I just came across this headline in my local newspaper:
Newsweek Cover Imagines Diana at Age 50
The article was accompanied by the image to the right. Apparently, biographer Tina Brown has written an article for Newsweek posturing what Princess Diana would be like now, had she not died in a tragic car accident 14 years ago.
Just seeing the cover has had a profound effect on me, for perhaps a number of reasons. I am the same age as Prince William. I remember paying close attention to how the news presented him while I was in high school. For me, it was fascinating that someone my age could be royalty. Could be a part of something so huge. So influential. What struck me about Wills, though, was that he didn’t come off as a stuffy royal. There was nothing particularly strange about him. I could have run into him and not had any idea that he was anyone other than a normal teenager.
I was also struck by how close William was with his mother. Of course, Diana was close with both of her sons, William and Harry. However, there’s a special bond that a mother has with her eldest child. That connection shone between her and William.
I knew that connection well, for it was the same one I had with my mother. I knew what it was like to be my mother’s closest confidant in a particularly trying time. I figured that this was something William had experienced as well, during the highly publicized breakup of his parents’ marriage.
I didn’t know William at all, but I felt like we were cut from the same cloth. Despite being separated by class and country, I thought we had a lot in common. So it was crushing for me to watch him walk in his mother’s funeral procession. I thought that he seemed brave. He was strong for facing the world in one of the most delicate times of his life. I thought it was completely selfless, the way he greeted the public, despite all of his personal pain. And it made me angry. A 14 year old should not have to be brave and strong and selfless. He deserved privacy to grieve.
It was six years later when my own mother passed away. Although she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, her death came suddenly…only a month after the diagnosis. I was in no way prepared. I had been away at college, and really had no idea of how bad things had gotten at home. I must have gone into shock when my sister called me to say our mother had died. I didn’t feel anything for another three months, and then I couldn’t stop crying.
That was in 2004. I wish I could say that I’ve since overcome the loss of my mother. I’m not sure a child ever fully gets over a loss like that. It changes your entire world. I still have dreams about my mom. I have a recurring dream that she has come back from the dead, only to die all over again. Needless to say, the loss itself was traumatic. One that I’m still struggling to bear. I imagine that this is something that William might understand. I’m sure he thinks about his mother all the time. Which is why, when I see this Newsweek cover, I get angry all over again.
How selfish can a person be? Ms. Brown is wondering what Diana would have been like at 50. Alright, that’s understandable. We all wonder, “what if?”. I don’t have a problem with the wondering, or even with the article itself (which I have not yet read). My issue comes with the image: a computer-generated image of Diana, walking with Kate Middleton, Prince William’s newlywed bride.
To me, the cover comes off as beyond offensive. For someone to take any image of my mother, and to manipulate it would be incredibly disrespectful. I am lucky enough to not have my personal affairs made public, so it is highly unlikely that I would ever be presented with an unexpected image of my mother. I can usually walk outside of my apartment and not be confronted with an image of her likeness. Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect the media not to publish images of one of the most photographed people in the world. Here’s what really bothers me about this image:
IT ISN’T REAL. Look. Diana died 14 years ago. She never got to make it to age 50. She didn’t have those slight wrinkles that were digitally imposed in the image. She wasn’t there on William’s wedding day (at least not in the flesh), and she certainly is not walking around town with his wife now.
Do you think Prince William, or anyone else who was close to Diana, really needs that sort of reminder? The associated press refers to the image as a “ghostly sight”. There’s a good reason it is so jarring. I think the image goes a step beyond “ghostly” to “ghastly”. There is nothing pleasant about viewing it for me. It is sensationalistic at best.
I’d imagine that William has developed quite a bit of fortitude when it comes to dealing with the press. Still, I believe he deserves more respect than what is being allowed here. Anyone deserves more respect than this.
Regarding the cover, the Los Angeles Times headline asks, “Shocking, brilliant or just plain cheap?” You know what I think. What is your opinion? Am I being too sensitive here, or has the line of decency clearly been crossed?