I don’t remember what it was like to be eight months old, but I imagine there was some learning to crawl, a bit of clapping, some bawling. I don’t recall feeling that influential, either, though I expect I held some sway over my parents. Not that much – I was the second-born.
That’s normal. Unless you happen to be Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, who can now add being The Most Important Person to her busy schedule of wearing woolly bonnets, wriggling and being read That’s Not My Duck for the 250th time.
The baby princess topped Tatler’s list of “The People Who Really Matter” this week. To give you an idea of the kind of list it is, following hot on her booties are: 2) her mum; 3) her dad; 4) her brother (aged two); and coming in at No 5, her great-grandma. That was Tatler’s original list, which is now changing by the minute as the public vote their favourites up and down the rankings.
Still, in a week where Sarah Palin made that speech and MPs debated poppers, the Tatler list nevertheless tops the bonkers chart by some margin. Putting a baby at No 1 is only the start – though she is a female baby, so some progress there. Three of the top 10 are sisters whose chief talents are inheriting and being jolly good on a shoot. Jilly Cooper steams in at No 10.
“We’ll never reveal the specifics of how people are ranked”, Tatler says, though the list reads like the aftermath of a massive port-and-snuff bender. That would explain how failed popstrel Pixie Lott comes in at No 81 while Angela Merkel is at No 143, or why there’s no Jeremy Corbyn and yet the unseated Ed Balls gets an honourable mention at No 471. Or how Lady Kitty Spencer (“Keen on the occasional cheese toastie”) ranks at No 6, some 59 places ahead of David Cameron. Tinie Tempah is the highest-placed black, Asian or minority ethnic personality, at No 34 (“His real name is Patrick and he maintains his impressive complexion with tea-tree oil”) in a list which makes the Oscars look like the Mobos.
It’s not meant to be taken seriously. Tatler is terrifically good at tongue-in-cheek nonsense, but it’s hard not to marvel at the reasons cited for being a person who matters. “Magician to the rich”; “Loves her Scottish peer boyfriend, Lord Lovat, and fancy dress – recent party costumes include a human loofah and a piece of salmon nigiri”; “She always sees in the New Year in Goa”.
Of course, this list doesn’t really matter, and nor do any of the “most influential” rundowns that appear at this time of year. Yet there’s something about Tatler’s directory that is more truthful than all the rest. It’s a glossy paean to the fact that money never goes out of fashion. In today’s Britain, where social mobility has come to a standstill, if you’re born to someone who “really matters”, chances are you’ll really matter yourself.
Baring her art
Deborah De Robertis has had a busy week. The performance artist went to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, found Manet’s painting of a nude prostitute, Olympia, took off all of her clothes and lay down in front of it. When she refused to get dressed, the room was evacuated and she was arrested. It was not De Robertis’s first visit to the gallery. In 2014, she targeted Gustave Courbet’s The Origin of the World, a close-up rendering of a woman’s genitals. On that occasion, she sat down in front of it, opened her legs and exposed her own genitals. “I am Olympia,” De Robertis wrote in an open letter to the museum’s director. “This exhibition cannot end without the model being given the opportunity to speak. My act is not about me stripping naked, it’s about reversing the point of view of the naked model.”
She did this – as Olympia surely would have done, had she access to the technology – with a GoPro camera strapped to her forehead. Her point was about women in art being treated as sex objects, with reference to the museum’s current show of prostitution in painting. The unintended side effect was to make me really want to see the exhibition in question.
Don’t dress this up as banter
Edinburgh University has banned its students from blacking up. It has also banned them from dressing up as Mexicans, gangsters, Nazis, “camp men”, Pocahontas and Caitlyn Jenner. The student union introduced the new rules for fancy dress following a series of incidents where undergraduates had blacked up for “banter”.
What a lot of questions this raises – most crucially, why do so many presumably intelligent students think pretending to be black is such a laugh? But, also, how did the student union come up with its list of sanctioned costumes? Blackface is a no-no – but could wearing a stripy top and a beret be construed as Francophobic? Makes you think. Predictably, there is now a petition – 883 signatures and counting – howling about reinstating free speech at the university, as if the liberty to boot-polish one’s face for a lashtastic night out at Edinburgh’s student institution Mansion is on a par with the right to no-platform Germaine Greer.
When did students become such idiots? Trick question. They’ve always been idiots, but I’m very glad that when I was one at university, I never once felt the impulse to black up, never once had anyone issue a directive telling me not to, and never once had to sign an online petition about it, either. I just worked it out for myself. Like a grown-up.
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