their bloody photograph? Surely there are other less chancy methods? A little poison perhaps? How about a late-night Caribbean drunk drowning? A blown-out tyre would have been far more efficient and more likely to cause the requisite damage, (assuming of course you could somehow get the car to travel at the required speed as you blew the tyre out).

The truth about fairy stories
No, the idea that she was murdered is a fantasy, and on the subject of fantasy and fairy tales, there are a few people out there who could do with reading something that pre-dates Walt Disney. The problem with Disney fairy tales is that they cut out all the necessary violence, and the violence is there to reveal the truth about life. That is what fairy tales do: they instruct us about life.

In their original form, fairy tales warned children and reminded adults about how vicious the forest is; and in this life, even your own parents can abandon you to wolves and ogres. If you don’t believe me, then read the original versions of Sleeping Beauty, where the prince wanders by, finds Beauty asleep, rapes her, then leaves her sleeping and beautiful, but pregnant.

Or how about Cinderella? In one of the originals of Cinderella, Cinder’s sister is so desperate to capture the prince that she cuts off her toes to try and make her foot fit the glass slipper. Do you really need me to explain that metaphor?

To recap Diana Spencer then. Born into privilege, married into title, divorced to gain castles, quite a few million pounds, a decent annual sum, and to spend her life as a celebrity with a trademark charity. Died in a car-wreck with a lover in Paris.

Ultimately, what does her death reveal? Ill-educated despite wealth and opportunity, star-struck and manipulated, but manipulating and famous, she was the best that so many could aspire to. She was everyone’s fifteen minutes of fame, and many a young English accountant’s masturbatory fantasy.

Not such a bad life when you get down to it. What people can’t get over is that she might have cut her own toes off to make the slipper fit.

© Arthur King 2007