BY JOANNA R. SCHACTER
Normalcy meets celebrity and we can’t seem to get enough of it.
Peering out of the window of what appears to be a very humble flat, a couple is pictured leaning together, a baby cradled in the mother’s arms, and the family dog nestled between her partner’s. The baby and the dog’s eyes meet naturally, and there is little indication that this photo could be staged, or more than just a regular family portrait. But, this photo is not of any regular family; it is of the British Royal Family’s William and Catherine, and their baby George. Earlier this week, headlines and taglines hailing the intimate and casual nature of this new family photo made the story a trending topic in social media. Why the obsession with the casual nature? Why do we care that “they look like they’re welcoming us in!” as one commenter put it? Why should it matter that celebrities are “just like us!” as advertised by tabloid headlines?
Since they first started dating in college, Will and Kate caught the attention and the imagination of the public. She was the girl next door who found prince charming, and while coming from a rather privileged family background, a modern-day Cinderella. The Royal family has, up until recently, been very concerned with decorum and the keeping-up of appearances. It has been something fascinating for its mystery, but, due to how distant it is from one’s daily life, not altogether that enthralling beyond the wow-factor of the price of crown jewels. With Will and Kate, it seems like a face that is more real — or at least, that is pretending to be more real — is being put forth.
Celebrity pregnancies are obsessed over by magazines, baring baby bumps and offering personal interviews and family photos, like the one of the baby prince gazing at the family pet from his mother’s embrace that was shared over and over on my Facebook newsfeed. Why would we pay to buy pictures of someone else’s intimate family moments, spend precious minutes ogling (admittedly cute) baby George’s face, or, like many photographers did on the day of his birth, crowd outside the back door of a hospital in the sweltering heat of Summer to capture a shot of Kate in a casual sun dress, holding a blanket-swathed bundle?
Candid shots of celebrities doing “normal” things like grocery shopping or playing in the park with their children… Galleries on TMZ and other gossip news sources full of pictures of celebrities without make up or looking less-than perfect in sweat pants… These seem to be more clickworthy than the fashion or “step into my million-dollar home” photoshoots that used to try to sell something entirely unattainable. Scandal isn’t half as interesting as being normal and living “just like us.”
Not too long ago, Kate was a trending topic for photos of her and her “post-baby-body” playing a fierce game of volleyball in wedges. A duchess playing volleyball doesn’t seem like something people would have wanted to see not too long ago, and something like Kate curling her hair around her fingers at a serious event — being a normal, fidgety person, that is — would probably not have made news in the past quite like it did last Fall.
The obsession with celebrities, and royalty, acting like regular people instead of like idols perhaps is following the trend of indignation over photoshopping, and other ways in which the media presents us with images that are clearly not even close to real. We want to see things that are real, or that we can believe are real — regardless of how unreal or unattainable they may actually be. After all, even unphotoshopped, how many of us do boast the natural proportions of a model or celebrity; purchase the seemingly simple, but probably pricey, dress Kate wore when she stepped of the hospital; live in the flat shared by her and William that lies beyond the simple window that frames them in their recent picture with George? But perhaps, what is so enthralling about fresh-faced celebrities grocery shopping in their pajamas, and what makes a family photo a trending topic, is that leading lives that appear as mundane as the moments we’re shown allows us to believe that we too are living something magical beyond them.
Joanna R. Schacter ’15 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a proud Lamonster.