Time to let Diana sleep
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.