Sunday, July 11, 2010

Marie Antoinette: The First Tabloid Darling

It's time for another Marie Antoinette post! Something the the queen had in common with many of the rich and famous today was her popularity as a subject of the early tabloids, or "pamphlets" as they were known. The way she chose to live her life provided much fuel for those who wanted to tear her down and, just like today, everyone loves a trainwreck (see Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears). She was accused of squandering the court's money on expensive fashion, jewellery, gambling, champangne, and fabulous parties, while the rest of the country was starving. Being a foreigner (she was Austrian) and also a woman, she was an easy target for those looking to find someone to blame for France's problems. The marriage between Marie Antoinette and the King was not consummated until nearly eight years into the marriage, and the public decided that this was because the king was gay. They also accused Marie Anoinette of being a bit of a skank and finding ways to amuse herself with other men. The skank angle always manages to make the papers fly off the shelves.
A pamphlet sketch of Marie Antoinette, criticizing her lavish lifestlye, and extravagent tastes.

In the eighteenth century no one could get away with blatant accusations against royalty, so the pamphlet writers had to be a bit creative, using satirical drawings to get their point across. If the tabloid journalists of today had to do this, perhaps we would all be a lot smarter from trying to figure out what they were trying to say. Some things never change though, as it still is almost always women on the front of the tabloids in the the checkout line at the grocery store.

In the film Marie Antoinette she is shown to be actually having an affair, something which was never actually confirmed. True or not, I wouldn't really blame her. Being stuck with a gay husband really gives anyone the right to have an affair.

Kristen Dunst with her lover in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette

Sadly, the queen was blamed almost entirely for the French Revolution. This is outrageously unfair, as it's pretty obvious that one person can't be responsible for all the problems of a country.

Pamphlet drawing showging the revolutionaries searching and then finding the royal family, after they fled Paris

I think a lesson that can be learned from Marie Antoinette's sturuggle to please an unhappy pulic is that we should never judge another until we walk in their shoes (and if it's Marie Antoinette's shoes, they would be fabulous). However, I do encourage judgement of fashion, please continue to keep that up!

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