British Monarch Queen Elizabeth II’s passing on Sept. 8 has resulted in a climatic demonstration of how individuals and organizations respond on the internet.
Social media timelines were a mess of lengthy public statements from public figures and companies combined with memes from young people making light of the death of the former world leader.
Gen Z and millennials are no stranger to the immediate mockery of a political figure’s death. It’s customary to assume whenever anyone with high status and controversy passes, most homepages will be filled with an unavoidable density of memes.
This particular instance gained much more notoriety from outside of the ordinary Twitter meme poster, however. The flood of public responses from brands and public figures demonstrates how ingrained the British Monarchy — a monarchy which has been severed from U.S. policy for nearly 250 years — is in American popular culture.
It’s no question that the passing of Elizabeth II marks the end of an era within the monarchy, but when, if ever, is it time to end American fascination with the monarchy entirely?
Members of the editorial board pointed out that the British Empire had, at one point or another, been responsible for the invasion of all but 22 modern countries. Many members of the BU community come from countries which are still recovering from the scars of colonial rule.
The British royal family has been the subject of countless news stories, tabloids, and television series. The American obsession with the inner workings of the monarchy in popular culture plays a role in perpetuating the significance of the monarchy, and in a way signals to companies that this is a cause that the public wants to hear about.
“The Crown,” a Netflix series about the Queen, announced that it would be suspending
production on their latest season following the news. The series is not known for being particularly favorable to the family, so their decision to halt production feels more like a cheap PR move than anything.
Other official comments on Twitter by U.S. political candidates, the National Football League, and yes, the musical “Hamilton,” feel very shallow too. It’s also important to note that this massive outcry from American companies was not seen after the July assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — at least not to the same extent. There is a clear double standard that favors the remembrance of Western world leaders.
Large news companies have been releasing a continuous stream of articles romanticizing the former queen’s life, and providing frequent updates to the funeral and succession proceeding —a funeral and coronation which has been estimated to cost the U.K. upwards of $6 billion.
At a time when inflation is at historical highs and many working families in the U.K. are facing suppressed wages, a state-sponsored funeral and coronation of $6 billion clearly shows where the priorities of the British Government lie.
It might make sense to have a lot of public statements of condolences in the U.K. where the monarchy is more connected to national culture, but its connection within American culture feels a lot less substantial. It might be time for the American obsession with the Crown to near its end.