May 2011

Obsession with celebrities is not something we’re unaccustomed to, but when it comes to the “wedding of the century,” it looks as if people have pulled out all the stops. British people and people on this side of the pond seemed to take the event very seriously. It was all over Canadian news, taking precedence over a recent bombing in Marrakesh’s main square, tornadoes in the United States and even the federal election.

Despite the thorough coverage, it seems that reaction among Canadians was mixed, from ambivalence to obsession.

Deirdre Bradd, 21, and a friend prepared for the big day by buying some bubbly and baking a “Congratulations Will and Kate” cake, which they enjoyed while watching the ceremonies (which started at 3:00 a.m. EST). “We wanted to feel we were celebrating with them,” says Bradd. “I think we were both more interested in the love story, rather than the relationship between England and Canada.”

Another Toronto student, Vivian Mak, thinks that relationships between countries are relevant. “Although it doesn’t really relate to Canadians, I think it is still of Canadian inter- est, because our association with England is a huge part of our history,” she says. “We live in a global society now where every country can very easily affect each other. We still remain in good relations with England, so why not be happy for them as well? Happiness doesn’t need a justified reason, and love is a universal component of humans, not just the future King and Queen of England.”

However, with all this emphasis on the people and their romance, we forget that Wills and Kate, as much as people might claim otherwise, are not exactly ‘ordinary people.’ Toronto resident Kayla Guida doesn’t think the Royal Wedding is a real love story. “I don’t believe in the Royal Wedding. It’s not based on true love the way a marriage should be. It’s choreographed based on politics and royal status.”

Someone else told me that the enthusiasm to see the wedding live comes from people just wanting to be a part of history, while others just “wanted to see her dress.”

I wonder: wouldn’t participating in last month’s first-ever SlutWalk (now popping up all over the world), or going out and voting in the federal election that was just days later, be a more relevant way to be a part of history?

“I think with Americans and Canadians, they really like the idea of princes and princesses,” says Stacey Rhodes, born in Australia but living in London. “And living out the fairy- tale wedding and life; they are all just extremely obsessed. It’s intense!”

Jessica Caballero, an employee at Westminster Abbey notes, “[P]eople love fairy-tales; the poor (well, middle-class) girl marries the prince, heir to a kingdom and-a-half.”

Is this keen interest just a projection of a childhood diet of Disney and Barbie? The closest we can get to a real Cinderella story?

But why are the Windsors and their history so captivating for Canadian audiences?

Many other countries have monarchies, many of which are still politically active. But days before our federal election, I flip on the local news channel and all anyone is talking about is the Royal Wedding, the first royal kiss, the royal dress, the earrings and especially the Queen’s outfit, as if they are the only royals, and the only monarchs worth talking about.

“I think Canadians, like many other countries, can trace links back to England,” continues Caballero, “whether it be family ties, or having been part of the empire or Commonwealth.”

Serena Hemraj, a high-school student living in Alberta, points out that “the British monarchy’s influence stretches around the world. Prince William’s grandmother is head of state of 16 Commonwealth countries.” Has Great Britain’s colonial legacy earned them the attention of the eyes around the globe? Or maybe the fact that so many other countries are interested in the affairs of their royal family is just evidence of the extent of the monarchy’s history of colonization.

I’m wondering: if we’re concerned with the ways the histories of our two countries are entwined, how can we not consider that the relationship is one tainted with bloodshed and genocide? Do those memories have a time limit?

Speaking of history, another popular opinion is that the Royal Family brings to mind another story, that of the British monarchy’s history of imperialism and colonization.

Mera Sivanesan, UK-born but raised in Toronto says, “speaking as a Sri Lankan Tamil woman who is part of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora…the main reason why the bulk of that specific Diaspora was created was the war in Sri Lanka which, in turn, happened because of the legacy of British colonialism…why would I celebrate anything to do with the institution that caused this and so many other stories of dispossession, separation, exploitation and theft?

“We can’t take that wedding out of context, it’s not just a happy union between two people in love, its steeped in history… so I don’t buy the argument that people are watching it to just see that, it’s not true… We may be watching it for all the pomp and pageantry and glitz, but all of that stuff is predicated on the methods used to acquire such obscene amounts of wealth.”

Speaking of wealth, many people I talked to argued that the wedding was a welcome distraction during distressing economic times, but it was a distraction that cost millions. How can we not consider the irony in that?

I wish I could partake and enjoy the festivities, and be pleased for the happy couple, but with every glance at a newspaper that shows me the Royal Wedding instead of real world events, I think about the state of the world and Arundhati Roy’s words echo in my head: “Imperial Britain’s festering blood-drenched gifts to the modern world…”

Can’t get enough of the Royal Wedding? Check it outline:

as published in the Ryerson Free Press, May 2011