Princess Diana returns from the grave to torment me

May 22, 2007 | By | 7 Replies More

Pleassssse, somebody.  Wake me up.  I thought we were all done with Princess Diana.  But we’re not, because this is the 10th year anniversary of her death.  In other words, it’s a terrific opportunity to dust her off and to put her back up on the pedestal so that we can envy her, admire her for her so-called accomplishments and (most of all) become entranced with her image.

While waiting at a pharmacy, I leafed through the June 2007 edition of Good Housekeeping Magazine because Princess Diana’s photo is boldly featured on the front cover.  As I picked it up, I thought “Not again . . .”  This issue of Good Housekeeping also features a hagiography (what else was ever written about Princess Diana?) The reappearance of Diana aggravated me enough that I’m now sitting down to aggravate you with this rant.

The article describes Diana as “young, luminous and full of promise.”  We are told that “she was worried about doing the right thing.”  In fact, she was “saintly and endlessly giving.” I have heard it all before, though, and I’ve never been impressed with these sorts of accolades.  After all, Diana lived a plush life of glitz.  She mingled with her favorite musicians (such as Elton John) and she made unending appearances at fancy dinner parties where she wore her fancy gowns and smiled her fancy smile.  She “passionately followed music theatre and ballet.”

That’s what this article tells me, anyway.  It also tells me that she was “a good friend” to some people.  Talk about a low bar.  Truly, she was born into the British aristocracy and had the good life handed to her on a silver platter.  At a minimum, she should have at least been able to enjoy the arts and not piss off everybody.  Isn’t that what we would expect of anyone who had everything handed to them, that they would at least do something for the world? 

Shouldn’t rich and famous people of leisure be lending their names and images to worthy causes? Diana’s causes were ridding the world of landmines and working against discrimination of AIDS patients.  These aren’t bad things, of course, but you have to ask yourself what would people would have thought of her had she (again, a person of great wealth and leisure) not lent her name and image to some worthy causes?   Further, doing a bit of charity is a relatively cheap Machiavellian maneuver for portraying that one has “character,” especially anyone willing to present herself as a “Princess.”

Diana’s shtick worked impressively.  In the weeks following her death, more words were written about Diana (and her so-called accomplishments) than could ever be read by any human being in a lifetime.  It was truly an unimaginable quantity of material, and almost all of it was motivated by something other than real world assessment.  As I read some of it, I couldn’t help but think that there were thousands of people of real character in every major city who have worked hard to really make something of themselves despite insurmountable odds.  There are real people who have poured their energies back into their communities, where their tortured upbringings would suggest that we had no right to expect such generosity.

Diana died on August 31, 1997.  The frenzied media ran out of superlatives to describe Diana’s great accomplishments after they reached “saint.”  It was with some schadenfreude, then, that I contemplated the September 5, 1997 death of Mother Teresa.  After all, if Princess Diana was a “saint,” what was Mother Teresa?  With Mother Teresa’s death only one week after Diana’s, the media was exposed.  It had not really been reporting the news.  It was merely manipulating its readers to sell ads.  Further, Diane, and especially dead Diana, served as an excuse for a social lek.  To a large extent, Diana was not really about Diana

When we admire/adore/love someone, they can do no wrong in our book. We need to beware of this tendency.  Princess Diana is a perfect example.  Many people reached out to her and attempted to empathize with her because she was presented by a manipulative press as a regular person and a victim.  When that PR seed took root, the accolades sprouted vigorously in every direction.  I had not seen anything like it since Jacqueline Onassis and we have not seen anything like it since. It was a totally unapologetic loss of objectivity.  It was the confirmation bias run amok.

The media version of Diana was a concocted and conniving endeavor to create a hero out of ordinariness.  We see such attempts all the time among celebrities.  Pick up any random edition of People Magazine, for instance.  Most famous people have their pet causes.  Good for them, but we shouldn’t get carried away with these strategic moves to further images and careers.

Consider the people who can’t say enough good things about people we really don’t know anything about, such as sports stars, movie stars and political stars.  Here’s two often-encounted examples. I’ve often heard people talk with great affection about Mickey Mouse.  When I hear this, I ask them what Mickey Mouse accomplished and what kind of character he was.  I rarely hear anything at all.  Nonetheless, Mickey Mouse is apparently loved by all.  Jesus Christ is another example of someone of whom we know very little (there’s good reason to wonder whether he existed at all), yet the people who adore him are not dissuaded by the gaping holes in the historical and biblical records or the troubling aspects of his alleged teachings.

I don’t despise Princes Diana.  On the other hand, the things she accomplished were the ordinary sorts of things that people of great wealth and power should accomplish.  So don’t tell me that you admire her or you adore her unless you have good reason for saying these things.  Don’t tell me she was a saint.  Don’t tell me you “miss” her or “love” her, unless you really knew her. 

Please, let her rest in peace.

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Category: Culture, Entertainment, History, Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

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  1. I've once heard that Mother Theresa supported princess Diana's divorce, although she had lobbied in Ireland against the introduction of divorce (I only did a quick search on google – http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/hitchen…. I admit, I have never been really interested in her (I'm honest at least, maybe I should say I just have not felt inspired in any way as far as now to find out more about her), but from what I have been picking up as far as now, she is not just the saint as which many people view her.

    Princess Diana was definitely a drama queen. Drama, drama, drama. 😀

    By the way, am I the only one who thinks that Elton John's idea of turning a song that was dedicated to a dead woman into a song dedicated to another dead woman was very odd? To this day I have never heard anybody say anything negative about this.

  2. gatomjp says:

    Music fans and fans of the late Marilyn Monroe that I know personally were outraged that Elton John took that song away from her and gave it to the dress mannequin Diana.

    Diana's popularity was due simply to the fact that she was pretty and wealthy. If she had been unattractive, do you really think her image would have been plastered on the tabloids as much as she was and still is, no matter what her accomplishments? I think not. I believe that those so-called 'accomplishments' are often used to justify and explain the inexplicable adoration that many people felt for her.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Gatomjp: Good point. If Diana had been a man of average looks who died in a car crash, people would have said "Hey, he was a self-indulgent status seeker who did some photo-ops for charities. Bury him and move on."

  4. gatomjp says:

    We like looking at pretty things. That's human nature.

    To imbue this rather ordinary person with extraordinary characteritics merely because she had the good sense to be born to the right parents and be in the right place at the right time to be chosen as a princess always was distasteful to me. To my eyes at least, her lack of confidence and charisma was immediately apparent and she seemed completely unsuited for and undeserving of her position and notoriety, other than the fact that she looked the part.

  5. cari says:

    I think all of you are jealous, ignorant assholes….Diana was a good person and humanitarian. I think, not being BORN into royalty, she could empathize with us "common folk"…and I think she did a lot of good for various causes. She didn't deserve that cheating, less-than enthusiastic husband of hers. She always looked miserable and I felt for her. Money did NOT buy her happiness, it was obvious. At least Dodi gave her "some" happiness before she died. I feel sorry for her sons too.

  6. gatomjp says:

    Carl, that may all be true but she's never deserved the level of saintlike adoration she has received. I think even you would agree with that. She was just a flawed human being after all.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    For those interested in news cycles, keep track of the Diana coverage in the coming weeks: it will undoubtedly reach the saturation point at the end of the month, when anyone who ever shook hands with the Princess will wax poetic about how remarkable this woman was, failing to note that her remarkability was largely a product of circumstance rather than real character (what would have been truly remarkable is if Diana did no charity work at all — lauding her for charity is like tipping the taxman).

    This quote is from Alternet: http://alternet.org/story/59934/?page=1

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