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Simon Doonan: “Unless This [Royal] Baby Grows Up to Become Caligula or Something, It Sort Of Remains Deeply Uninteresting”

Image: WENN

Image: WENN

I realize we are in the minority, but there some among us who think that the Royal Baby news story is getting an amount of coverage that's massively, massively disproportionate to its interestingness. It's one thing to marvel at how shiny and happy Kate Middleton looks coming out of the hospital, wearing a blue Jenny Packham dress. I understand that people like babies and that the Duchess of Cambridge probably enjoys a higher approval rating than the Dalai Lama — no objections. But over the weekend and then all throughout Monday, it seemed like there was nothing else happening in the world, in terms of current events and public life. Serious news publications sent crews to camp out in front of the hospital for days on end, to cover the birth of a baby (an heir, okay, but an heir to a monarchy that's essentially a tourist attraction), who will have to spend years growing up before he will have any kind of impact on people outside his immediate family and close friends. The phrase "SO JOYOUS" may as well have been a trending topic, it showed up so often on my Twitter feed; and I tried and I tried but I couldn't figure out how actual real people could summon the feeling of joy over the birth of a total stranger's baby. You know what brings me joy? Hummus. "SO JOYOUS" is what I will now tweet forevermore, every time I eat some hummus. 

I am not the only getting bristly about the Royal Baby craze. Simon Doonan, the Creative Ambassador at Barneys, voiced his own frustration with the way the birth played out in the media as part of a discussion that aired on this week's edition of the Slate Culture Gabfest podcast (titled "Kate Middleton Has a Vagina"). Doonan is a famous wit and also English, so therefore far more qualified than I am to speak on matters of monarchy. His remarks (my favorite is the part about crops…)

"If you look at Hello! magazine, there's endless coverage of boring European royals and their weddings and machinations so unless this baby grows up to become Caligula or something, it sort of remains deeply uninteresting. For some reason, I think the act of reproduction is simultaneously alarming and compelling, appalling and fascinating to people nowadays. I don't quite get why, because it's been going on for such a long time but, now  when people get pregnant, they're examined and scrutinized — look how big I'm getting, blah blah blah. Whereas it was just a given before. It was like crops growing in the field. They weren't sort of like, shrieking [in the old days]. So it's fascinating as to why it's become such a flag in the cultural unconscious. 

A very sanitized, idealized, celebrity cavalcade that we see every day, with tiny waists, and more tiny waists and  women in high heels And being up the duff, to use an English expression … it's really sort of a horrible reality check about our biology that no amount of botox or airbrushing … there's no other way to do it. I guess celebrities do outsource their pregnancy now, don't they? But the women that still do it the old-fashioned way become an obsession, and… Blue Ivy, has she lost the baby weight? What will Blue Ivy wear? What will her nursery look like? What will blahblahblahblahblah. And here it's in the context of the royal family.

But the British papers, they're saying, 'The Middletons will save the monarchy.' I saw a few headlines like that, because I guess they're thinking the Middletons are so excruciatingly middlebrow, that they will make the monarchy somehow accessible to the coming generation. Whereas the queen, who was so drenched in history and gravitas and old-fashioned ritual and … remoteness — that would never have gone forward. So it's sort of the legacy that was started by Fergie and Diana, where the royal family were more Hello! magazine than Burke's Peerage. And so that's why the Middletons are all in the cupcake business. Which is a very contemporary thing to do, is to be in Hello! magazine and own a cupcake business. Basically, what I'm saying is they're irredeemably naff. And that is where the monarchy's going. And that may be, paradoxically, what saves it. For my generation though, we're just appalled. If they're going to be there, annoyingly sucking up all that money, they might as well at least have some bloody gravitas."