What’s the big deal about the Queen? Here’s an idea.
In History of the World, Part 1, Mel Brooks famously states, “It’s good to be the king.” After watching fictional shows like Game of Thrones and the coverage of the real life monarchy, it seems to me that royalty is a life-consuming drag. I feel similarly about the act of obsessively watching the minute-by-minute coverage of the Queen’s weeklong funeral. While I can’t seem to bring myself to watch the endless coverage, I think I understand the draw, especially in these modern times. Social technologies have partially replaced our in-person communal activities with an inferior facsimile, locking us into our own hermetically sealed silos of homogeneity. We are thus, more than ever, starved for a moment of community when we’re all talking about the same thing at the same time; preferably something that isn’t a violent incursion, a political harbinger of chaos, a global pandemic, or the general outrage that defines our daily online experience.
Where does the media’s coverage of the outside world end and your own real life begin? As a guy who has wrapped himself in the news for most of my life, I’m in no position to say. But, like many other celebrity deaths, I know the Queen’s death blew past that line at internet speed. But maybe that’s OK. In fact, maybe it’s better than OK. From gossiping about the details, to fixating on the characters, to feeling a connection to something to which we’re largely disconnected, maybe this communal mourning fulfills a very real human need to feel like we’re all in something together. In the Jewish tradition, a death is followed by loved ones sitting Shiva, a seven day process that brings mourners together for spiritual and emotional healing (and a lot of carb-heavy snacks). Maybe the last week of royal coverage served a similar spiritual and emotional function for millions around the world.
From a bar in NYC that was packed with TV watchers at 5:30am to the final two civilian mourners to see the Queen’s coffin saying the experience forged friendship that will ‘last forever,’ being together — even if that just means watching the same televised feed — seems to be at the core of this experience. The Queen’s gave her subjects one last gift: a focus on the same subject and a communal emotion other than mutual contempt.
For that, we should all hail the Queen.