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A palatable goddess

By Mary Fan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 31, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Mary Fan

Mother Teresa is not yet canonized, Martin Luther King is still questioned in some quarters, but Princess Diana is already crowned a deity.

On the first anniversary of her death while ducking paparazzi, remorseful media worldwide invoke her name with the somber awe and shameless gloss reserved for heads of state and martyred heroes.

They say in regretful tones that this week is the first anniversary of her death, but in truth she has never died. The media has never let her, keeping her gorgeously-clad body and bright smile alive in video stills that flicker and sustain her like a vast gaudy life-support machine.

They refuse to pull the plug.

For in a high-tech age where heroes are forged in magazine glossies rather than blood, toil and inhuman sacrifice, Diana is a superhero.

And in an age where atheism is a fashionable worldview for a disillusioned generation really in search of deities a little more timely, a little more glossy and tangible, Diana is the great Goddess. Her capitalized first name alone invokes recognition like Yahweh, or God.

Her church is the media worldwide who, in assigning news values, takes the palatable, pretty princess and puts her before Mother Teresa, who died a year ago this week and before Martin Luther King, the modern-day martyred hero and prophet of civil rights whose march to Washington and strident speech in the name of civil rights happened 35 years ago this week.

Yachts and diamonds and a beautiful society woman are simply prettier pictures than the gritty images of dust and hunger in Calcutta or iron determination and unchecked passion marching to Washington.


Diana is a heroine standing on image alone rather than heavy values and principles and it is for this very reason that she is so palatable.

King, for example, was a hero who invoked deep passions, deep fears and hopes in America and so we cannot let him stand untarnished. There are rumbles against his personal life, his treatment of his wife, his supposed extramarital affairs. All attempts made by an uneasy people long reduced to needing watered-down, attractive, noncontroversial idols whose strength lies in the very fact that they stand for nothing strong nor enduring. A public reduced to children fed fairy tales by an indulgent media.

In this new arena, figures that once would have garnered reverence of biblical proportions are reduced to a yawn, a postscript at the end of an hour-long special on a pretty princess who stood for gloss and glitter and all the empty filler that has taken over where once a hunger for the meaningful resided.

In this new arena, there is less and less room for hard-hitting news, or heroes willing to brave public opinion and strike for change, for values that have meaning.

For this arena is guided more by satiating desire, by taking the low but pleasant road rather than the one that pushes the nation forward to new heights and keeps it from backsliding into the valley where "standards are at an all-time low," as shock jock and extreme national barometer Howard Stern acknowledges.

The only ones with the power to check this headlong rush into nothingness, into a national diet of fillers and fluff, are the consumers.

So next time, examine who is held to the light of public adoration before you consume in worship. Cinderella stories and magical princesses belong in night tales to comfort children. Adults worship a stronger stuff, values that transcend gloss and glitter, values strong enough, weathered enough, plain and timeless enough, to keep a fragile human society bound strongly together even as a penchant for the easy and palatable, the brittle but colorful, eat away at its core.

Mary Fan is perspectives editor at the Arizona Daily Wildcat and a journalism and international studies senior. She can be reached via e-mail at

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