May 19, 2017
Unless you’ve been camping off-grid in the Siberian tundra, you can’t have avoided the news that Britain’s most eligible bachelorette is about to marry. Long after Twitter and Facebook stopped cooing over Prince William’s nuptials, the media is still fawning over Kate Middleton’s younger sister Pippa, who ties the knot tomorrow.
Pippa, 33, best known for her stellar in-laws and her over-scrutinised behind, will marry hedge fund manager James Matthews, 41, at a private ceremony in Berkshire. Not many couples exchange their vows in front of two British kings-in-waiting, William and his pageboy son George; even fewer in front of Matthews’s television lothario brother Spencer—known for his appearances on Made in Chelsea.
The US-based media have parked their satellite vans in Bucklebury for the weekend, but that’s not without precedent. They don’t have their own royal family, at least not since the quasi-regal Kennedys. If our monarchy has any relevance these days, it’s as a curiosity for the rest of the world, undoubtedly drawing in tourists in their droves.
What bothers me is the oversaturation of Pippa in the UK where, frankly, most of the public couldn’t give a hoot. Considering this isn’t even a royal wedding, this is garnering acres more attention than even when Sarah Ferguson took Prince Andrew down the aisle. That made three paragraphs on an inside page of the Guardian. Even that venerable stable of solid news values couldn’t resist a preview of the Middleton big day on its home page.
Stories like this clearly illustrate how UK media outlets are like penguins around an ice hole. When one brand decides a story is worth doing to death then the rest follow, each trying to catch ever more exclusive prey. I’m sure there’s a triple bonus for the paparazzo who can bring in a glimpse of Prince Harry’s paramour TV actor Meghan Markel in her rollers and bathrobe.
Another related and creepier concern is that it exposes what happens when we entrust a predominantly ageing, conservative male demographic to run Britain’s news desks. They froth over Pippa like dirty old men. She’s frightfully posh, tanned and svelte thanks to all that marathon running. If only more young brides would focus on staying pretty like her instead of pursuing careers. One tabloid has gone so far as mocking up images of what her bridal lingerie might look like. Because Pippa isn’t quite royal, they think they can get away with debasing her.
But they can’t. With every headline and caption like this, the media shift ever more seriously out of touch with what British news consumers actually want. If the outlets peddling this stuff are to have a future then they seriously need to reassess their purpose and reconnect with their audiences. Yes, audiences plural.
The real joy and opportunity in reporting UK culture is in mining the rich seam of untold narratives that exist in this diverse-but-compact island. Tomorrow, countless couples and families—white, black, rich, poor, young, old—will be forced to compare their own worth against this stereotype of the perfect wedding. I know whose stories I’d rather read about and I am sure I am not alone.