Monday, January 17, 2005

Prince Harry, the anti-Fascist

Poor Prince Harry. He's always getting killed by the British press, which seems to be addicted to this good son/bad son storyline. The 20-year-old has lately been razzed for dressing up in a German desert uniform and a swastika arm band at a "colonials and natives" party, which I suppose is the British upper-crust version of the "pimp and ho" parties that have infected college campuses across North America.

Dressing up as a Nazi for a costume party is a pretty banal kind of offensive. The Nazi uniform as envelope-pushing costume is almost as old as the "funny, bumbling Nazi" in comedies. Having been to university Hallowe'en parties where people were "ironically" dressed up in much more immediately offensive costumes -- I recall an acquaintance dressed up as "the sniper's rifle" while the Washington sniper was still at large -- I don't think I would bat an eye at Harry's costume. It's not just the undergraduate arts faculty I was a part of either that revels in such horror-humour either -- Osama bin Laden masks were big sellers everywhere in 2001 and 2002. (Saddam, with spiderhole beard, was more popular this year.)

Of course, Prince Harry is a Prince, so he isn't allow to transgress at a costume party -- which is, of course, the whole point of costume parties and masquerades (the latter, a fine royal tradition) -- the way anonymous theatre students are.

What I like about Prince Harry's costume -- and I'm probably reading way too much into his choice here -- was how it subversively clashed with the theme of "colonials and natives."

Here you have a bunch of Richie and Rhonda Richs hanging out at a birthday party in Wiltshire paying kitschy homage to Britain's imperial past. Prince William is there too, and he's dressed like a friendly, cuddly lion.

But Harry shows up and with this costume, linking Mother England's "friendly" colonial past to one of the most brutal and genocidal regimes of the twentieth century. He draws attention to what monarchists would rather forget: that he is, after all, but just the youngest descendant of a long, long line of dictators. Way to shit all over his blue-blood buddies' ironic detachment.

While he-can-do-no-wrong William is content to play the role of the warm lion at "colonials and natives" parties (literal and otherwise) and play the role of the monarch-in-waiting instead of a real human being in the press, Harry refuses to do so. He is no more than a young man like any young man and he's not going to smile and play polo for the cameras. No, he's going to brawl with photographers who would rather that he fulfill his role of "royal", a role that he didn't ask to play and seems pretty uncomfortable with. In this sense, I think he is the true anti-Fascist of the Royal family.

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