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OPINION:The Kate Middleton Saga and its Implications

Updated: Apr 11

After weeks of internet memes, speculation and gossip, on Mar. 22, 2024, Princess Catherine “Kate” Middleton of Wales announced in a social media video that she had been diagnosed with cancer. Before the announcement, Middleton hadn’t been publicly seen since December 2023. Her “disappearance” quickly became a subject of online speculation about nearly every aspect of her life–particularly her marriage. While Kensington Palace’s PR team only added fuel to the fire through AI-generated photos on Instagram and claims of Middleton working on a private project, the public response has also reflected the complicated legacy of the British royal family. 

The royal family has been the subject of intense media scrutiny for a long time. The royal family has also been highly involved in colonialism, especially in Africa, and has been controversial due to their treatment of women such as Princess Diana and Meghan Markle, who have typically not fulfilled the expectations of the Royal Family.. Their legacy is controversial, and in my own opinion, deservedly so. 

I will be the first to admit that the saga had me in a chokehold. I laughed about the BBL memes and sent TikTok videos suggesting that Middleton was in a new relationship with comedian Pete Davidson to friends. I was dumbfounded at the Palace’s PR team’s decisions, especially the infamous Mother’s Day photo. Middleton has been a larger-than-life figure for most of my life. I was genuinely wishing her the best while laughing at the commentary surrounding her. There is an air of mystery surrounding the women of royalty, and we as the general public can’t get enough of it. However, I instantly felt remorse about my own role in the harassment of Middleton which led to her announcing a cancer diagnosis that was likely intended to be kept private. Similar to my mother’s refusal to never buy another tabloid magazine after Princess Diana’s death, I decided that I played a part in Middleton’s release. I have never followed the royal family closely, but I  was still a part of the public turning something quietly tragic into a joke. 

But what about the saga made the world care so much? Lots of younger Americans don’t care about the royal family. The sheer shock factor of a princess being out of the public eye for three months, shoddy PR, and the profit made off of a maligned woman is too good to be true for many people. Middleton’s situation fits the bill. Tabloid gossip has entered into the online space, and it’s not going away. While some of the memes were objectively hilarious to me personally, I can’t overlook the fact that Middleton had almost zero privacy in the midst of a medical struggle. The concern was an endearing reminder that the monarchy remains a constant in the lives of many. The privacy invasion and media illiteracy were where the line was drawn for me. Jokes like the ones surrounding Middleton’s whereabouts stop becoming funny when the subject is forced to perform more for the public. Much like Princess Diana, Tonya Harding, and the maligned women many people around my age know from tabloid magazines at the grocery store, Middleton’s constant paparazzi harassment, and medical records nearly being leaked was where the memes stopped being an easy entertainment source. The internet is wide and large, and it is often a place where media literacy goes to die. Sometimes, in moments like these, the world experiences a temporary learning curve, and  I hope that this one sticks around. The outlandish memes, such as the Pete Davidson, Masked Singer, and BBL rumors, were funny at first,  but there is a person behind every punchline, and I hope that there can be more empathy when the next joke cycle begins. While Middleton likely has some of the most advanced care in the world and privileges most people can’t even begin to imagine, cancer is still cancer. She is still a human being worthy of privacy and respect. I empathize with Middleton and wish her and her loved ones the best. 

By Kat Whetstone, Staff Writer



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