The Press

Time to let Diana sleep

- Vir­ginia Fallon vir­ Celebrities · Diana, Princess of Wales · Wonder Woman · Netflix · Busta Rhymes · New Zealand · Auckland Region · Australia

Dead celebri­ties have al­ways been big busi­ness, and none so more than Princess Diana. Hardly a day goes past where there isn’t some­thing new to be sold about her; a bit of gos­sip, a re­cently dis­cov­ered pic­ture or an un­named in­sider’s hot take on what she might once have done.

Now, just when you think there’s noth­ing more to wring from the wo­man, a creepy US ho­tel is of­fer­ing macabre fans the chance to stay in the same room, eat the same food, and quite lit­er­ally sleep in the same bed as she did. It’s all the more per­verse be­cause we’ve never re­ally let Diana sleep at all.

She died more than two decades ago but our in­fat­u­a­tion with her is still very much alive, and now more than ever it’s off the charts. The new sea­son of Net­flix drama The Crown has launched her back into the news, reignit­ing the ob­ses­sion that went some way to killing her, and in­tro­duc­ing her to aw­hole new gen­er­a­tion who didn’t know or care what they were miss­ing. The lucky things.

As far as en­ter­tain­ment goes, the se­ries is OK. It re­hashes things we al­ready knew about the wo­man who died in 1997, makes up things we didn’t know, then re­ar­ranges ev­ery­thing else to suit.

While its de­fend­ers have been quick to point out the show is a story and not a doc­u­men­tary, there’s been a fair bit of com­plain­ing about the way New Zealand has been treated. The hallowed 1983 ap­pear­ance of Diana, Charles and Wil­liam with a buzzy bee at Auck­land’s Gov­ern­ment House has been moved to Aus­tralia, and the rest of the roy­als’ NZ tour has been re­duced to about a minute of screen time.

Strangely, that’s what’s re­ally got some An­tipodean knick­ers in a knot, and not the scene where Diana’s binge­ing and purg­ing is jux­ta­posed with a haka. Turns out we’re ka pai with Net­flix equat­ing a pu¯kana with a vomit, just as long as they leave us our wooden toy.

Al­though the show tries to scrab­ble up some un­der­stand­ing of Diana’s short life, it does lit­tle to ex­plain the pub­lic’s en­dur­ing ob­ses­sion with her, which would be a far more sat­is­fy­ing watch.

Diana was born to ex­treme priv­i­lege, mar­ried another rich per­son and draped her­self in fa­mous friends and nice clothes. By all ac­counts she was shrewd and funny and there’s no doubt she was an in­cred­i­ble force for the char­ity sec­tor, but in try­ing towork out how she gar­nered the pro­file to do that I’ve come up empty-handed.

For those of uswho didn’t grow up dream­ing of mar­ry­ing Clair Huxtable, per­haps Diana em­bod­ied the fairy­tale of wed­ding a prince and liv­ing hap­pily ever, or maybe she was just the first royal we saw as a real per­son. There’s no doubt she courted pub­lic­ity – as long as it was on her terms – and when she wheeled out her beloved boys to be­have like any other wealthy fam­ily in front of a horde of pho­tog­ra­pher­swe lapped it up.

‘‘She’s the peo­ple’s princess,’’ we cried from the colonies, ‘‘she’s just like us!’’

And she was just like us. She had frag­ile men­tal health, an un­happy mar­riage, and a tricky re­la­tion­ship with her fam­ily. The thing is, we’ve known that for decades.

The Chicago ho­tel where Diana stayed in 1996 is charg­ing guests $46,000 to use the same bed she did. It’s a lot of money for one night’s ac­com­mo­da­tion but it’s a bar­gain to help keep a dead celebrity awake for­ever.

There’s noth­ing more of Diana’s story to tell. It’s time to let her sleep.

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