This whole Princess Kate topless photo kerfuffle has got the better of me. I actively searched last night on Google and easily found an eyeful. I didn’t feel a better person for having done so. But it wasn’t about titillation, even though I have now actively participated in a vicarious act of voyeurism on a female body, or just about being swept up in postmodern tabloid culture. I wanted to see how easy it was. It was easy.
So it’s obvious that today’s news about a French court blocking further publication of the topless photos is too late. The cat’s out of the bag, the puppies are out of the bikini top, and the online horse has bolted.
The Palace, I’m sure, knows this, but had to take some visible action. What’s caught my attention is the fall-out from the fall-out, which seems to be a lot about apportioning blame for this ‘incident.’ So who’s at fault? Let’s start at the top:
- Princess Kate! What was she doing! A woman in her position! No matter where she was, she should have known better. Tsk tsk.
- The alleged photographer, Ms Suau!* What a betrayal of the sisterhood! And what a demonstration of the callousness of the paparazzi who still haven’t learned how to be decent following the death of Princess Diana. And being her daughter-in-law and all. Shame on her/them.
- The editor! Sorry, editors, because there’s three now: French Closer and Italian Chi magazines (owned by the Berlusconi media empire, which apparently explains everything), and the Irish Daily Star. How could they? These people have no conscience.
- The media! Just leave it alone. Move along, nothing to see here (well, not a lot). You’re giving it legs as well. C’mon, there’s more important stuff in the world, no matter how ‘respectfully’ you’re dealing with it.
- The public! Us. You. Me. Consumers of tabloid, popular culture, against our better judgement. Don’t buy into it, and don’t buy it!
* Interestingly, in earlier reports, reference to Ms Suau was accompanied with “rhymes with sewer.” I can’t find any references to those comments now.
So what a sorry mess this is. How can there be one person, agent or thing at fault?
And throughout it all, in public at least, under the knowing and known gaze of the lens, Kate has smiled and dutifully fulfilled her role accompanying William on their nine-day Asia-Pacific tour. Which is why, to end it all, I love the delicious irony of the photos accompanying her arrival at the Solomon Islands, where she was greeted by topless women.
In perhaps a depressingly-backfired attempt to give support to the Princess, some of the headlines for this picture were, “‘How are you baring up, your highness?’ Topless tribeswomen give Kate attack of the giggles:”
(Courtesy Herald Sun)
Problem is, she wasn’t giggling. If you look at the opening second or two of the Reuters video from the arrival (as I’ve done a few times now, not just because I’m a pop culture consumer but I also want to make sure I’m right on this), you can see she’s actually lifting her hands to check her hair’s okay after having had the necklace draped over her. And is in complete control of her laughing gear. This is an opportunistic snap, used inappropriately, however with a sympathetic context its accuracy is overlooked.
Terrible, isn’t it.
Almost as bad as the last category of people to blame for all this: those pesky bloggers who can’t help themselves from wading into the stream of information that flows past us all, some of it murkier than the rest.