New York City is being visited by the young British royal couple. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, are in town to promote charitable causes and to take in a basketball game at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. Many local and national media outlets are reporting on this event, including the Brooklyn Eagle, Yahoo News, ABC News, CNN, the New York Times, People Magazine, the Washington Post, Newsday, the Wall Street Journal, and many others. As well, the British press is full of coverage (the BBC, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, Sky News, etc.)
Kate paid a visit to a Harlem school, the Northside Center for Child Development, accompanied by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife Chirlane McCray. William spoke with President Obama about illegal wildlife trafficking, according to the Associated Press. Both then took in a game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
— NBA (@NBA) December 9, 2014
Of course, this being New York and a season rocked by many societal woes, especially the Eric Garner case, their basketball game experience was not just about 3-point shots and avoiding the Kiss Cam. Hundreds of protesters crowded around the Barclay Center to bring attention to the issue of police shootings of civilians.
All day the radio, TV and online news in New York had been brimming with coverage of the royal couple and their Big Apple visit. The two of them do promote worthy causes, and that is laudable; but one also has to wonder why much of the United States is in such thrall to the European royalty, especially that of Great Britain. Americans tout their democratic and meritocratic principles, yet the media was heavily focused on these two young people today. Merely due to their lucky parentage and marriage, they are considered royalty. The US does not grant royal titles of any type, yet crowds of onlookers came to gawk and cheer for this overly lucky couple. Is there not irony to this? Or is it just a manifestation of American love for celebrity and glamor? Is the royal visit a way for people to forget their mundane lives and even their woes, or is it media hype, intended to draw higher ratings?
A visit by those deemed royal is not just a carefree excursion; it can be an occasion for us to examine the role of the media in our lives, and to reflect on themes in American history.
Ellen Levitt is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn (2009), The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011) and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (2013). (And hopefully a book about NJ one day, if her publisher gives the green light.)