Why Do Americans Love the Royal Baby?


Front page headlines; reporters swarmed outside the hospital; live internet streams from London.

When news that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge had gone into labor, millions of Americans tuned in to the coverage, some obsessing over the baby's potential name, the baby's potential gender and simply the potential baby itself.

Michigan State University Professor and Pop culture Expert Gary Hoppenstand found it ironic.

"Of course in the Declaration of Independence 1776 we tried to divorce ourselves from the British aristocracy and the British royalty," said Hoppenstand.

Yet whether it's the royal baby or the royal wedding or Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee, Americans are hooked, he said.

"It plugs into that fantasy that Americans have about the beauty and the grace of British royalty," he said. "It's at a fantasy level in terms of this is something people admire. We don't have royalty unless you consider movie stars so we have latched ourselves onto the British aristocracy."

Susan Kelley knows that admiration first hand. She runs a blog called "What Kate Wore" a daily chronicle of what the duchess is wearing that day -- a site born not from her obsession with the royal family, but the obsession of others.

Kelley also runs an online shopping site. She says she started her blog based on the feedback she received when a Middleton-worn item or accessory was featured.

"People had this incredible fascination with Kate Middleton and what she wore and what she was doing," Kelley said. "I think seeing her impact on that industry and seeing her impact on other women, that's fascinating."

Kelley's blog, which has had more than 13 million visitors worldwide and was named Time Magazine's Best Blog in 2012, provided live updates on the action in London. Kelley's day started with a 3 a.m. phone call to tell her the duchess was in labor. From there she was glued to her computer, monitoring three different live streams and three or four different Twitter and Facebook feeds for the latest information.

"We don't have, per se, our own princes and princesses and we are so fascinated with a fairy tale," she said. "And for a lot of people I think William and Kate kind of represent a fairy tale and it has come true."

It's a fairy tale that Hoppenstand says got its "once upon a time" in 1997 with the death of Princess Diana.

"That has carried on through her children, William and Harry, through William's marriage to Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge and now with the baby," he said. "It's because of the pomp, the prestige, the glamour, the glitz and and certainly William and Kate have really embodeid the best aspects of that."

The UK Centre for Retail Research says retailers will sell $121 million worth of royal baby merchandise, something that indicates the royal obsession could be far from over.

"It gives Americans a distraction on the one hand from their everyday problems because there is a fairy tale element that's involved there," Hoppenstand said. "At the same time it allows us to engage and indulge in something we really don't have here."


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