photo from The British Monarchy on Flickr
I live in America. I grew up in America. I work and communicate everyday, mostly, with Americans. It was really interesting to me to see all of the vitriol regarding US news media coverage of the royal wedding in my online social circles. People are angry. Conservatives are angry that news media are covering the wedding at all, while liberals are angry that there's so much coverage everywhere.
Looking at it, I think there are a few main issues popping up that most people haven't been educated on. And some that are just base prejudices against anything not in our country.
America the Awesomest
First, there's American arrogance. I can't speak for other nations–for instance, mainland European countries–but for some in the US, they can't understand why we should be interested, at all, in the royal wedding. What is interesting, is that in the past the news media in the States has taken a similar stance.
Take for instance the Gulf oil spill disaster last year (2010). It dominated US news for months. If you were to follow BBC News or Der Spiegel, however, you'd see coverage of the disaster, but in proportion to what events were going on in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Even in video reporting abroad, the oil spill was just another story amid so much other news.
But did we get upset with that? Some of us did... and probably the same people who are either okay with the coverage, and conversely, the ones who think it's being over-covered. In the end, the news last summer was widely shifted to our own domestic problems. In fact, it was biased toward only that one large disaster, even at the expense of other domestic news like the economy.
And that was for MONTHS. The royal wedding has been widespread in the States' media coverage for maybe three days. I'm sure in the UK some Britons are feeling wedding overload. However, their society has the context for it.
There's another way that American arrogance plays out here. We don't have the weight of over a thousand years of history and tradition behind our contextual experience. We don't get it. To some extent that's okay, but I think there is a big issue when we refuse to try to understand.
Sure, we come from a tradition of rebelling against British oppression. But we need to respond to how the world works today, rather than how it did in the 1700s. And globalization is real. And it's only going to get more real as online media continues to flatten our world.
For many Britons the monarchy represents something sure, stable and important. It is a symbol of national pride and identity in the world. Yes, there are detractors, there is a whole political movement to rid the monarchy. But in the canon of Anglo history, the monarchy represents something those of us who grew up in the United States, generally, have no frame of reference for.
A cause for celebration is a cause for celebration, and a royal wedding affords the citizens of the kingdom a four-day weekend, a free show of classic pomp and circumstance, and the eyes of the world on their island.
A Flatter Earth
There's a lyric in a Death Cab for Cutie song that says "I wish the world was flat like the old days, when you could travel just by folding a map." The Internet has made our world flatter than I think anyone ever imagined would happen. The commoditization of global media has led us to some really interesting places in regards to media economics, news coverage, and consumption.
In the USA we have the Big 3 networks: ABC, CBS, & NBC (and Fox sometimes coming in as fourth). Why on earth would they be covering the royal wedding? Well, a few reasons. First off, a large segment of daytime and morning watchers probably love a good wedding (housewives, work-at-home moms, etc.). That's good advertising revenue. Second, many of the networks broadcast their news coverage online (or stream via services like Hulu) and can reach an international audience.
In many ways this forces their hand. The news agents need to cover this event. If nothing else, the royal wedding should be an oddity to Americans, and draw them in. But I have a couple of theories about why there was so much nay-saying.
Americans are depressed right now. People are tired, stressed, worried. And we hate to see other people happy. So we criticize a government we don't know; we create diatribes about how overly lavish the wedding was; we become complete asses. What is wrong with us?
Even though some turned into whining babies, I think in general, the news coverage of the wedding was a good thing for the US. This country needs some spectacle, needs some celebration. Too much has gone wrong in the past decade, why shouldn't we allow ourselves the opportunity to relax and revel in some happiness–even if it is someone else's?
The crowds that filled Trafalgar Square were joined by the wedding parties in Australia, Asia, and yeah, even here in the United States. Globalized media helped to tie all of these nations together, in real-time. And for those of us that missed the ceremony live, we are able to catch up and join in the party afterglow.
Wouldn't it be great if the sense of hope and feeling of joy that poured out of that majestic island reached to every corner of the world where hardship is the main concern? In light of the junk that keeps going on around the world–Haiti, Japan, Alabama, St Louis–I pray that those who need hope the most can find a little solace in this celebration, and maybe the strength to keep going.