Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Diana the hero?

Diana, Princess of Wales has recently been named on Time Europe magazine's issue 60 Years of Heroes. Personally I was quite surprised at her inclusion as I don't think she belongs anywhere on a list like this.

Don't get me wrong, I liked Diana. I collected all of the books and magazines and I grieved in my own way when she died. But to add her (along with Sophia Loren and The Beatles) to a list of heroes which include Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Margaret Thatcher, Bob Geldof, and Mother Teresa, is obviously going for the popular vote from people who would otherwise not read this list. Ah, names I recognize and can (somewhat) relate to! In Diana's case, if only for the fact that she was female, a mother, unhappily married who found her voice, coming out sadder and wiser in the end by bucking a system that holds the future for her children. But the comparisons to reality end there with a supposed reluctant celebrity who knew how to use her beauty to her advantage when it suited her. But honestly, in her position, would she have really been kept down for very long? What did she really and truly have to lose?

During her marriage she walked a line between fashion plate and trying to find a purpose. She took on the issue of AIDS, shaking the hand of a patient while gloveless. She went public with her eating disorder. Toured slums, touched lepers, took children into her arms and knelt by the wheelchairs of the elderly. All while dressed in designer clothes. Once freed from the binds of her royal marriage, Diana found a new sense of purpose when she took on the anti-landmines campaign, becoming almost a global, humanitarian ambassador; a role no one had conferred upon her. She did not invent anything in her lifetime, did not earn the Nobel Peace Prize, did not climb over any fences, and was not imprisoned. Had she not been beautiful, or died tragically, it's questionable how much we would really remember or revere her today.

For royalty to make a difference, boost morale and bring attention to important issues is not a new concept. Early in her reign, the Queen toured leper colonies too and just look at Princess Anne with her work with Save the Children. Unlike Diana, neither of them are young and beautiful, so we don't look.

Are we just under the spell of hero worship? No more so than when we elevate a celebrity for doing nothing more than donating to charity, giving face time on a telethon or adopting a child?

Maybe my definition of what makes a hero is different, because in this case I tend to think we are.

© Marilyn Braun 2006


Anonymous said...

Good points. I agree, Diana was something to see, and her death was tragic. But to place her on a list of heros seems a bit out of place.

Onto general comments: This looks like an interesting blog simply because you keep track of the royals like I've never seen before. I definitely know where to come for information now though!

Anonymous said...

To name someone as a hero suggests that they are a role model and I have a lot of difficulty Diana as a role model.

The eating disorders, the attention seeking and the likelihood that she was unfaithful during her marriage don't make her a hero in my books.

Peggy K said...

I tend to agree with you, Marilyn. A real hero goes above and beyond their duty, and puts themselves at risk. Too often a movie star and their entourage will sweep in somewhere, make a few gestures of charity (in front of cameras, of course), all the while they are traveling first class. That having been said, I think the royals are so protected and insulated that they have little opportunity to do anything truly "heroic". I admire Dianna for her anti-landmine campaign. At least she was doing something to improve the world.

Anonymous said...

I think that the concept of a hero is very subjective; the definition differs from person to person.

For me, I think it is someone who touches the lives of others in a good way. And I think Diana fits this description.

Anonymous said...


Here I go again with the Royals!

Diana and Charles married the same year that my wife and I were. I don't remember how close it was to the same date, but we did seem to follow the lives of these two people. It was sad to see their marriage drift apart and even worse to learn of her death. It did seem like Diana made many positive contributions to society when others of her ilk were just negatives.

This is an informative post and I agree with your assessment!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you; I think the definition of 'hero' has definitely been diluted over time.

I mean, Diana did some very charitable things, but she doesn't seem to belong on a list with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.

Then again, the magazine also included Coco Chanel, J. K. Rowling and Pablo Picasso, so I don't know how 'serious' the list really is...

Anonymous said...

I cannot say if Diana was a hero or not. I can say though that despite what we think about it - a good looking celebrity is just going to make more points with the public. Diana had poise and grace in front of the cameras. She usually knew how to play the press. She was smart in that way.

Thus in the end her ability to get her point across - her message heard - was that much greater.

Like it or not that is a fact of our modern society. And I think that someone like Diana who recognized how to use her poise, grace and good looks to further a good cause should only recieve praise for the good she did in that cause.

She didn't play by the rules but she sure knew how to manipulate the system to get what she wanted when it was for the good of others. That is an art and also something that we should praise.

Bk30 said...

hmm I seem to be odd man out. Only because yes a hero is subjective. A hero is someone you look up to and admire. There are many things to admire about Diana. So seeing her on a hero list doesn't suprise me at all.

Anonymous said...

Hero is a subjective term.

A kid in the arcade thinks the teenager that gave him a quarter is a hero. all right, maybe that's a little different... ;)

As Teddy said, Di knew the system and how to manipulate it.

I don't know if that makes one a hero, though.

Unknown said...

Role model yes, Hero, no. It was very sad how her life ended so tragically and at such a young age.

Anonymous said...

How's this for a technicality?

Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary includes the following in their definition of a hero: an object of extreme admiration and devotion.

So my guess is in their book, nobody is more deserving of a hero title than Diana.