Tdead imeline? requested a viral tweet in September. “Here’s a reminder that this trailer exists.” “Yes, her Oscar is coming for real,” read another. “I wish you all a very good day” watch this trailer at least five times today “,” it reads further. You can expect to see these kinds of tweets after a trailer comes out for a Netflix movie, maybe a movie set in a high school, or maybe starring a Gen Z icon such as Zendaya. Not, as they were, compared to Spencer, a historical drama about British royalty.
To make that assumption, however, would be to ignore the growing popularity – nearly 25 years after her death – of the woman at the center of the film: Princess Diana. When the first full-length trailer for Spencer released in September, the enthusiasm of young people on social media was palpable. Starring Kristen Stewart as the late princess, the upcoming drama takes place over a weekend in 1991, with Diana planning to end her marriage to Prince Charles.
Stewart has long been a teenage favorite thanks to the Twilight movies, but the anticipation for the movie came just as much from the People’s Princess as it was from her. Although the majority of Gen Z – loosely defined as the one born around 1997 to the early 2010s – hadn’t even been conceived yet when Diana died in a car crash in Paris in September 1997, the the late royal is experiencing an explosion in popularity with young people. adults.
A myriad of Facebook groups have been created in her honor, with young people coming together to sing her praises, affectionately nicknamed her “Ar Di” in how a grandparent might refer to a family member and share. also a good serving of memes. The largest group is “Princess Diana – Keep Her Memory Alive (NO TROLLS ALLOWED)”, which has almost 45,000 members, most of them involved in the joke. Trawling through the group will see messages of sentimental variety – which we might associate with more traditional royalists – interwoven with satirical and absurdity. There will be random celebrity footage – think Denise Welch or Once X factor competitor Eoghan Quigg – posted with the pretext that they represent Diana herself, or bewildering finds from charity shops and forgotten attic treasures commemorating her wedding.
Essentially, the posts mimic the ‘boomerspeak’, or the way baby boomers – defined as those born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s – are seen as communicating online, combined with the often absurd and deliberately memes. ironic so beloved of Gen. -Z. Of course, every post also comes with a dose of love – it’s simply expressed in a roundabout way that may not be obvious to outsiders. Some of these people are also in these groups: unsuspecting royalists who often don’t quite understand the affectionate humor of young Diana fans. Such contrasting expressions can spark humorous misunderstandings, which are then typically captured and reused on other social media platforms.
Almost parallel to the rise of contemporary Diana’s fandom, there have been fictionalized portrayals of the princess in movies and on television. The Netflix series The crown was a runaway success, with Emma Corrin earning praise for her performance as Diana in her fourth season, released a year ago. This spawned a number of memes: notably, a moment in the third episode of the season in which Prince Charles, played by Josh O’Connor, proposes to Diana, and the camera closes on Corrin’s smiling face, her eyes darting left and right. It turned out to be perfect meme material, with the original clip receiving over 2.5 million views in one day when it was posted to Twitter.
It wasn’t the first time that digital culture and Diana’s fandom collided. In 2017, a Twitter user called @Deno_Tron went viral when he made a Princess Diana shrine in his roommate’s bedroom, just as he was about to return on a date. An image of said shrine – complete with candles, photos of Diana and a collage with images of the roommate and the princess above a caption that read: ‘Lovers separated by time and circumstance’ – caused a stir with the Twittersphere and, from there, such an approach to Princess memory seemed to evolve into the Di-hard fandom we know today. This happened via the spread of sincere but weird proclamations of Diana-love, which came from niche Facebook groups before landing on Twitter, Reddit, or sites all about memes. One that is often shared and re-shared is an article featuring photos of a Diana commemorative plate decorated with food, with the late princess appearing to sport a mashed potato hairstyle and tomato earrings. “I like to use my Princess Diana plate but I never cover her beautiful xx face,” the accompanying caption reads.
It has become a real community, if not improbable. But is all this purely ironic? Or is it true love? For 23-year-old Diana fan Jordan Taylor-O’Neill, it’s a bit of both. “My love and respect for Diana is absolutely real, but the way I express it is very ironic,” she says. “I’ve always had respect for her, but it got more and more over the top as memes became more common and people learned more about her life.”
“While ‘Ar Di’ memes may seem callous or rude to some die-hard royal fanatics, it’s not something to hit on,” said Bethan McConnell, another Diana fan and band member. “If you see ‘Ar Di’ on your feed every other day, it shows that people are still worried about her. You will get the weird member who is a diehard royalist and sees it all as disrespectful, but I think that’s the point.
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“People basically laugh at the old people who post dramatic three-page tributes every time the Queen has a birthday, or how much they love to watch [her] speech on Christmas day, ”she continues. “I don’t think this sort of thing is much different, except it’s more fun. As the title of the group indicates: “Keep your memory alive”. “
This affectionate mockery, largely a form of love, is “a vision of how everyone’s mother loves ‘Ar Di’,” thinks 24-year-old Harry Jones. “The national outpouring of grief when she passed speaks for itself. People felt like they knew her. And so I think Gen-Z looks at that and sees it as an extension of the older generation’s piss elimination. “
But for all the ironic humor surrounding the late princess, is it also rooted in something more serious? Young people in the UK are predominantly on the left (more than half of those under 30 voted for Labor in 2019, with just over a fifth for the Tories), and while Diana was hardly Che Guevara, her legacy has almost become a famous cause for young progressive Britons who see her – along with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – in a different light from the rest of the royal family. Their love for Diana is one way of expressing their disillusionment with the powers that be.
“She was a familiar face in an establishment that so many of us can’t relate to,” Jordan says. “She has championed causes that interest our generation at a time when it was not as acceptable. She broke traditions and looked good doing it; she was the closest real-world example of the Disney Princesses that we grew up idolizing.
Part of relativity – and its anti-establishment nature – was Diana’s commitment to LGBTQ + rights, at a time when it was much less acceptable to be a true ally. “The [LGBTQ+] community revolves around strong, nonconformist women, ”Harry says. “Diana’s work on behalf of people living with HIV / AIDS was also huge at the time. The stigma that surrounded him in the ’90s devastated the community, so seeing a member of the royal family walk into a hospital and kiss patients with HIV / AIDS was revolutionary. There is still so much work to be done on stigma, but I like to think that Diana really helped challenge it back then. There’s also the famous anecdote about Freddie Mercury who once smuggled Diana into a gay bar in disguise, and it’s perhaps safe to assume that she would approve of being played by prominent queer actors. such as Stewart and Corrin. Both performances only further cement the princess as a queer icon herself.
They also insist that people can shape their view of Diana however they want. In Death, Diana has not only become a queer icon, but a royal revolutionary, an Instagram-friendly style inspiration and a figure of near universal admiration. “The love of Princess Diana is one of the few opinions most Britons hold,” Jordan said. “The exaggerated way [Gen-Z] talking about her is satire, a way of copying the way royalists talk about the rest of the royal family, but that doesn’t make our love for Diana any less genuine.
‘Spencer’ is in theaters from November 5