HOLD TIGHT, THE MEDIA. I am about to plunge to new depths in the heinous world of “blogging”. I am about to blog about a headline without even READING the article. To be fair, the article is out in tomorrow’s papers so it’s impossible for me to read it yet. I just have to sit here pained for a whole 24 hours baited for the onslaught of aghast facial expressions I will be employing while reading – and I will be reading because I am highly intrigued. Also, I can’t talk to someone else about it because I’m doing London Fashion Week a favour by staying indoors, and currently nobody in my flat is awake so I can’t scream “WTF IS THIS ABOUT THE WORLD HAS GONE TO THE DOGS” etc. So you see, I just have to blog about the headline otherwise I’ll start shouting at my reflection in the oven door, like I’m about to re-sit my driving test or something (“You CAN do this. You CAN drive. Everyone can drive… except you”). Soz.
So, in this morning’s Times is an advert for tomorrow’s Sunday Times. Big headline: “WHY RIHANNA IS THE NEW DIANA” – to the left a picture of Di with crown, to the right a picture of Rihanna with probably more expensive and real crown. Sell: “Camille Paglia reveals the STARTLING SIMILARITIES between the singer and the late princess”. H’oh boy, “startling similarities”. I am doing major eye roll.
Admittedly, some similarities immediately spring to mind:
1. Rihanna is pretty/Diana was pretty – both highly photogenic individuals, photographed often, Rihanna mostly naked and suggestive, Diana mostly clothed up to the eyeballs and demure but still totally PILF (Princess I’d…)
2. Rihanna is rich/Diana was rich – money, money, money in a rich man’s world, Rihanna’s a gift from label pimp Jay-Z, Diana’s in the name of Prince Charles, patriarchal dollar. Except to Rihanna’s credit she does seem to earn hers, even if her hours:fee ratio may suggest she’s on less than minimum wage and is the hardest working entertainment vehicle since Shamu the whale.
3. Rihanna is “tortured”/Diana was “tortured” – Diana and Rihanna are both female victims of oppressive regimes (/promotional schedules). Both also have troubled relationships – Rihanna embroiled in an ongoing physical and mental nightmare of abuse and court hearings, Diana ensconced in an unhappy marriage which ended in a divorce settlement.
4. Rihanna had a plane/Diana had… her boyfriend’s yacht? Here endeth the similarities.
My guess is that this theory on how “Rihanna is the new Diana” (it even rhymes!) will pan out via similarities 1-3 establishing a direct correlation between the two ‘princesses’ (‘pop royalty’ versus ‘actual royalty’). Henceforth will come a moral lesson on how we are all responsible for Rihanna as we were with Diana (yep, still rhymes). The conclusion will go something like: “Let’s do something before RiRi dies, and Candle In The Wind is Number 1 again for weeks on end and Elton John has to hire a nanny!”
Thing is, I have had excellent fun with this “Rihanna is the new Diana” headline. For example, the rhyming (already mentioned twice) is divine. Also here are some excellent puns/jokes:
1. PON DI REPLAY
2. Take A Bow/Curtsy
3. You Di One
4. Shine Bright Like A Di-mond
5. We Found Love In A Hopeless PALACE
6. (Oh Dia-na-na) What’s My Name? (clue: it’s DIANA)
7. Shut Up And D… no, that’s bad taste
But here is why this theory (that I have not read yet) is probably nonsense:
1. Rihanna and Diana may seem similar in their ultimately doomed aspirations to become princesses but look closer and you’ll find they started in very different places. The Spencer clan, for example, is one of Britain’s most illustrious aristocratic families (I ripped that off Wikipedia). The Fentys of Barbados, however, consisted of a drug dealer father and an abused mother. The need to escape unfortunate circumstances seems more pertinent in Rihanna’s upbringing and suggests somewhat different motivations.
2. Rihanna makes pop songs, dominates the charts and promotes various products, including a recent clothing line for River Island and HTC phones. But no product is bigger than the overall product: Rihanna, on sale 24/7. Diana attracted public attention due to her activities as a member of a real Royal family and mother to a potential King. She may have been party to an ever more superficial Royal Family, available on mugs and teatowels, but in essence she was predominantly a person of public interest.
3. Prince Charles is many things, but he’s probably not Chris Brown. (Though has anyone seen them in a room together? The plot thickens)
4. Instagram: Rihanna willingly promotes intrusion into her life on Twitter and Instagram because she lives in a new age where privacy is less precious to some. The activities of the driver fleeing the paps in Paris the night Diana died would suggest that Di was less up for the level of intrusion into her own private world. (Out of interest: if Diana were alive today would she employ a ghostwriter to handle her own Twitter account or would she be live-tweeting Newsnight too? Who knows?!).
5. Princess Diana rarely, if ever, had long hair. Rihanna has had a host of different hairstyles. And tattoos. We know Rihanna has tattoos because we can see all of her. Also, Princess Diana was only Princess of Wales. According to Coldplay, Rihanna is Princess of all of CHINA. In all seriousness, Rihanna is not the new Diana because look at Rihanna, now look at Kate Middleton… ah yes, they are both women. Moving on.
The person who wrote this article is probably way smarter than me and must have books on shelves that people can buy and maybe tomorrow’s piece will say something vastly enlightening and I will regret this (I won’t though I’m still laughing at “Oh Dia-na-na What’s My Name?”). The point is, Rihanna is NOT Diana. She is not the People’s Princess because she is just the People (and on the cover of People, quite often). We don’t always have to make women look like tragic heroines or damsels in distress just because they aspire to succeed. To move away from the headline of the article I haven’t read yet, I guess I’m just bored of constantly being forced to consider the problem with Rihanna. Whether or not we want to focus on the apparent distress of Rihanna’s personal life, we could focus on the fact that Rihanna is dominating pop right now. She is top of her field. Yes, she could put on some more clothes now and then. Of course, it would be amazing if she posed on the cover of Vogue in a full three-piece suit from Saville Row. Absolutely, she might not want to record songs with Chris Brown and parade about in front of the media with him just begging to be psycho-analysed. But ultimately, Rihanna, for me, is someone who makes loud, irresistible club tunes. I can’t be bothered with her baggage and what she does at 3am. I can’t help her. I don’t even know her. I’ve bought her music so I can escape my own baggage. (Incidentally, Diana, I cared about even less, because she didn’t even make loud, irresistible club tunes, or own a single thing I could afford to buy.)
I choose not to theorise that Rihanna is some hounded beauty powerless to stop the chaos of the circus around her. I choose not to posit her as “the world’s most complicated popstar”. What’s certainly true is that Rihanna is the world’s most “famous” famous person yet. What’s complicated about her is us. How, given our unprecedented levels of access to Rihanna, we feel about her. We enjoy Rihanna’s prime while also knowing the extent of the damage it’s doing to her. I am only invested in Rihanna: the pop star. And I can see where this Rihanna is the new Diana theory is going. It’s going to try and make me feel guilty for raving to We Found Love in a field last summer while turning a blind eye to the context of the song in the event that, perhaps one day, Rihanna might heaven forbid meet her tragic demise. Well, if I knew Rihanna I would sit her down, I would force her to take a holiday, I would tell her to spend some time with herself. But I can’t. I don’t know her. And here’s the rub with all the Rihanna theorists: I don’t really want to.