Saturday, 1 March 2008

A right royal farce

If I was a celebrity, let's say Jackie Chan, or Schwarzanegger, and my life would be endangered performing a certain role, I'd probably steer clear of it. If I decided to take up the challenge nonetheless, I would expect the film producers and the team around me to go to some lengths to try and assess the danger and minimise the risk.

OK, so I'm not talking about Hollywood. I'm clumsily alluding to Prince Harry. But Harry is a celebrity. Since his mother's death, the press has endeavoured to make him and his brother celebrities to sell papers. And they are doing the same now, for the same reason - to meet the demand of celeb-hungry consumers by selling the gossip in the 'serious' bit of the paper.

Harry is the only famous troop the public knows of serving in Afghanistan. If men were still called up to serve their country, as in the world wars, I can think of a lot of slebs who would use their status, money, contacts, whatever, to get out of risking their neck on the front line. They certainly wouldn't want their exact location bandied about in the international press. Such a revelation wouldn't just have put Harry at risk, but his entire team, people that don't go home to a luxury palace and who do not have the option of putting their feet up for the rest of their days if it all gets a bit frightening.

There are those who resent his 'charmed' life and that of his family. I am still not convinced either way about the Royals, but I am certain Harry would have been criticised whatever he chose to do. When he was boozing it up in Bijous every night with his laydee he was accused of being just another Royal lounge lizard layabout. Now he is serving his country he is accused of being complicit in propoganda for continued war. People criticise him as selfish, insisting on going to Afghanistan for personal fulfilment. The man cannot live the life of a two-dimensional puppet, aping a job to satisfy the masses. The same people would have scorned him if he had used his privilege to avoid his duty.

As for the press, there seems to be a great deal of navel-gazing, self-flagellation and wringing of hands going on. It may have something to do with the fact that Royals sell newspapers, and the more mileage the press can squeeze out of the Harry saga, the more profit they will make from it, exclusive or not.

Just because the media agreed to keep quiet as to Harry's whereabouts, and to use pooled images and interviews once the secret was out, does not mean that it has succumbed to state control. In this instance, I agree with Roy Greenslade, that it is a case of much ado about nothing.