O dear, Diana

The tenth anniversary of Diana’s death is upon us. The Nation has a discussion of the difference between, on the one hand, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, and, on the other, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

The article encapsulates the differences between the earlier women and today’s in the following:

While Diana and Marilyn shared a number of qualities with today’s female celebs–notably a lack of sexual discretion and an appetite for public attention–Paris is, for better or worse, a new variety of feminine icon, defined not by victimhood and suffering but by self-sufficiency and self-gratification.

The conclusion of the article is that this difference explains why Paris and Britney are vilified, while Marilyn and Diana are not.

I’m reminded of a refrain from a song by Peggy Lee which was (I think), “Is that all there is?” 

Or:  what is going on here with pop iconography and its discontents?

4 thoughts on “O dear, Diana

  1. Hmm. ‘Self-sufficient’ isn’t the word that leaps to my mind when I think of Paris Hilton. But I’m probably under-informed on the topic.

  2. Jender,

    You are informed enough, I suspect. The article says that, unlike Marilyn and Diana, they don’t present themselves as victims, and so they arouse hostility. Self-sufficiency, I guess, is supposed to contrast to that. Still, this seems to leave out quite a bit in the recent press courage.

    It seems true that Diana was nearly deified and Paris vilified. The extremes are perhaps due in part to self-presentation to the press, but it seems to me odd to think that that is all that accounts for the different wide-spread reactions to the women.

    I say this with a sense that in fact Diana was close to vilified by the English intelligentsia??

  3. I would in fact really like to hear about what others think is going on, but perhaps I should also take the leap and say one thing I think:

    The Nation is, people should know, fairly widely considered to be a respected liberal magazine, with some wonderful feminist writers participating regularly, such as Patricia Williams and Katha Pollitt.

    So I was very puzzled by an article which uncritically does what it itself seems to want to chide the press for doing. That is, while it appears to react negatively to the fact that the more recent ‘independent’ non-victims gets a hostile reaction that men don’t, in fact it treats all of thoses it discusses as simply icons, and seems to have no clue at all that these women are anything other than two-dimentional. They are their images.

    One thing this has left me wondering about is the role of these icons in people’s lives. Though I’m hardly the first to do so, I’m reminded vividly of the cut-out paper dolls I had as a child. One could move them about according to one’s fantasy. That may be a life long need, I suppose.

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