Dear Media: please shut the fuck up about Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.
As US readers all know—unless you’ve been living under a rock—the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton is getting married this weekend, and even non-tabloid news outlets have been in a hot and sweaty lather about the prospect. How much do the flowers cost? Who made her gown? Is the Clintons’ security detail ruining some other bride’s Big Day? The media pile-on is especially ironic because Chelsea, the only child of two of the most recognizable and relentless over-achievers in American history, deliberately chose not to follow in her parents footsteps. She got an excellent education, built a solid career and seems to have created a happy, low-key life that’s not especially different from the lives of many other privileged young career women. So why the hell is America hyperventilating like her wedding is our new national reality show?
The Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan wrote:
Yes, her parents have talked about how excited they are about her impending nuptials. They have spoken about how emotional the day will be. Surely we are not so crass as to take parental pride as an invitation to snoop? Oh wait — we are.
This despite the fact that Chelsea Clinton has repeatedly refused to court the limelight herself, unlike, say, Jenna Bush, who managed to parlay a brief stint of do-gooding in Central America into a book deal and national publicity campaign. Or Bristol Palin, who turned the lemon of unplanned teen pregnancy into lucrative spokeswoman lemonade—thanks to pro-abstinence speaking gigs and a cable-drama guest spot—and then used the cover of US Weekly to tell her presidential wannabe mama that she was finally marrying her baby daddy. By contrast, Chelsea Clinton’s sole foray into the spotlight was to campaign with her mother in 2008, and even then, she was not exactly garrulous in public, preferring to introduce her mom, shake some hands and then fade into the background. I’m sure she could have used her family’s huge social capital to run for office or be a socialite/philanthropist—as Caroline Kennedy has done—but she didn’t. Chelsea Clinton went to school, got a job, kept her head down and worked her butt off. For that, I sincerely respect her.
Unfortunately, the media, perennially in the thrall of the Wedding Industrial Complex, simply cannot leave this discreet, hard-working woman alone. This week People magazine even has an article—cross-posted to CNN.com—about Marc Mezvinsky, entitled “Five Things To Know About Chelsea’s Fiance,” as though people are not only interested, but have the right to know about him. Poor guy. The article’s obviously what’s known in the magazine world as a “write-around”, meaning the subject didn’t co-operate in any way, so they just recycled a bunch of public knowledge for the sake of attracting eyeballs. Granted, Mezvinksy’s not a total stranger to the public eye—his mother was a well-known Congresswoman and his father earned notoriety after he went to prison for fraud. Still, I doubt Mezvinksy ever envisioned CNN posting an article about “getting to know him.” Because really, he’s just a young Wall Streeter, one of a gazillion perfectly nice but undistinguished young banking dudes in New York who marry equally accomplished young women. Now, though, he’s become worthy of the 24-hour news cycle, and I honestly feel a bit sorry for him.
As if the endless hyperventilating about the cost of the wedding and the dress and the flowers and the traffic in Rhinebeck weren’t enough, a fair amount of ink has been spilled—especially in New York press—over the fact that Mezvinsky is Jewish and Clinton is Methodist (hey, just like my parents!). It’s a bit offensive that their religion is considered worthy of nosy speculation. The People article says that “there’s no word if Chelsea’s converting yet” but noted that she had attended a Yom Kippur service with her fiance last year, implying that people of one religion can’t possibly attend a holiday ceremony of another religion unless they’re considering switching teams. I think it’s pretty safe to say that if Chelsea hasn’t converted already in order to have a Jewish wedding, she likely won’t do it at all…not that her religion is anyone’s goddamn business anyway.
So what dubious cultural lesson can we take away from this media feeding frenzy? Givhan explains:
If there is anything particularly noteworthy about Clinton—and this is a sad reflection on our pop-culture universe —it’s that as the child of two public and controversial parents, she seems well-adjusted, intelligent and pleasant. Yet, here we are doing everything possible to transform her wedding into a media circus that only Bethenny, Bristol or a host of bridezillas could appreciate.
This is how our culture rewards decorum.
It’s also proof positive that our culture simply refuses to believe that privacy is worthwhile and desirable. Or that any young woman could squander her potential for media “stardom” by preferring an unremarkable life of education and hard work over the cheap lure of narcissism and fame-whoring.
Mazel tov, Chelsea and Marc. I hope you get to go right back to being inconspicuous, and soon.