I grew up in Philadelphia and one of the places that Philadelphians love to go is the New Jersey Shore. Spending summers and weekends there as a kid in the 1970’s and ‘80s seems now pretty idyllic; largely because life then was substantially simpler. There was no internet (because Al Gore hadn’t brought it to the American consciousness), there were no cell phones – there were barely answering machines. There was one video game in our home, it was called Pong, and it was black and white and utterly mesmerizing to watch. And there certainly weren’t TV shows like Jersey Shore. One of the things I remember best about going to the Shore was that on Friday nights– if the weather was okay and someone had adjusted the rabbit ears on the TV just right, I could actually watch local horse racing. It was a very blurry broadcast (remember when TV screens were often obscured by static?) Still, if I got lucky with the right signal, harness racing from Roosevelt Park Raceway was miraculously beamed into our Jersey Shore attic at 11:00 PM Fridays. And I felt like a spy. The fact that I could access it at all was about as cool as it got. I might as well have been viewing it on a surveillance screen – that’s how exciting it felt. Until 1981, when my mother woke me up just so we could watch Diana and Charles get married at St. Paul’s Cathedral. When it was reported that 750 million people had witnessed the man who would be king take his spectacular bride to the altar, it seemed like the world really was watching. There was still static on the screen (maybe it was just our old TV set) and the audio sounded funny. Nevertheless, it was genuinely awe-inspiring to watch something happening – live – so far away.
Now of course everything’s changed.
Will you be one of the 2 billion people tuning in to what is being called “The Wedding of The Century”?
That’s right. 2 billion people will watch Prince William and Kate Middleton say “I Do” at Westminster Abbey tomorrow. That’s a pretty good viewing rate when you consider that there are about 6.9 billion people in the world. Plus what a guest list…The Royal Family, plus poobahs like the King and Queen of Norway, the King of Saudi Arabia, The Sultan of Brunei, the Sultan of Oman, David and Victoria Beckham, and Elton John, just to name a few. Instead of gifts (Charles and Di allegedly took in 6000 items) William and Kate have opted to invite givers to go the charity route. You’ll be able to watch it on TV, and of course, on your smart phone, your IPad, from your work station – from wherever you want. Plus a royal wedding also equals a National Holiday in Britain. It all starts at 11 AM London time; the rest of the world will tune in accordingly.
So why do I find it vaguely unsettling that thousands of cameras and TV crews and the rest of the media have been ensconced at the wedding site for weeks now? Why does this wedding feel like it’s maybe being forced down our throats? Perhaps I’m being naïve but somehow that 1981 wedding seemed only momentous at the time and of course in retrospect. Not so much beforehand. Now, it’s as if this wedding could prove nearly anticlimactic given the amount of attention it’s gotten. And I get it – everybody’s got to make a living, and the media wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t know we were obsessed. But is it too much? Is the hoopla simply that? Not to detract from a young couple’s happiness on what will hopefully be the most important/ memorable day of their lives, but what if it wasn’t being covered around the clock? I’ll certainly tune in myself, and I’m looking forward to it. But I know it won’t be one of those once- in-a-lifetime things, any more that a reality show finale is. Then again, that’s just me.
4) The Queen