CRISTINA Odone

New Statesman (1996), February 21, 2000 | Go to article overview

CRISTINA Odone


Why all good republicans should cheer the victory of OK!

The Archduke of Marzipan, the Count of Westphalianham and other obscure mittel-European royals must be choking on their caviar and gagging on their champagne. Some have probably even taken to wearing black armbands. The reason for their distress? Hello!, their bible and the chronicler of their anachronistic lifestyle, has been knocked off its perch. The nobs will still be able to welcome millions into their "lovely homes" (well, the circulation is only 495,349, but, trust me, if you've ever had to wait in a hair salon or a dentist's operating room, you'll know that every copy of the mag has two dozen or more readers pawing it); and they will still be able to read about where Prince William goes clubbing and whom Zara is snogging. But, alas, Hello! is no longer the numero uno among populist rags; OK!, which now boasts a 552,000 circulation, has beaten it.

The news of this publishing phenomenon may not be an earth-shaking statistic for New Statesman readers, but it should be: for the triumph of OK! spells the triumph of republicanism.

I have read Hello! (indeed, I confess, I have written for Hello! -- but then so has another NS regular, John Pilger, and John...). Like fairy tales of yore, the magazine tells of vast riches and unparalleled beauties, of extraordinary risks and brave exploits. While feeding its readers this magic, the mag does not ram a moral down our throat. Rather, we are invited to draw our own conclusions about the lives played out before us: Posh may be in love, but why is she so thin? Fergie may be raking in money, but why is she so fat? This hint of clay feet brings the inaccessible to earth. Hello!'s photo-studded pages teem with celebrities of all kinds: television presenters, movie stars, catwalk models. But if the celebs feature, royalty stars. The Windsors, their in-laws, the Borbons, the Bernadottes, the Orange-Nassaus. …

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