The Dim-Post

February 20, 2013

Hyena Hall

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 6:34 am

There’s a mounting whirlwind of press coverage about Hilary Mantel’s Royal Bodies column in the LRB, claiming that it’s a vicious attack on Kate Middleton. The headline for the Stuff story is Novelist Lashes out at Kate Middleton. You can read it for yourself here, and quickly discover that the actual article is (amoungst other things) a lashing out, vicious attack etc on the public obsession with royalty and the media’s exploitation of that obsession. Sample quote:

When her pregnancy became public she had been visiting her old school, and had picked up a hockey stick and run a few paces for the camera. BBC News devoted a discussion to whether a pregnant woman could safely put on a turn of speed while wearing high heels. It is sad to think that intelligent people could devote themselves to this topic with earnest furrowings of the brow, but that’s what discourse about royals comes to: a compulsion to comment, a discourse empty of content, mouthed rather than spoken.

Much of the essay is about Henry VIII and his Queens, and the creepy, unchanging prurience about the sexuality of royal persons:

As for depression, he had a great deal to be depressed about: not just his isolation on the world stage, but his own decay and deterioration. He had magnificent portraits created, and left them as his surrogates to stare down at his courtiers while he retreated into smaller, more intimate spaces. Yet he was quite unable to keep private what was happening to his own body. The royal body exists to be looked at. The world’s focus on body parts was most acute and searching in the case of Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife. No one understood what Henry saw in Jane, who was not pretty and not young. The imperial ambassador sneered that ‘no doubt she has a very fine enigme’: which is to say, secret part. We have arrived at the crux of the matter: a royal lady is a royal vagina. Along with the reverence and awe accorded to royal persons goes the conviction that the body of the monarch is public property. We are ready at any moment to rip away the veil of respect, and treat royal persons in an inhuman way, making them not more than us but less than us, not really human at all.

You really need to bend over backwards to read this as ‘Novelist lashes out at Kate Middleton’, but when you’re a news site on which the lead story is usually about ‘Kate’s Baby Bump‘ this sort of stuff must cut pretty close.

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17 Comments »

  1. Yes. But, if you select individual sentences and string them together devoid of context, then you can make it sound a bit bitchy:

    Kate Middleton … appeared to have been designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished. … Presumably Kate was designed to breed in some manners. She looks like a nicely brought up young lady, with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ part of her vocabulary. … Kate seems to have been selected for her role of princess because she was irreproachable: as painfully thin as anyone could wish, without quirks, without oddities, without the risk of the emergence of character. … Kate seems capable of going from perfect bride to perfect mother, with no messy deviation.

    Hey presto – a lead news item! Catfight between aging famous novelist who sneeringly attacks beautiful, pregnant princess of our hearts!

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 20, 2013 @ 7:53 am

  2. I note that the story is in the “entertainment” section (irony alert) and amazingly, it seems the stuff.co.nz story is a story on the Sydney Morning Herald story on the transcript on the LRB website of the speech, which was given two weeks ago during a lecture at the British Museum organised by the LRB, so I think it is safe to deduce:

    1/ No one working at Stuff site has actually read the transcript and

    2/ No journalists were actually present when she gave her speech.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 20, 2013 @ 8:26 am

  3. I like the comments on the Stuff site in which dozens of angry people demand to know who Hilary Mantel is, ‘What’s she ever done then?’ etc

    Comment by danylmc — February 20, 2013 @ 8:32 am

  4. I liked this bit from the Guardian; “Writers, whose business is representation, will from time to time seek to examine the wilful and damaging stupidities of our culture. We should not be surprised if from time to time stupidity fights back with the only weapon it has – which is to say, more stupidity.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2013/feb/19/hilary-mantel-duchess-of-cambridge-controversy)

    Comment by Tim Denee — February 20, 2013 @ 8:40 am

  5. I like the comments on the Stuff site in which dozens of angry people demand to know who Hilary Mantel is, ‘What’s she ever done then?’ etc

    Well, to be fair … there is a Brooker Prize given out every year, and so more people have won that (even taking into account Mantel’s double) than have become Princess of Wales in the past decade.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 20, 2013 @ 10:01 am

  6. And more people will buy a copy of a magazine with Kate on the cover in a week than will ever read a book by Hilary Mantel…

    (Actually though, “Wolf Hall” is the second best-selling Booker prize winner since the Life of Pi, so it might be closer than I first thought)

    Got to love the photos in the stuff article, Kate looking all cool and glamorous, Mantel looking rather deranged. No bias here…

    Comment by Conrad — February 20, 2013 @ 11:03 am

  7. Got to love the photos in the stuff article, Kate looking all cool and glamorous…

    In fact, one could say she looks designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 20, 2013 @ 11:37 am

  8. Got to love the photos in the stuff article

    Mantel’s photo gives the impression she has just that moment espied a slavering horde of Sun readers descending upon her, armed with Royal commemorative plastic tat and intent on bludgeoning her to death with it.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 20, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

  9. Looks like Stuff learned their lesson from Mantel. Today’s color piece breaks the story that Pippa has a new boyfriend.

    Comment by danylmc — February 20, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

  10. Well Mantel is gratuitously mean to Middleton (and in a Diana-idolising tabloid kind of way to boot), but Middleton is not on the list of people I worry about, even in a concern-troll kind of way.

    Bring Up the Bodies is even better than Wolf Hall.

    Comment by bradluen — February 20, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

  11. Today’s color piece breaks the story that Pippa has a new boyfriend.

    Fluff.co.nz

    Comment by Gregor W — February 20, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

  12. stuffed.co.nz

    Comment by Rob — February 20, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

  13. I couldn’t care less about the royal family, but for the sake of her mental health I hope she doesn’t miscarry. She would probably be hounded into an early grave by a media scrum if that happened.

    Comment by alex — February 20, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

  14. A mounting whirlwind. Well done. You have a future as a red top sub editor.

    Comment by Roger — February 20, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

  15. oh dear, a mounting whirlwind that has picked up a fair amount of commentary detritus.

    Comment by Tim — February 20, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

  16. “Well, to be fair … there is a Brooker Prize given out every year, and so more people have won that (even taking into account Mantel’s double) than have become Princess of Wales in the past decade.”

    True, because Kate is not Princess of Wales – I think there might not be one a the moment (Camilla doesn’t have this as her title).

    Comment by MeToo — February 20, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

  17. True, because Kate is not Princess of Wales – I think there might not be one a the moment (Camilla doesn’t have this as her title).

    FUTURE Princess of Wales. Fixed.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 21, 2013 @ 8:29 am


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