Campus has been a place of complete euphoria for the last few days and there is, undoubtedly, one King-shaped cause – the discovery, courtesy of some very hardworking folk at the University of Leicester, of King Richard III remains. Despite the infamous King ruling for a mere two years, he is recognised as one of history’s most villianised figureheads, (alongside ‘baddie’ King John, from Robin Hood). However, three days ago, the King who was famously the last ruling monarch to die on the battlefield (Battle of Bosworth, 1485), was (metaphorically) given life once more! After discovering poor King Richard’s complete skeleton under a car-park in Leicestershire, the University of Leicester worked tirelessly to prove that the battle-wounded remains were indeed, once ruler of England, and created a surge of interest and admiration for the rumoured hunchbacked, bloodthirsty King whilst doing so!
As a self-confessed Tudor dork, this was so awesome to see! Friends and family who would normally quieten my history-driven (one-sided, might I add), conversations were all of a sudden asking me questions about the last Plantagenet King and actually listening with interest, instead of watching me with glazed over eyes, as I retold the riveting story of the War of the Roses and Richard III’s unlikely capture of the English throne. The more I discussed the life and events of the King’s life, I realised he’d been dealt quite an unfortunate (withered *I joke, I joke*) hand. The propaganda set up against this King once his crown had been placed upon the head of Henry VII was really something astonishing! The Tudors and Mr William Shakespeare not only dirtied the name of poor old Richard, but ‘edited’ his portraits to dirty his image too – a once rather timid and serene Kingly portrait was now a menacing, hunchbacked, withered-armed and claw-handed tyrant. The Sociological side of me could not help but to draw parallels to the propaganda in the social media of the 21st Century; as it is, 15th Century England and 21st Century England aren’t all too different, after all!
Musician Jim Morrison said it best when he said, “whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” Just as the Tudors needed to destroy any claim that the throne did not rightly belong to them, the media in the modern day world use tabloids to try to create collective ways of thinking – don’t get me wrong, this can and is sometimes used for positive effects, such as the unity of @Riotcleanup during the London Riots in 2011 through social networking, Twitter. However, the media is most known for its manipulation of the masses and, just as Shakespeare demonstrated, the best way to do so is via. the entertainment industry. We are now living in a world completely subjugated by reality television, which legitimates ill-treatment and bullying of individuals on a mass scale – I am guilty of watching the odd series of Big Brother, but the damaging effects on the housemates is sometimes all too evident, only to be worsened by their name being dragged through social media daily. This all reaches a penultimate when said individual/housemate is released back into ‘real life’ from the Big Brother house, only to be faced with an anonymous crowd booing and hissing – although extreme, such a scene wouldn’t be too far from the scenes of public executions of ‘traitors’ during the Middle Ages.
This brings me on to discuss the villianisation of the celebrity ‘Queens’ and ‘Kings’ of the 21st Century – no, I’m not talking about the much admired Kate and Wills, but the much (unfairly) detested Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber. My interest in Sociological issues has led me onto the pages of ‘top 10 most hated celebrities’ many a times, and, for some unknown reason the two former mentioned celebs appear, time after time, on every single list. This really astonished me at first, but after examining the case of poor King Richard, I drew up some interesting similarities between the three. The most connecting factor between old Richard III and the ‘Biebs’ is, surprisingly not their iconic hairstyles, but the matter of human conditioning – it is, apparently, quite natural for there to be a need for a hierarchy, and by placing those who would normally be at the higher bands in societal hierarchy (those of royal blood, or those of extreme wealth), at the bottom of popularity ranks, it gives the everyday folk a sense of power and a tool for accepting their ‘lot in life’, i.e. “He may be rich, but nobody likes him,” may make the average Joe feel better about not being wealthy. In the same way that Richard III’s portraits were manipulated, Kim Kardashian, along with many other female celebrities, are targets of magazines editing their pictures in unflattering manners. The most common outcome of the editing process? The impression of weight gain. Just as it was undesirable to be seen as handicapped in the Middle Ages and Richard was demonstrated as ‘deformed’, it is undesirable (for females especially) to be seen as ‘overweight’, and so perfectly healthy women are portrayed as such.
Bet you never thought Richard III and Justin Bieber had stuff in common, eh?