May 24, 2022

In pop culture, the Diana mania is still there

24 years after her death, Princess Diana continues to fascinate. His broken fate has always caused a certain stir. First, because of discord within the English royal family, then after his death. Although she disappeared in a tragic road accident in 1997, Lady Di and her legacy have never been so present in our current society. In recent years, his popularity has skyrocketed, perhaps influencing culture even more than it did during his lifetime.

Whether through multiple film and serial adaptations, fashion, or even via the feminist symbol that she represents, her imprint on pop culture has never been so strong. In more than two decades, the figure that Lady Di represents in the collective imagination has established itself as a transgenerational element. The almost mystical specter of this modern-day icon still arouses widespread fascination.

The myth of Diana: a symbol that stands the test of time

Whether it’s her catastrophic marriage to Prince Charles, her first steps in the English royal family, or even the rejection of the Crown, it’s hard for millennials to forget Diana’s tragic fate. Between the 1980s and 1990s, this generation witnessed the ordeal suffered by the Princess of Wales, until her death in Paris.

This event created a real breaking point in the perception that we have of Diana today. If during her lifetime she represented the fallen modern princess, she instantly rose to the rank of cultural myth after her disappearance. This change of perspective is explained by a paradox developed by Jennifer Padjemi, author of Feminisms and pop culture. For this essayist and freelance journalist, “Diana is both an accessible figure, because she is very popular, and inaccessible, because we couldn’t get to the end of her story. It is in this that it has become a kind of myth. »

Diana Spencer is a symbol of pop culture throughout time.©AFP

After which an addictive fascination was maintained by Generation Z, whether it was the life of the Princess or the circumstances of her death. Conspiracy theories were quick to spread on the Internet, with several people accusing the royal family of having ordered his accident. The media, especially the tabloid press in the UK, have also perpetuated this morbid craze around the secrets of Windsor, the last vestiges of which could be observed with the Meghan Markle Gate. In addition, the main characters of Diana’s story, such as Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, are still present today in the news, while the Princess has an important resonance through her sons, Princes William and Harry. .

These elements make this cursed heiress a transgenerational symbol, whose face has become a lasting part of our modern society. Diana’s resistance to time also owes much to the world of entertainment, which has built a pop culture around her legacy.

Diana Spencer or Lady Entertainment

Assimilated to a character full of dramaturgy, his life and his disastrous destiny create an inexhaustible and fascinating screenplay windfall. If many documentaries on her epic have emerged, on the fiction side, it all starts with Caroline Bliss and Catherine Oxenberg, the first actresses to embody the princess of hearts on the small screen. The latter are respectively illustrated in Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story and The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana, two TV movies released in 1982.

A decade later, it’s Serena Scott Thomas’s turn to step into the shoes of Lady Di for the miniseries. Diana: Her True Story. At the end of the 1990s, Diana: A Tribute to the People’s Princess with Amy Seccombe in the title role, then it will be Genevieve O’Reilly’s turn to shine, in 2007, in Diana: Last Days of a Princess.

Kristen Stewart lends her features to Lady Di in Spencer by Pablo Larrain.©Pablo Larrain, DCM

In 2013, Naomi Watts played the British heiress in Diana, before season 4 of the Netflix series The Crown (who shone at the last Emmy Awards) films the arrival of Emma Corrin in the role. Winner of the Golden Globes for best actress in a drama series in 2021, the latter will give way to Elizabeth Debicki in November 2022. This fifth season should film the disappearance of the young woman, but also her divorce from Prince Charles.

This event will also be at the heart of Spencer, released on Amazon Prime Video on January 17. In the film, Kristen Stewart is unrecognizable as Diana, the actress handling both the Princess’s accent and her body language. The feature film takes place in 1991, during the Christmas period, when her union with Prince Charles is floundering. Presented as particularly haughty, in the same way as his family, Spencer also fails to paint a convincing portrait of its main character. Although she is brilliantly embodied, it is clear that the feature film once again surfs on the characterization of a tragic heroine.

Diana’s physical and psychological battles are addressed there, and many scenographic winks echo the Princess’s disastrous destiny and conspiracy theories about her death.

If these creations make Diana their central character, the life of the young woman also serves as outlines for other films. We think in particular of The Queen which focuses on the standoff between Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Tony Blair, following the death of the Princess. Moreover, the adaptations on Lady Di do not stop there, since a musical comedy entitled Diana: The Musical premiered on Broadway last year. This is not the first time that the world of song has been inspired by the Princess. Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga or even Depeche Mode paid tribute to him.

From fashion icon to feminist figure

Diana’s legacy does not stop at cinema, series and music either, but also continues in fashion and literature. Sometimes both at the same time. By way of example, we can cite the publication this year of the book by Eloise Moran, The Lady Di Look Book: What Diana Was Trying to Tell Us Through Her Clothes. Even today, many experts look into Diana’s iconic style. Through her clothes, she has notably inspired many designers, but also conveyed her true identity.

The Princess broke dress codes and conventions in the 1980s and 1990s. In particular, she breathed a breath of modernity into royalty, thanks to the creations of Catherine Walker. After which, she uses her looks as a communication tool. She then reveals a more casual style, but also sophisticated, which she wears in the end to make people talk about the causes that are dear to her. Her looks are also the mirror of her independence, especially after her divorce in 1992, her clothes having also participated in making her a feminist icon.

Lady Diana in the famous Revenge Dress, shortly after his divorce.©A Getty Images

In the article of Release titled “Apart from fascination, Lady Di arouses compassion,” Jennifer Padjemi notes that Diana’s sartorial emancipation helped make her a symbol of the feminist struggle: “She got rid of a toxic family and environment, a marriage considered by some to be forced, she treated her depression and her eating disorders. His story also helps to understand the dynamics of power and domination in a couple, whatever it is. For example, the Instagram account @LadyDiRevengeLooks was created by a journalist who shows that thanks to her look, you can relive after a toxic relationship, like Lady Di. There, we find an almost sociological and feminist interest. »

If the behavior of the royal family vis-à-vis the Princess was at the time known to the general public, the mistreatment of Diana is more analyzed today thanks to current feminist considerations. More than a fascination, it triggers empathy, after having suffered sexism and media relentlessness. Another element that contributes to the construction of this feminist figure: her revenge on the Crown, and the freedom that she notably acquired after her divorce, through her activities on the international scene, her humanitarian positions and her new mode of life.

Diana is an unprecedented figure in pop culture. First perceived as a victim of the English royal establishment, the evolution of her image over time has made her a true icon of entertainment, art and feminism. What she conveyed during her lifetime and what she continues to embody more than 20 years after her death make her a symbol of our society, which is still very current. Between nostalgic attachment, social upheaval and the challenges of modern celebrity, Lady Di has not finished fascinating.